Flying cars were thought to be novelties or a work of science fiction — you rarely see them at a dealership. Most are custom-made vehicles that lack certification to fly. California aerospace startup Alef Aeronautics says it has developed the world’s first electric flying car.
Classified as an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVOTL) aircraft, Alef’s Model A has shattered any preconceived narratives about personal flying vehicles. It’s also way safer for the atmosphere than regular cars.
Alef has been working on this flying car for over eight years. The company began with four men — Jim Dukhovny, Dr. Constantine Kisly, Pavel Markin, and Oleg Petrov — teaming up to pursue the idea of a real, for-commercial-sale flying vehicle.
Just like how Doc Brown created a time machine out of a DeLorean that could fly, Alef notes the irony of forming the business in October 2015, the setting for the first half of Back to the Future Part II. The company says the first schematics for the flying car were hand-drawn on a napkin. The four leaders agreed that a flying vehicle must be able to take off, be parked in a standard space, and be somewhat affordable.
Photo Courtesy Alef Aeronautics
Development for the Model A started officially in 2016. After raising $3 million in seed money thanks to venture capitalist Tim Draper, the company got the kick-start it needed. The “skeleton” was completed in 2018. It underwent a test flight until the same year.
By 2019, the first full-size prototype took flight. A small audience witnessed the first flight, where onlookers saw the Model A take off, land, and drive. Additional investors include Impact VC, Bronco Ventures, Strong VC, and several others. In 2021, the company hired former Bugatti designer Hirash Razaghi to conceive the interior and exterior look; the sloped and spheric chassis invokes similar aesthetics of a Bugatti.
The Model A’s full model was unveiled on Oct. 19, 2022. Alef said the vehicle can drive 200 miles and fly around 110 miles.
It is the first 100% electric flying car, something we have not seen outside of sci-fi movies or novels. It’s designed to be driven on public roads and has vertical takeoff and landing tech.
Once off the ground, the cockpit swivels around while the carbon-fiber body turns over on its side. An array of propellers pushes the eVOTL through the air. Once returned to the ground, the Model A reverts to its car shape.
Photo Courtesy Alef Aeronautics
On June 12, Alef received a limited Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing the eVOTL to fly publicly. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t signed off on the freeway legality of the vehicle.
Alef said it has received more than 2,500 pre-orders, making up around $750 million in revenue.
Potential buyers have to be ready to fork over some cash. The Model A is expected to cost around $300,000. Some non-flying electric vehicles cost about this much.
“We’re excited to see such strong initial demand for the Alef flying car. We are thankful for the notes of gratitude and inspiration we received with some of the pre-orders,” Jim Dukhovny, CEO, said in a press release. “We still have a road to go before starting deliveries, but where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
In 2022, CNBC reported that the company says customers can expect to see the cars by 2025. Businesses, including dealerships, are making a concerted effort to buy models to sell at showrooms, as they are the biggest buyers so far.