Good idea, but not good enough...

Magnificent men in their flying machines

In a TV ad for IBM a few years ago, Star Trek star Avery Brooks was seen complaining: ‘It’s the year 2000, but where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars!’

Inventors and science fiction writers have been predicting a future of flying cars for over a century now, and although they have failed to become commonplace, it’s not for want of trying. The last 100 years have been littered with hair brained prototypes that promised to wobble dangerously in the air to beat the traffic jams.

The first flying car to get (briefly) off the ground as far back as 1919 was Glenn Curtiss’ Autoplane. The world’s latest effort, the Moller M400 Skycar, claims to fly at 375mph, although the company’s website states that, although the vehicle is in production, they are not currently taking orders.

Water-powered cars

Of course, these days, with the impending threat of climate change, it is environmentally friendly and not flying cars that everyone is after. Perhaps the holy grail of eco cars is the water-powered car – a freely-available and pollution-free fuel. Despite most people in the science and engineering community claiming it to be impossible, this year has seen two companies unveil prototype water-powered cars.

Neither Greenpax in Japan, nor Thushara Priyamal Edirisinghe from Sri Lanka, have unveiled exactly how they do it, but both claim to be able to power cars on nothing but tap water. Watch this space for the end of all our environmental problems.

Of course, the doubters could have ulterior motives. The first person to claim to be able to power a car with water was the American Stanley Allen Meyer. His claims were found to be fraudulent by an Ohio court in 1996 and he died two years later after dining at a restaurant. Conspiracy theorists claim he was poisoned to suppress the technology.

Eco-friendly prototypes

Another clean energy source yet to be successfully adapted for cars is solar energy. If you had been standing in the Australian outback in 1987 as the vehicles in the first World Solar Challenge race streaked by like a fleet of spaceships, you may have scratched your head and thought you had been transported through time to the year 2009.

However, 22 years later, solar powered cars are still at the prototype stage. The latest offering is the Hungarian-designed Antro Solo (opens in a new window), which promises to be in mass production within four years. Don’t hold your breath.

Another bizarre idea that may yet take off is a wooden car. No, this is not a toy, but the ‘Splinter’, a high-powered sports car with a top speed of 240mph (faster even than a Lamborghini). The car is made from a combination of maple, plywood and MDF and may be available to buy next year.

Although cutting down trees to make cars may not be the most eco-friendly activity in the world, it is at least a carbon-neutral, renewable material.

James Bond, eat your heart out

Of course, if all our eco efforts fail and we are flooded by rising sea levels, then an amphibious car would be quite useful. This may sound like another far-fetched idea, but floating cars have actually been around since the 1960s, although they have never become more than a niche market.

The first amphibious car to be mass-produced (2,500 of them were made) was the Amphicar, which was built in Germany in the 1960s. The latest floating car on the market is the nifty Aquada Sports Amphibian. The £75,000 price-tag may explain why it is still considered a plaything for the filthy rich – Richard Branson reportedly has one.

What ever car you fly or drive, make sure you’re covered and see how much you could save with Churchill car insurance.