San Mateo-based startup Alef Aeronautics announced that it has received approval to flight test its flying car prototype from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Special Airworthiness Certification allows Alef to test the car’s flying capabilities in limited areas and for limited purposes. It’s the first vehicle of its kind to receive legal permission to fly from the US Government.
The SpaceX-backed company first unveiled its “Model A” flying car design in October 2022. The 100% electric vehicle is designed to be drivable on public roads with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. It has a driving range of 200 miles, a flying range of 110 miles, and fits into existing infrastructure for parking and driving. One or two occupants can fit inside the gimbaled cabin and propellers are enclosed by the car’s frame for safety.
Since the design was announced last year, the Model A has been available for pre-sale with regular queue deposits at $150 and priority queue deposits at $1,500. CNN reported that Alef has since taken over 400 refundable pre-orders with the goal of selling the vehicles for $300K starting in 2025.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alef Aeronautics cites Back to the Future as a primary inspiration for the project. In 2015 four friends (Dr. Constantine Kisly, Pavel Markin, Oleg Petrov, and Jim Dukhovny) met at Palo Alto’s Coupa Cafe and sketched out an initial design on a napkin, with an ambitious plan to build a reinterpreted DeLorean within 6 months.
By 2016 they had created a sub-scale replica, and by 2018 they were flight testing a full-scale “skeleton.” Alef began test-driving and test-flying a full-size flying car prototype in 2019 but needed the FAA’s permission to continue test flights for more R&D.
“We’re excited to receive this certification from the FAA,” said Jim Dukhovny, CEO of Alef. “It allows us to move closer to bringing people an environmentally friendly and faster commute, saving individuals and companies hours each week. This is a one small step for planes, one giant step for cars.”
Alef Aeronautics has other flying car models in development in addition to the Model A. They’re working on a four-person sedan called the Alef Model Z, with a goal to introduce it to the public in 2035.