Fantasy becomes reality as flying cars launch at Geneva Motor Show

The “Pop.up next” concept flying car, a hybrid vehicle that blends a self-driving car and passenger drone by Audi, Italdesign and Airbus is seen during the Geneva International Motor Show. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Fantasy becomes reality as flying cars launch at Geneva Motor Show

GENEVA: Flying cars — which have graced cinema screens for decades — are about to be launched for real, with the unveiling of a commercial model in Geneva this week.
From James Bond to The Jetsons, flying cars have long captured our imaginations. Now Dutch company Pal-V said they are almost ready to take to the streets, and the skies.
It unveiled its Liberty Flying Car — a sleek, red three-wheeled gyrocopter-type vehicle — at the Geneva Motor Show and said client deliveries could start next year.
The vehicles allow drivers to zip through traffic on the ground or simply fly above it.
An alliance between Airbus, Audi and Italdesign also presented a concept flying vehicle, “Pop.Up Next” at the Geneva show.
That modular system, made up of an electric car with a huge quadcopter fastened to the roof, is expected to be commercialized from 2025, the companies said.
“Frustration” sparked the idea for Liberty for Pal-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle).
In a plane, “you start at a point where you don’t want to start and you end up in a place where you don’t want to be,” company chief Robert Dingemanse told AFP.
“The Pal-V is the perfect product for city-to-city mobility,” he said, as “outside the cities you fly, inside the city you drive.”
The two-seater vehicle has retractable helicopter blades and is powered by a gasoline-fueled engine.
It can fly 500 km (310 miles), or drive nearly four times that distance without refueling, reaching a maximum speed of 160 km an hour.
Buyers are already lining up: For now the expected waiting time for delivery is around two years.
There are 10,000 strips in Europe available for take-off. “Because you can drive, that’s already enough,” Dingemanse said, adding that “every German will have a small airport within 10 or 20 km of his home.”
The modular Pop.Up Next has a radically different design — its passenger capsule resembles a futuristic gondola lift, with a giant quadcopter attached to the roof. Fully electric, it was conceived for mass transport in an urban setting.
The motorized base of the vehicle, which drives, and the upper part, which flies, can be detached to move autonomously.
Volkswagen’s Italdesign unit developed the passenger capsule while the motorized underbelly of the vehicle is based on Audi technology.
“I don’t know if you would use it every day,” Cousin said, adding that it would be good for “going to the airport (at a price) hardly more expensive than a taxi,” without the worry of traffic jams.
Airbus wants to launch the first urban trials by 2022, and is also looking into other uses, including transferring patients between hospitals and transporting goods at night.
“The convergence of certain technologies, especially in batteries and electric engines, is making it possible to develop this kind of vehicle — something that was impossible five or 10 years ago,” Cousin said.


DR Congo’s mining industry hobbled by poor infrastructure

Updated 18 June 2018
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DR Congo’s mining industry hobbled by poor infrastructure

  • DR Congo is Africa’s largest copper producer, and while it is the world’s leading source of cobalt, miners can only export concentrated forms of cobalt at 60-70 percent of the market price because of the energy problem.
  • A massive hydropower project on the River Congo, Inga 3, has the potential to power the entire country and even the continent, but it has been frequently delayed.

LUBUMBASHI: Feasting on a global demand for cobalt and copper, the mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo is flourishing — but two clouds loom over its sunny outlook.

First is the lack of power, which is holding back the development of the minerals processing sector and crimping the country’s ability to reap higher profits from the boom.

DR Congo is Africa’s largest copper producer, and while it is the world’s leading source of cobalt, miners can only export concentrated forms of cobalt at 60-70 percent of the market price because of the energy problem.

“We have an estimated potential of 100,000 MW/year but only produce 3,000 MW/year,” said Michael Shengo, chief of staff for the provincial mining minister for Haut-Katanga earlier this week, as he opened DRC Mining Week, an annual conference in the southeastern town of Lubumbashi.

A massive hydropower project on the River Congo, Inga 3, has the potential to power the entire country and even the continent, but it has been frequently delayed.

Now the project looks to be back on track, thanks to a joint bid by Spanish and Chinese companies: China Three Gorges Corp. and Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA.

Bruno Kapandji, director of the Agency for the Development and Promotion of the Grand Inga Project, announced the project’s relaunch in front of miners and investors at the conference.

“Our objective is to start the Inga project this year. It could take five to seven years, maybe up to 11 years,” said Kapandji.

Another challenge for the mining industry, which represents 20 to 25 percent of the country’s GDP, is a new fiscal law to raise taxes.

Seven mining companies, known locally as “the G7,” have argued the new code violates terms of the previous version, which provided a 10-year stability clause after any fiscal change. Some of the companies could be preparing for legal action as a result.

One of its most vocal members, Mark Bristow, CEO of gold mining company Randgold Resources, had a warning for other industries operating in the country. “Attracting investment and developing a mining industry is about trust,” he said, “and I see the government is making guarantees to other industries (solar, electricity), and what do they think when they see our guarantees are being taken away?“

Discussing and signing deals is one thing, but implementing and developing them remains an immense challenge.

The World Bank has ranked DR Congo 182nd country out of 190 for doing business, and the French credit insurer Coface rates it at the same level as Libya, Venezuela, Afghanistan and Syria, due to the political uncertainties, corruption and poor governance.

There are glimmers of hope in other sectors in the troubled country, currently in the grips of an Ebola epidemic and a bloody internal conflict.

In the capital Kinshasa, French sports retailer Decathlon has just opened its first store — a gamble in a city of 10 million where many are struggling to pay for essentials such as food and shelter.

Richard Kalinda, a Franco-Congolese, who once said his dream was opening a shop in his home country, said: “I have to reach 0.1 percent of the population. We are marketing for the middle class, people who have a regular income.”

However, Kalinda added they will have to adapt their prices to the country’s average salary.

At the 5th edition of the “French week” organized by the Franco-Congolese Chamber of Commerce, the theme set the tone for those looking to invest in the country: “Securing business, a challenge and a necessity.”

For the chamber of commerce, opening and bringing international capital in DR Congo requires being very well informed.

“Companies often have to confront administrative and procedural challenges that could be called fiscal harassment,” said the French ambassador to DR Congo, Alain Remy in an interview with Mining and Business magazine.

Debt-ridden Gecamines, the state-mining company, announced this week it struck a recapitalization deal with its Anglo-Swiss partner Glencore who agreed on a $150 million payment.

Gecamines had started legal proceedings to dissolve the Kamoto Copper Mine, but Glencore has
reportedly agreed to write off the $5.6 billion debt to safeguard the joint venture.

“We are entering a period for the mining industry that will be profitable for all,” said Yuma, “but only if relations
between foreign investors and the DRC are more equitable. The new code will make that possible, and I call on everyone to conform to it.”