One of the strangest ducks in the world with electric vertical takeoff and landing has announced a milestone. Alef’s Model A is a $300,000 electric car…sort of legal, but also capable of a very unique way of flying. The company has announced limited FAA certification.
We first saw this crazy idea last October, but in reality, what you’re seeing is a very unique take on the old flying car concept.
In road mode, there’s no way this thing would pass auto-grade crash tests, etc. — and Aleph doesn’t want to go through that process either. So they designed it to comply with US “low-speed vehicle” regulations, allowing it to travel on certain streets at speeds of up to about 25 mph (40 km/h). In fact, it would fall into the same category as a golf cart.
In airplane mode, well, maybe it’s closest to the tailgate? The chassis is nearly empty, with the body topped by a carbon fiber grille. Inside are eight coaxially mounted vertical lift fans that are said to generate enough thrust to lift it off the ground.
Then things get weird. The one- to two-seat cabin is mostly isolated from the “body” of the car, rotated 90 degrees laterally, and then held level on a gimbal-type system as the plane begins to move forward, accelerate and slowly bank. The bodywork around the cab until the sides of the car actually becomes a sort of biplane chassis wing arrangement.
Alef says it can go up to 200 miles (322 kilometers) on a single charge if you’re driving slowly on the street, or 110 miles (177 kilometers) if you’re flying. The company is currently taking deposits for $300,000 per Model A and says it plans to launch a four- to six-seat family version around 2035.
In today’s news, the Alef announced that it has received limited special airworthiness certification from the FAA, “marking the first time a vehicle of this type has received legal approval from the U.S. government to fly.”
“We are delighted to receive certification from the FAA,” CEO Jim Dukhovny said in a press release. “It brings us one step closer to bringing green and faster commuting, saving time for individuals and businesses each week. It’s one small step for airplanes, one giant leap for cars.”
In addition to the “sports car” it unveiled last year, the company has “two working full-size technology demonstrator vehicles,” Aleph said. Since 2018, the company has been fully transitioning the scale model to cruise mode, the company said.
Now, the airworthiness certification being celebrated here isn’t the biggest deal in the world; it’s the necessary green light the company needs to fly a prototype, which is certainly not the same as what the major air taxi companies have gone through to achieve full design, manufacturing and type certification Protracted battles are completely different.
As for the plane itself, we certainly appreciate that these guys think outside of the box for almost anything. But it’s clearly a machine that suffers badly on the road, and frankly, it probably won’t suffer as much in the air either. Most boxwings and biplanes have tails to stabilize the flight, and for good reason, the carbon grilles sandwiched between the upper and lower wings can create far more drag than the Aleph plans to handle.
And it’s not as complicated as having a nacelle with gimbals on at least two axes. We see a lot of problems here.
Without stressing too much, it might be worth watching the October launch to get a sense of the key people behind the company, especially Duhovny, who has shown a zany penchant for striking dramatic poses and staring at In the distance, he is standing on the ceiling, and a video of him walking on the street is playing behind him.
Quite frankly, we’d be very surprised if these products arrive by the end of 2025 as promised, or if they do. But Aleph is indeed a curiosity, and we’ve been surprised before.
Enjoy the launch video below, which features suspicious audio. Check out some of the other flying car projects, the good, the bad, and the ugly, in Dezso Molnar’s roundup from a few years ago.
Alef Flying Car Unveiled (4K, Fixed Sound)