Alef Aeronautics, a startup backed by a Tesla investor: the flying car by 2025

The promise of a future filled with flying cars is nothing new. For decades, futurists have been dreaming up the idea of ​​your car rising above traffic and flying.

So the most exciting part of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Alef Aeronautics’ latest prototype announcement might not be the car itself, which Alef says can take off vertically and fly 110 miles like a helicopter. single charge.

Now is the time: The company says it plans to start delivering cars to customers by the end of 2025.

Alef’s Model A will cost $300,000 and pre-sales are now open, with interested customers paying just $150 to get on the waiting list or $1,500 for a “priority” spot on the list. Alef says the company has been test-driving and flying a prototype since 2019, and the version it plans to introduce to customers can also travel 200 miles.

Jim Dukhovny, CEO of Alef, told CNBC Make It that the vehicle is primarily designed to stay on roads, ideally traveling through the air for short altitudes and distances to avoid specific obstacles. He calls those moments “hop” scenarios, “where the customer basically uses the vehicle as a car and only ‘hops’ over obstacles when necessary.”

In a statement in October, Dukhovny cited “road conditions, weather and infrastructure” as potential reasons for the short flight.

This is a bold concept. Experts say a lot needs to happen before a flying car can be seen on highways any time soon.

The hard road to legality and mass production

The car’s design includes a carbon fiber body with an open, mesh-like top with four propellers on each side. Once the vehicle takes off vertically, the entire vehicle flips sideways, while the two-person cockpit also rotates, allowing the propellers to control it like an oversized flying drone.

When driving the car, Alef says it is designed to comply with motoring laws and regulations, making it “road legal”, according to the company.

Alef even has the backing of high-profile venture capitalist Tim Draper, an early investor in both Tesla and SpaceX. Its namesake, Draper Associates Fund V, invested $3 million in Alef in October.

Mike Ramsey, automotive and smart mobility analyst at Gartner, says Alef’s plans are “neat” but claims the company faces a “tough road” ahead.

Mass production is a challenge for any automotive startup, Ramsey says, and it’s often difficult to get regulatory approvals to legally drive on public roads, much less fly over them.

Ramsey notes that the Federal Aviation Administration has issued updated guidance on the requirements necessary for ground vehicles to be legally permitted to operate and fly in public airspace. The FAA even reportedly advanced another flying car concept, Samson Sky’s Switchblade, for flight testing in July.

But Ramsey is adamant that even with more clarity from the FAA and other regulators, companies looking to certify their flying car concepts still face a “huge challenge.”

“Each safety requirements [road] You have to have a vehicle, along with the requirements to legalize a flying vehicle, how you do that would be pretty significant,” says Ramsey.

Alef hopes to speed up the regulatory process by seeking air certification primarily outside the U.S., particularly in Asia and Europe, Dukhovny says.[That] This will not only help us build a safety record, but also allow us to collect enough data to help with the FAA certification process in the US.”

Dukhovny also plans to initially certify the Model A as a Low Speed ​​Vehicle (LSV), which means the car won’t be able to exceed about 25 mph on public roads. Alef will then try to get a full car certificate, he adds.

“That would be an incredible achievement.”

The Model A isn’t Aleph’s only bold plan: Dukhovny has also announced plans to create a cheaper version, the Model Z, which will retail for just $35,000 by 2030.

In October, Dukhovny told Reuters that the proposed Model Z “will not be more complex than the Toyota Corolla” and therefore should have a similar price range.

Building a mass-produced car like the Corolla is “not easy,” says Ramsey.

“Personally, I would be very surprised if we have such a production-ready flying vehicle within the next two years,” he said. “That would be an incredible achievement.”

Not everyone agrees. Hugh Martin, CEO of transportation logistics startup Lacuna Technologies, told CNBC last year that he could envision commercial flying cars as early as 2024.

Big companies racing to be the first to bring a flying car to market include Fiat Chrysler and China’s Xpeng. Hyundai and Uber have been working on a flying taxi concept since 2020, and Hyundai subsidiary Supernal has announced plans to commercialize the flying pod by 2028.

But even if the cars are ready by then, regulatory approval could be a longer process.

“The regulatory challenges alone are going to be pretty significant,” Ramsey said.

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