Alef Aeronautics has unveiled its eVTOL Model A and Alef Zero flying cars that look closer to being a car than most other helicopter-like flying cars to date. Upon closer inspection, however, these prototypes are more than just different, with mesh bodies acting like a safety screen for rotating blades. But being more car-like means they can easily utilize existing roads and freeways, as well as parking infrastructure.
Located in San Mateo, California, Alef says it will have production Model A’s for sale in 2025. The estimated price is around $300,000, and the startup is already taking orders. After extensive studies and simulations, a working prototype is being tested. It is estimated to have a road range of 200 miles and an air range being 110 miles.
Either a single or two-passenger cockpit is under the bubble-top craft. The cabin pivots along two axes in drive mode, depending on whether it is traveling on roads or flying. Driving mode is oriented as one would drive a traditional car. But in flying mode, the car pivots 90 degrees so passengers are facing squarely out through the top of the bubble.
Other than the cockpit, the majority of what’s under the body is air. In flying mode, one side of the body becomes the top wing while the other side is the bottom wing. Air blowing through the mesh body provides lift via those body-side wings.
Its Distributed Electric Propulsion helps spread airflow evenly. All components have either triple or octuple redundancy for safety in the air. Real-time and pre-flight diagnostics, glide landing, and a parachute in the unlikely event of an emergency are all incorporated into the flying car.
The eight-propeller, two-passenger Model A is the precursor to what CEO Jim Dukhovny hopes will be the Model Z. This simpler flying car would only require a drone license to fly it. The payload is 200 lbs with a pilot, passenger, and baggage. Though currently a battery-powered vehicle, Alef is developing a hydrogen-powered version. Its estimated range is 400 miles.
The beef over flying cars has been that they are neither good at flying nor driving. Everything is a compromise to accomplish such a hybrid vehicle. But Alef is trying to break that old saying with technology that makes the Model A function well as either a car or a plane.
Silicon Valley venture capitalists are mostly funding the startup. They include Tim Draper, who helped fund Tesla.