Flying car by California startup Alef attracts early Tesla investor

Oct 19 (Reuters) – The flying car concept is nothing new – inventors have been trying to add wings to wheeled motor vehicles for decades, with limited success.

Jim Dukhovny, founder of Alef Aeronautics, hopes to change this equation. His California-based company pioneered a new approach to moving ground vehicles into the sky and attracted at least one high-profile venture capitalist.

Fresh out of a seven-year gestation period, Alef’s Model A looks less like the flying cars of old movies and more like Bruce Willis’ flying taxi in the 1997 movie “The Fifth Element.”

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The unusual appearance – which features a body that flips sideways to become the wing after takeoff – is just one aspect that appealed to Tim Draper, an early investor in Elon’s Tesla Inc. Musk. (TSLA.O) and SpaceX whose Draper Associates Fund V backed Alef with $3 million in seed capital.

After Draper made a modest initial investment, “I put in more (money) when I saw they had created a small prototype drone that did exactly what they told me it would. would,” he said in an email. “The design is extraordinary. The sides of the car become the wings when the plane becomes horizontal.

Based in Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley, Alef designed the Model A – a sleek yet relatively conventional electric car – with the ability to take off and land vertically. And of course, fly.

Dukhovny, who is the CEO of Alef, has never built a car until now. He is a computer scientist, software designer, sci-fi enthusiast and serial entrepreneur who once ran an online gambling site called Intellectual Casino.

In an interview, he said that the hand-built Model A is set to sell for $300,000, with production and initial deliveries expected in 2025. Incidentally, that price is the same starting price expected for Cadillac’s flagship electric vehicle. , the Celestiq, which should start arriving for customers in early 2024, according to Cadillac’s parent company, General Motors Co. (GM.N).

One feature that sets the Model A apart from previous versions of flying cars is the way it flies. Once it lifts off the ground, the cockpit pivots and the carbon fiber body flips to the side, then forwards, driven by a set of propellers. Most of the other recent attempts by competitors look like giant drones – and aren’t capable of moving on wheels on the ground.

“The whole car is the wing,” Dukhovny said.

Alef estimates a 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 flight range of 200 miles and a range of 400 miles – and a projected price of $35,000.

“It’s no more complicated than a Toyota Corolla,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure it’s priced the same.”

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Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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