It’s not every day that your introduction to a car company also means spending time in Europe’s largest vertical wind tunnel for aerodynamic testing. Get to know AEHRA. The headquarters in Milan is not only the usual meeting rooms and desks, but also a wind tunnel where you can fly – and while it’s a little scary, it’s a lot of fun.
AEHRA is the only electric car start-up in Italy and its secret sauce is aerodynamics. I spoke to AEHRA CEO and Co-Founder Hazim Nada to learn more.
Nada tells me:
We are not a car company. We are an energy transition company. These cars won’t look like anywhere else. We don’t see anyone doing what we do. We address a question of whether electric vehicles should continue to look like this.
The company is developing two luxury EVs – an SUV and a sedan – with aerodynamic architecture, using ultra-light carbon that reduces vehicle weight, which in turn increases battery range.
I’m not very good at getting a visual of a new car design from a few sneaky images the company released of its SUV vehicle last month.
But we’ll probably see something substantially different from the boxy galactic cyber trucksleeker and more streamlined like the Mercedes Benz prototype, the vision EQXX.
The company is critical of wasted space in existing EVs due to, for example, large hoods. Can we expect something more streamlined but stupid? Inside, the SUV maximizes cabin space—large enough for four NBA players and one other person in the center back seat.
Italy’s first EV
I was shocked that AEHRA is making Italy’s first standalone electric car. Nada explains: “We see European brands getting lost in the EV segment.”
There is also a long history of Italian design houses such as Pininfarina work for Chinese automakers such as BAIC, Brilliance, Chery, FAW, Foton, JAC and SGM to bring their ideas to life. Chinese automaker Silk-FAW is currently building hybrid and electric luxury sports cars in Italy. That’s a lot of skill that automakers take advantage of outside the country.
Nada and his team thought, “This is crazy. There’s so much know-how. Why isn’t there a single standalone company pushing local EVs? That’s really one of the main reasons that gave us the confidence to push our products.”
And while the company focuses on future design, they are taking the lead from existing automakers by hiring local talent. Ex-Lamborghini Chief Designer Filippo Perini is Chief Design Officer of AEHRA. Ferrari’s Stefano Mazzetti leads AEHRA’s procurement and procurement.
The company does not make its vehicles itself, but uses European partners and contract manufacturers.
Perhaps the biggest challenges are not just taking on EV makers like Lucid, Tesla, Rivian and NamX, but the ones that plague every fledgling startup. Nada describes the challenges of securing material suppliers as an untested brand.
Furthermore, Italy, like many other European cities, faces the challenge of reducing less off-street parking, reducing the capacity for EV chargers. Moreover, according to Nada, many end customers struggle with a grid connection with a very low wattage, which makes charging at home difficult. Therefore, the release of AEHRA should coincide with a massive expansion of private and public charging networks.
But AEHRA is targeting the luxury market and plans to launch cheaper vehicles in the future. Their 800km battery range holds up well against their competitors.
Currently, lucid air comes with promises of 873km on a single charge, and you can drive over 600km with the Tesla Model S Long Range without recharging. The Fresco XL promises a single charge range of 1,000 km.
Are luxury EV buyers welcoming newcomers?
The question remains whether AEHRA can gain market share to realize its ambitions. Are people willing to order a luxury vehicle from an unheard of brand? I’m also curious what impact the recent election of a right-wing party will have on the making of electric cars. Last month, right-wing politician Matteo Salvini called for a referendum to ban the production of ICE vehicles by 2035. Will the government cut VAT on EVs and increase subsidies over the next decade?
According to Nada, the planned luxury electric cars will start at between €150,000 and €180,000. AEHRA aims to produce 25,000 vehicles annually. Production will start in the first quarter of 2025 and the vehicles are expected to be delivered directly to the first customers by mid-2025. If AEHRA succeeds, the landscape of Italian car production will change forever.