It should be a small automotive revolution, what will be presented on Tuesday evening in Milan: a luxury vehicle, of course electric, which should compete with products from competitors such as BMW or Mercedes-Benz. At the same time, the car should solve a few fundamental problems that no other manufacturer has solved so far, not even start-ups from California or China.
Aehra is the name of the company behind the new car. It deliberately chose Milan as its location because of its proximity to Italy's "Motor Valley", the area around Moderna. There is a lot of automotive know-how there; Above all, the legendary car designers and many suppliers are at home there. But there are still no start-ups like Lucid, Rivian or Nio in the Italian automotive region. Aehra wants to fill this gap.
With the change to electromobility, a new start-up era has begun in the automotive industry, which has been clear since the rise of Tesla at the latest. The new technology is less complex than the internal combustion engine. Electrically driven axles can be purchased as finished components from suppliers such as Bosch or Schaeffler, and contract manufacturers are responsible for integrating them into the vehicle. That's how Aehra goes about it.
The founders of the company are the 39-year-old physicist Hazim Nada and the former skydiving instructor Sandro Andreotti (45). Both have no significant experience in the automotive industry, so their own contribution to the new vehicle is not in the drive or electrical engineering, but above all in the design. Since 2015, they have jointly operated a wind tunnel in which parachute flights can be simulated.
One of their main starting points for a better car is therefore air resistance. Nada knows that aerodynamic weaknesses can turn modern cars into energy guzzlers. And since power consumption is decisive for the range of the vehicle in electromobility, established car manufacturers and start-ups are now competing to see who can bring the most streamlined car onto the market.
For example, Mercedes-Benz has built a prototype that has a drag coefficient (cw) of 0.17. Aehra also wants to enter this competition. “The company's name is derived from the Latin word for air. We are aerodynamicists and want to find a new shape for electric cars," says Nada in an interview with WELT.
Filippo Perini (57) designed the shape of the newly presented SUV. Unlike the two founders, Aehra's chief designer brings a lot of experience from the industry. He was a designer at Alfa Romeo, Audi and for many years at Lamborghini.
He has almost completely taken the so-called front end of the Aehra SUV. This is the part of the car that normally houses the internal combustion engine and radiator under a hood. At Tesla, this is where the so-called frunk sits, an additional trunk. BMW hides a lot of technology under the hood that the driver should keep his hands off - the hood can only be opened in the workshop.
Nada is convinced that this front end is completely superfluous and, above all, consumes too much energy. "The pressure point between the hood and the windshield is the biggest problem for drag," he says. So he omits it, the silhouette of the SUV falling in a line from the windshield to the bumper.
Even more important is a second fundamental problem of electric cars that Nada and his colleagues want to solve: weight. SUVs the size of the new Aehra, such as the Audi e-tron, weigh extremely many kilos. The e-tron, for example, weighs more than 2.5 tons, the iX from BMW is slightly heavier and the SUV version of the Mercedes EQS weighs up to 2.8 tons. Of course, this load also leads to more consumption.
Aehra wants to solve the problem by using a new material: carbon fiber. "Our chassis should consist almost entirely of modern carbon material - and therefore only weigh 170 kilograms," says Nada. Overall, the car should weigh less than two tons despite a huge battery with a storage volume of 120 kilowatt hours.
Using carbon fibers in electric cars to reduce weight is of course not a new idea. BMW had already tried that with the E3 a good ten years ago. This vehicle has not been built since last summer, partly because the material made it very expensive compared to similarly sized cars.
The designers at Aehra are solving this problem by placing the car in the upper class and asking 160,000 to 180,000 dollars for it. In addition, the start-up uses a new type of carbon material that, unlike in the past, does not consist of long fibers but of finely cut carbon elements. This makes the material cheaper and, according to Nada, it can be recycled at least five times.
In addition to the weight savings, the material should also make the production of the vehicle significantly cheaper. Nada assumes that he can do without a large paint shop because the carbon components are delivered ready for assembly and are already colored. "By doing without a paint shop, we save about 300 million euros in investments," says the founder.
And Aehra saves another, very expensive area in the factory by largely dispensing with metal: the press shop. According to the founder, since only a few parts of the vehicle are made of aluminum, investments of around half a billion euros will be saved. Installation should also be easier.
In addition to the design, Aehra should contribute to an industrial revolution in the automotive industry if the founders manage to really get the car into series production. Nada expects that the development and production of its two models - a sedan is to follow the SUV in the coming year - will only cost 750 million euros. That would be amazingly cheap. For comparison: the Californian start-up Lucid, which delivered the first cars a year ago, raised a total of 6.8 billion dollars in seven rounds of investors.
Unlike Lucid, however, Aehra does not want to build her own factory. One is in negotiations with a contract manufacturer, says Nada. The software for driver assistance and the essential components are also to be bought “off the peg”. The first cars should come onto the market at the end of 2025.
Whether the automotive revolution from the Italian Motor Valley will actually become reality and whether series production will actually follow the prototype in three years' time remains to be seen. Nada is aiming for quantities of 25,000 to 30,000 cars per year, significantly less at the beginning.
In order to do that, he will need additional capital in the coming years. He does not rule out an IPO or a merger with a "Spac", i.e. a listed company shell. First, however, two established funds are to come on board as investors. So far, Aehra has been financed purely from the funds of the founders and some friends who have invested. Nada earned the money for the foundation with one of his previous companies – as a crude oil trader.
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