Alef Aeronautics Discloses 440 Flying Car Presales In Q4 2022

The Model A flying car from Alef Aeronautics is designed to flip 90 deg. and fly on its side during horizontal flight. 

Credit: Alef Aeronautics

Alef Aeronautics, the San Mateo, California-based startup developing a battery-electric flying car that takes off and lands vertically, has reported presales of more than 440 vehicles since emerging from stealth in October. 

Upon delivery, the orders would have a combined value of $132 million, according to the company, which is backed by Tim Draper, an early investor in both Apple and Google. The startup is currently taking preorders for its “Model A” flying car, which is being advertised at a list price of $300,000. A portion of those orders represent a large corporate customer based in Hong Kong, Alef CEO Jim Dukhovny says.

The Model A, which first flew a prototype in 2019, is being designed to look and function like an ordinary car, with a driving range of 200 mi. using the vehicle’s electric battery. But the car is also being designed to take off and land vertically from “basically anywhere that is safe to do so,” Dukhovny says, with a flying range of 110 mi. 

Dukhovny says the ability to transition from driving to flying would be most useful for commuters navigating dense urban traffic, or quickly traversing bodies of water like San Francisco Bay that otherwise require lengthy detours to cross, saving time and money for business people who can shorten their daily commutes. But unlike electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOL), which also aim to enhance urban mobility, the flying car concept can actually transport someone directly from their home to their final destination without the need to take off and land from vertiports. 

“Some folks in the press have taken to calling eVTOLs flying cars, but that’s a misnomer,” Dukhovny says. “First of all, eVTOLs need a whole new infrastructure; our vehicles do not. They can be driven like a regular car, parked in a regular parking space or your garage. This is supposed to be a real substitute for a Tesla or Toyota–not a Boeing or Airbus.”

“But also, eVTOL is not really very efficient. It does not get you directly from point A to point B,” he adds. “You have to take an Uber from your house to a big high-rise, take an elevator to the top, fly to another high-rise, take the elevator back down and catch another Uber. That’s not actually very efficient, and it’s a model that will be extremely difficult to scale up, just given the difficulty in constructing high-rise buildings in most U.S. cities.”

While the Model A is being designed to resemble an ordinary automobile from the exterior, the transition from driving to vertical flight reveals an innovative design, whereby the vehicle flips on its side and becomes an airfoil, with the wheels pointed backward, while the gimbaled, two-seat “cockpit” pivots on its axis so that passengers remain upright and facing forward throughout transition. The vehicle’s battery will power eight motors in the four wheels, which in turn will power the props that generate thrust. In flight mode, the vehicle will have an initial top speed of 35 mph, although Dukhovny says that future versions will go faster.

“Every inch of the car is the wing, and the air flows through the perforated chassis, so it really flies like a biplane,” Dukhovny explains. “Not only do you have two wings, you have a circular wing design and you have the propellers inside that make it very stable.”

While the Model A is being advertised at a price of $300,000, Alef eventually plans to manufacture a more affordable Model Z, which Dukhovny said would sell for around $35,000, with the savings made possible by an envisioned mass production process that would greatly reduce the unit costs of each new vehicle. 

In the meantime, customers can place their preorders for the Model A online, with a $150 deposit for the regular queue and $1,500 for the priority queue.

Ben Goldstein

Based in Boston, Ben covers advanced air mobility and is managing editor of Aviation Week Network’s AAM Report.