Invest in smart mobility of the future. Ted den Ouden, a shareholder in PAL-V, the company behind the first flying car in the world, talks about making history. The information presented in Brabant Brand Box is offered free-of-charge for positive stories about Brabant.
He has a huge passion for innovation and a background in the world of finance. A news headline caught Ted den Ouden's attention and led to his involvement in a dream project. “My mother gave me an article to read in 2003. It was about John Bakker from Raamsdonksveer in Brabant. He was setting up a company to make the first flying car in the world.” Den Ouden, who now owns shares in the company, tells us his story: about how dreams and investment led to PAL-V, the flying car that is destined to make history.
“When I read that newspaper article, I was immediately enthusiastic. Simply because I am very inquisitive and love innovation. And because it was about a flying car - something that every young boy dreams of. I talked to John Bakker on the telephone that same afternoon and we arranged a meeting the next day.”
According to Ted den Ouden, the ideas were ‘fantastic, out of this world’. But was actually building a flying car a feasible project? Getting the dream project off the ground would require a significant amount of money. I started working on the project on a ‘no cure, no pay’ basis. I spent three months travelling around talking to potential investors whom I knew via my network. Finding financial backers turned out to be more difficult than I thought. I was either laughed at, or people said: ‘Come back in about five years’ time’. They expected more certainty after that period. Obviously, I know that a development process requires time. But if you had told me that it would take 16 years back then, I would not have believed you…”
Fortunately, other people also believed in the flying car. Robert Dingemanse, the current CEO, came on board and started to create a strong structure for PAL-V as a company. A viable business plan was presented in 2007. In the years that followed, larger financial backers got involved and PAL-V gained momentum. Multiple investors showed interest.
In the meantime, work continued at the drawing board and the flying car took on an ever more defined shape. “The principle behind the PAL-V is based on a combination of the Carver and a gyrocopter”, Den Ouden explains. “A Carver is a cross between a car and a motorcycle with room for two people sitting behind each other. That agile and sleek design allows the machine to safely negotiate bends in the road. The wings have to be able to fold in as protrusions of this size on the body are dangerous and impractical. In addition, you need the gyrocopter concept to achieve flight. The difference between a gyrocopter and a helicopter is that only the tail rotor is powered, the main rotor is not. Air resistance makes the main rotor rotate. That allows you to land stably and safely.” All of the company's applications for patents have now been approved. An important point, because the final version of the PAL-V is based on the tilting mechanism used for the Carver.
Legislation is already in place for gyrocopters. Because the PAL-V is classed as a gyrocopter, it is allowed to use existing 3D corridors, a virtual motorway in the sky. A 30-metre strip of asphalt is all that is required for take-off. Den Ouden: “Our basic concept was to offer a solution to the frustration you experience at an airport, which, if you are honest, is a place you never want to be. You are there simply because you have flown in from somewhere and want to fly out again to your destination. The PAL-V should not be seen as a solution for traffic congestion: you cannot take off from a traffic jam. However, based on traffic information, you can choose between the PAL-V and your car.”
There is already significant interest in the first commercial version, the Liberty. Demand is already at a level that exceeds the production capacity in Raamsdonksveer. Orders are coming in from all over the world, not just the Netherlands. “For example, thirty entrepreneurs based in Raamsdonksveer have pooled their resources to buy a Liberty”, says Den Ouden. “A good example of how companies come up with their own applications for the PAL-V. Like taxi companies, or farmers with many acres of land. Watching that process from the side-lines is very interesting.”
Ted den Ouden does not see flying cars replacing ordinary cars during the coming ten to twenty years. So how will the business develop in the long term? “I don’t know. When the first Ford Model T ventured onto the road for its maiden test drive, somebody carrying a flag had to walk in front of it to warn other road users. Now almost everybody owns a car. The same thing can happen with the flying car. The big thrill for me? Making history. This is something you only see in films or read about in books. Pure science fiction. I am really looking forward to the Liberty's maiden test flight ... that will be a wonderful experience. Do I want to buy one personally? Well, the first ninety are numbered models that cost 500,000 euros each. However when production ramps up to larger batches, I may be able to find a home for one on my driveway.”
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