Flying car biz Alef claims 3K preorders, still hasn't done a proper demo

What will happen first by 2026? Model A in production or end of the world?

Alef Aeronautics claims to have more than 2,850 preorders for its Model A, which CEO Jim Dukhovny opines is the world's first true flying car, although we're still waiting for a live demonstration of the vehicle in flight. 

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week, Dukhovny argued Alef customers – who each had to put down a $150 refundable deposit to reserve a $300,000 flying car, or $1,500 to join a priority queue – made the Alef Model A the best-selling aircraft in history. 

"[That's] more than Boeing, Airbus, Joby, Archer and most of the eVTOLs combined," Dukhovny claimed, referring to electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles. It should be noted that Boeing and Airbus require a bit more of a refundable deposit of $150 before taking an order. 

The Alef Model A does look like a normal-ish car in form unlike designs by Joby and other manufacturers that look more like helicopters or giant drones


The Alef Model A in normal car mode ... Source: Alef. Click to enlarge

That said the Alef Model A still ultimately borrows its design from modern remote-controlled flyers - it just hides its eight propellers inside mesh covers in the front and back of the vehicle. When switching from ground to flight modes, the Model A's gimbaled cockpit rotates, turning the car into a flying brick with sides that serve as a top and bottom wing, not unlike a biplane. 


A simulated Model A in simulated flight, as imagined by Alef

Preorder holders may not even have to wait long for their Model As, as Dukhovny thinks "it's actually pretty realistic" that Alef produces the first vehicles by the end of next year.

"If everything goes right and if we have enough funding," and if regulations are on Alef's side, "we plan to start production of the first one by the end of 2025," Dukhovny said.

Funding isn't necessarily a big problem, Dukhovny said - the company has 18 investors, the largest of which is Draper Associates, run by VC Tim Draper, notable for his early investments Tesla and SpaceX. Alef told us that, while Draper is an investor, neither SpaceX nor Elon Musk are involved with the upstart, which was founded nearly a decade ago.

"We have been fighting this for over a year," Alef's media team told The Register. "Confusion came from the fact that Tim Draper is both Alef's investor and a Tesla and SpaceX investor."

Even if Alef has enough cash and everything goes right, there's still a lot of regulatory hurdles to clear before the Model A is flight legal, Dukhovny explained. 

Dukhovny boasted to CNBC that the Model A is safer than "almost every aircraft which is flying today and safer than a car," and is classified in an ultralight in some countries - Canada and the UK, were given as examples. Despite ultralight rules applying to the Model A, which means it could theoretically be flown in such countries today, a lot of restrictions would still remain on what it would be allowed to do. 

In other words, the sort of flying depicted in Alef presentations will take some time. 

"It's not going to be tomorrow, it's not going to be this year, it's not going to be next year," Dukhnovny said. Whether that means Model A buyers will be given a car that's not legal to fly isn't clear. 

Let's keep our skeptic hats on

As we've covered before, Alef was granted limited flight permission from the Federal Aviation Administration in the US last year. Alef's press team told us at the time that, with the FAA's clearance, it would be able to record "a publicly available video of full-sized prototypes driving and flying." Fast forward to today, and Alef has yet to produce such a video, or show a non-simulated Alef Model A doing anything besides sitting around at a trade show or press event. 

Nonetheless, Alef told us it's actively flying the Model A in preparation for a public demo, with Dukhovny claiming the biz has been flying Alefs at test facilities in and around Silicon Valley for over two years. Alef told us a video will be added to Alef's press page "soon," but only mentioned takeoff - not an actual flight. 

It's also worth noting that, while Alef is marketing the Model A as a car-cum-biplane, it's more apt to describe it as an expensive flying golf cart. 

The limited safety of a giant lightweight mesh body - the whole vehicle reportedly only weighs around 850 lbs - means the Model A is limited to just 25-35 MPH on the road. Alef tells us it's working on getting the Model A modified for further road legality.

Likewise, the vehicle's weight capacity is a mere 250 lbs - barely enough to carry an adult human or two - though Alef said it hopes to up the capacity before the vehicle is available. 

The Alef Model A has been on presale since 2022, and while there's been plenty of stories and social media posts from Dukhovny to tell us about how it's going to change the world since then, there's been precious little in the way of actual information about the vehicle. 

This vulture will be keeping an eye on Alef, albeit an incredibly skeptical one. ®

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