The All-Electric "Model A" Is America's FAA-Approved Flying Car

Alef Aeronautics "Model A" 12 photos
Photo: Alef Aeronautics / autoevolution edit
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Just like Google, General Motors, Tesla, Einride, and many others believe that self-driving vehicles are the future, Alef Aeronautics reckons that people will be interested in operating a flying car to escape traffic jams or just go faster from A to B than everybody else. It has created the "Model A" for this purpose. And the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) just gave them the green light through a document known as the "Special Airworthiness Certification." Here's what you need to know.
At some point, everyone thought at least once about escaping a tailback. Some may look for the nearest highway exit, while others deliberately avoid certain interstates. What's certain is that nobody likes it when traffic delays mess up plans. Just ask someone living or often traveling through Chicago, Boston, or New York City. Congestion can be frustrating, especially in a car-dependent country like the US.

But are flying cars the best solution entrepreneurs and government officials can think of? We already know that American roads are dangerous. Every single day, 20 people end up losing their lives because of a moving vehicle, according to a recently updated statistic. The worst thing about this Governor Highway Safety Association study, however, is that road fatalities had now equaled the highs from four decades ago when safety measures weren't as strict, and cars weren't as technologically advanced. Won't flying cars make matters worse for everyone using public roads… And air space?

But despite such worries, Alef Aeronautics believes in making a zero-tailpipe emission vehicle that can comfortably go on the tarmac and up in the air when you feel like just wanting to be above everyone else. This may sound like a sci-fi dream or a challenging mission for a newcomer in the conservative business sector, which is the automotive industry.

Alef Flying Car
Photo: Alef Aeronautics
Still, this company has already reached a significant milestone. Its "Model A" has just received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for test runs. This means it can fly in the US!

Rising to the challenge

The Special Airworthiness Certification gives the Californian company the much-needed "OK" to operate in the US airspace and establishes the locations where it can do so. Everything they now do in this respect must be reported back to the government body. But the most important thing about this certification is that it puts Alef Aeronautics at the forefront of navigating regulatory complexities for flying cars. As CEO Jim Dukhovny put it, "This is one small step for planes, one giant step for cars."

Despite the excitement surrounding this critical step, it's worth underlining that the "Model A" isn't the first aircraft of its kind to receive such a document. An FAA spokesperson said such limited approvals had previously been awarded for similar projects.

Of course, the vehicle must also meet the 121 safety requirements put forward by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These are included in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and refer to vehicle design, construction, performance, and durability requirements.

Worry not, however, because the CEO already said their flying car is safer than "regular" vehicles. It even has a parachute in case things go south. The all-electric two-seater "Model A" can travel exclusively on the road for around 200 miles or fly 110 miles. When the wheels touch paved surfaces, the maximum speed possible is 25 mph (40 kph). As such, it's unlikely we'll see a flying car on a highway.

Alef Flying Car
Photo: Alef Aeronautics
Since the actual range figure will depend on many factors (like weather, weight, and speed), we expect the flying distance to be shorter than the claimed figure. After all, we're not yet ready for a Jetsons-like world.

Highways in the sky

Besides that, lawmakers and regulators must determine the proper rules for flying cars as soon as they are deemed worthy for road and air usage. This will most likely take some time, so don't get your hopes up.

But for Alef Aeronautics, this is good news! The company estimates a cost of $299,999 for its unit that boasts a gimbaled rotating cabin design. If you want to be among the first in line, there's a priority queue that will set you back just $1,500. If you're only slightly interested in owning one someday, the $150 deposit may be more suitable. Both deposits are fully refundable if anyone changes their mind before the product is ready to be delivered to customers.

The company is targeting late 2025 to begin deliveries, but it's unlikely that all necessary federal laws will be ready by then. Moreover, future owners should be able to prove that they have the necessary skills to take off, fly, and land safely. This situation is also a predicament for law enforcement. Will Police everywhere buy a "Model A" or will helicopters and small planes suffice?

Alef Aeronautics said last year that the "Model A" will be joined by a "Model Z" sometime in the future. That flying car is expected to come with nearly double the flying range of the FAA-approved unit. But it may not be battery electric. The company is also exploring hydrogen powertrains. The name remains unclear for now, as Ford might still have the trademark for the Model A moniker.

Finally, the startup plans to bring forward a $35,000 flying car and wants to make it happen with the support of well-off early adopters. It remains to be seen if Americans have it in them to accept today's drivers turning into part-time pilots.

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About the author: Florin Amariei
Florin Amariei profile photo

Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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