There are flying cars and then there is the LEO Coupe Hypercar, propelled by an all-electric jet propulsion, which experienced its first manned flight on October 30th, reports a press release.

Agreed, the craft is a prototype and it was a tethered hover flight, but for founders, Pete Bitar and Carlos Salaff, this is a significant step forward after two years of hard work that includes winning the prestigious NASA’s HeroX Challenge last year.

At present, U.S-based LEO has few competitors with this futuristic Bladerunner-looking craft. It is the system of small all-electric jet engines embedded in the vehicle’s sides as well as pusher jets at its rear which makes it stand out.

The company claims the design will “increase efficiency and versatility, will keep the vehicle compact and configurable, and will be safer due to the lack of external propellers.”

Apart from the much larger Lilium Jet and the Mayman Aerospace Speeder with a smaller configuration, LEO is the only one in its “size segment”. Others like the Air One and Skyfly AXE have external propellors and let’s be honest, the LEO looks amazingly cool as the photos show.

The craft is also neatly compact. The size of an SUV, it can be parked in a garage alongside a normal car, while still being able to seat two passengers plus bags and a pilot, and travel for 300 miles per full charge at speeds of up to 250 mph! The LEO Coupe is being designed for both private vehicle ownership in addition to commercial transportation.

Back to that propulsion system.

Bitar explains the final aircraft will run no less than 200 small vertical jets, each 4.4 inches in diameter and producing a total over 2,300 lb of thrust. With an empty weight of 1,100 lb, the Coupe will be able to carry some 510 lb of passengers and cargo.

“The prototype”, says, “packs in no less than 72 vertical-lift fans, each about the size of a coffee thermos, in four banks. Two larger diameter fans at the rear give it some horizontal thrust.”

It goes on, “LEO’s decision to go with lots of tiny jets is an interesting one – smaller fans are much less energy-efficient in vertical lift and hover flight than larger ones. That’s one of the reasons why Lilium is prioritising longer trips over urban missions. It estimates its 36 smallish fans will burn twice as much energy in the VTOL stages of flight than designs with six larger props.”

A small box in the middle gives the LEO prototype a basic cockpit, complete with a seat and a pair of joysticks for control. It seems the craft’s efficiency may suffer during the hover mode and could take longer to get up to cruise speed than most eVTOLs since its wings are relatively small, so those vertical lift fans will be running harder and longer than most.

The company, potentially, will sell the LEO as a kit, reducing the certification red tape. Bitar was originally targeting a price of under USD290,000, but now explains that since Covid-19, present supply chain issues have nearly doubled the component costs, raising the retail price to USD459,900.

Certainly, one to look out for, but how many future Harrison Fords will be buying the LEO, is anyone’s guess.

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(Pics: Leo)