This retro-styled motorcar that looks like it was inspired by The Jetsons could actually represent the next frontier in personal travel. The all-electric powered Alef Model A is set to become the world’s first flying automobile to enter commercial production, with an on-sale target of 2025.
At a hefty US$300,000 the Model A won’t be within the means of the masses, but Alef Aeronautics’ founder Jim Dukhovny is already working on another concept, dubbed the Model Z, which he aims to sell with a price tag of just $35,000 – about same as a family sedan.
“This is not more complicated than a Toyota Corolla,” he told Reuters in an interview. “Our goal is to make sure it has the same price point.”
There have been multiple attempts over the years to create a car that can take flight, but none resulting in a commercially viable venture to date. Dukhovny believes he has cracked the secret, thanks to an innovative approach to designing the wings.
Designed for vertical takeoff – an essential feature to avoid the traditional speed-driven runway-dependent takeoff – the Model A is built with a carbon fibre body that tips on its side and a cockpit that swivels immediately after taking to the air, creating a wing. Propellers – hidden while on the road – then propel it forward. “The whole car is the wing,” Dukhovny explains.
A range of flying cars under development around the world also rely on propellors to lift off vertically – but they cannot be driven on roads, limiting their application. Conceptually, they work more like drones, able to take to the skies practically anywhere, without the need for a runway.
How Alef Aeronautics envisages flying cars operating in the future. Video: Alef.
Dukhovny has never built a car, according to Reuters, but his experience in computer science and software design – and a passion for science fiction – have given him the skills to create a concept that is now catching the eye of investors. Prominent venture capitalist Tim Draper, an early investor in Tesla, has this month confirmed seed funding of $3 million, through his Draper Associates Fund V.
“The design is extraordinary,” Draper told Reuters in an email. “The sides of the car become the wings when the plane goes horizontal. They’ve created a small drone prototype that did exactly what they told me it would do.”
The Model A will have a driving range of around 320km and a flight range of 160km. The Model Z – tentatively scheduled for release in 2030 – will have a flight range of 320km and a driving range of 650km.
Together with co-founders Constantine Kisly, Pavel Markin, and Oleg Petrov, Dukhovny has been working on developing the car since 2015. A full-size prototype has been undergoing test flights and driving since 2019.
“The Alef Model is a modern solution for both urban and rural transportation needs in the 21st century because it is the fastest and most convenient transport ever created from the point of origin to the final destination,” he said. By enabling consumers to choose driving or flying mode, the Alef flying car allows the optimal path depending on road conditions, weather and infrastructure.”
The company is now taking deposits for orders of the Model A at $150 for a place in the standard queue or $1500 for a priority waitlisting.