Inside Alef Aeronautics, the company trying to build a car you can both drive and fly

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Alef Aeronautics is in the early stages of developing a vehicle it hopes will both drive on roads and fly above them. 

It is a rare exception in the competitive field of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which, despite often being dubbed as “flying cars,” aren’t meant for operating on the ground.

“eVTOLs are pretty much electric helicopters. We’re trying to build a car which can vertically take off and fly efficiently,” Jim Dukhovny, Alef Aeronautics’ co-founder and CEO, told CNBC Tech: The Edge in an interview.

In 2015, the team behind Alef met for the first time in a coffee shop, where Dukhovny scribbled the idea for his flying car down on a napkin. Eight years later, they are still building. 

“If everything goes right, if we have enough funds, if the legislation does not get worse … we plan to start production of the first one by the end of 2025.”

Unlike its eVTOL competitors, however, Alef will need to get approval from two regulators: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The company’s most notable backer is venture capitalist Tim Draper, who was an early investor in both Tesla, SpaceX as well in Theranos. Dukhovny said it took Draper about a year to send over a check.

“Tim wanted to make sure that not only it makes sense business wise. He wanted to make sure it made sense engineering wise too.”

Alef is also taking pre-orders. For a $150 deposit, customers get on a list to purchase its Model A when it becomes commercially available. Dukhovny told CNBC there are currently 3,000 customers on its waitlist.

Owning one of Alef’s flying vehicles, however, will carry a heavy price tag of $300,000.

“The price tag came from costs, what it takes us to make one today. We make it pretty much here, handmade, a lot of man hours and so on,” Dukhovny said. 

Watch the video above for the rest of CNBC Tech: The Edge’s interview with Alef Aeronautics’ Jim Dukhovny and Director of R&D Oleg Petrov.



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