© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of Alef Model A in this undated documentary photo released to Reuters October 17, 2022. Document broadcast via REUTERS
By Paul Lienert
The concept of flying cars is not new – inventors have been trying to add wings to wheeled motor vehicles for decades, with only limited success.
Jim Dukhovny, founder of Alef Aeronautics, hopes to change that equation. His California-based company has taken a new approach to moving ground vehicles into the sky and has attracted at least one prominent venture capitalist.
Alef’s Model A, which just arrived after seven years of pregnancy, looks less like the flying cars of historical movies and more like Bruce Willis’ flying taxi from the 1997 movie “The Fifth Element”.
The unusual look – whose body flips to become wings after takeoff – is just one aspect that attracts Tim Draper, an early investor in Elon Musk’s Tesla (NASDAQ: Inc and SpaceX with Draper Associates Fund). V supported Alef with $3 million in seed money.
After Draper made a modest initial investment, “I put more[money in]when I saw that they had created a small drone prototype that did exactly what they told me it would do.” , he said in an email. “The design is extraordinary. The sides of the car become wings when the plane passes.”
Based in Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley, Alef designed the Model A – an electric car with a relatively conventional shape – with the ability to take off and land vertically. And of course, to fly.
Dukhovny, CEO of Alef, has never built a car to date. He is a computer scientist, software designer, sci-fi enthusiast and serial entrepreneur who once ran an online gaming website called Mind Casino.
In an interview, he said the hand-built Model A is designed to sell for $300,000, with an initial production and delivery time expected in 2025. By the way, that price. equals the planned starting price for the Cadillac Celestiq brand’s flagship electric vehicle, which will begin shipping in early 2024, according to General Motors Co (NYSE:), Cadillac’s parent company.
One feature that sets the Model A apart from previous versions of the flying car is the way it flies. As it lifts off the ground, the cockpit rotates and the carbon fiber bodywork tilts, then moves forward thanks to a series of propellers. Most recent attempts by competitors have resembled giant drones — and without the ability to move on wheels on the ground.
Dukhovny said: “The whole car is the wings.
Alef estimates a driving range of 200 miles (322 km) and a flight range of 100 miles.
Dukhovny has an even bigger trick up its sleeve for 2030: A proposed Model Z sedan, with a 200-mile range and 400-mile driving range — and an expected $35,000 price tag.
“This is no more complicated than a Toyota Corolla,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure it’s the same price.”