Many people may not have heard of Aptera Motors, but the electric vehicle company isn’t new, it is an already established electric car maker which never had much success with its early plans but has roared back with a new design it’s taking orders for. The automaker claims that the vehicle will be crazy-efficient which is important, but the most interesting thing is that the vehicle will come covered with solar panels with the idea that it makes it never charge. It’s surprising, right? Okay, so here is everything you need to know about the California company, and whether it can compete with Tesla.
Aptera was founded way back in 2006 by Steve Fambro who was an electrical engineer with the dream of designing and building his super-efficient, sporty, 2-seat, electric vehicle. He brought on Chris Anthony to be the COO, and they started working on an aerodynamic, 3-wheeled car design, with a fully enclosed cabin, and side-by-side seating for two which had a hybrid engine with a whopping 330MPG. That design later evolved into a full battery-only electric vehicle. At that time, Aptera got serious funding from Google and other big investors, and it was planning to start production in 2008 which was around the time when Tesla was also working on the Roadster. Aptera had also applied for federal funding like many green industry startups, but because the Aptera had 3 wheels instead of 4, its funding application was denied. Every time Aptera founders lobbied to get its electric vehicle included for federal funding, doors were always shut in their faces, so they had to return deposits and close their doors in 2011. Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony moved on to other successful businesses providing innovative vertical farming and building commercial lithium-ion battery packs. Their success with their new businesses made it possible for them to look at the possibility of starting up Aptera again in 2019 and launched a crowdfunding campaign to restart development. Their timing was good, as electric batteries had gotten much cheaper and lighter, and even Tesla had been able to show the world that electric vehicles were no longer slow, short-range, unattractive, or unprofitable. Since 2019, nothing was heard of them until December last year. Now, Aptera has once again started working on its original concept for a vehicle the company said will be the most efficient vehicle ever made available to customers. Aptera began taking preorders that December— something they did in 2008, but it reimbursed people when it couldn’t deliver. And this year, after it completed a $4 million funding round in February, the company said that it had over 7,000 reservations with that number reportedly recently nearing the 10,000 level.
About Aptera Electric vehicle
Aptera’s new electric vehicle has a similar silhouette to the original concept. The new concept dubbed Aptera 3.0 has a streamlined, super-efficient body design that teamed up with modern electric wheel hub motors, updated electronics, and powerful, slim battery packs which are currently planned to start production later this year. The main idea behind the vehicle is efficiency As Aptera claims the vehicle uses only 100 watt-hours to travel a mile. Compare that with the already very efficient Tesla Model 3 which takes 250, or larger electric vehicles that can take 300 and even 400 watt-hours to go that far. That’s an astonishing efficiency and it will be an incredible achievement, though it will surely come with some compromises. The aerodynamic 3-wheel design results in a vehicle with a 100Kwh battery that can zoom from 0 to 60 in as few as 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 110 mph, and Aptera plans to offer front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive variants. Aptera also claimed its two-seat three-wheeler, which is likely to be classified as a motorcycle rather than a passenger car, could achieve 1,000 miles of range per charge, thanks to ultra-lightweight construction, and the solar array. Although the vehicle is small and light, Aptera claims that when they finish it, it will pass all crash tests well. That’s good, though in a crash with a heavy vehicle, there is just some physics that is going to put the passengers in a light vehicle at a disadvantage.
According to the company, the vehicle is for two passengers with a pet. The 25 cubic feet of cargo room is quite good and beats a Tesla with the rear seats up, though loses to cars with the seats down. As earlier stated, Aptera claims similar acceleration to the Tesla and offers an off-road option which raises it a bit. The Aptera car is powered by a combination of solar and electric energy what the company refers to as its Never Charge technology meaning drivers would be able to complete average journeys without having to stop for more power at charging stations. So Aptera has pitched the three-wheeler as a never charge vehicle because they anticipate that it can rely enough on solar power for most daily use. The Aptera has 180 solar cells designed into the body and covering 32.2 square feet, so it will be able to soak up to 5 miles of charge every hour under the bright sun, or about 40 miles of free range per day, although cloudier days will be slower. The company offers the option to embed solar cells on the roof, hood, and back of the vehicle, and with these extra panels that can be attached, that figure will be able to jump to a full 64 miles of range per day. The company claims that in most regions of the country, it will be able to go more than 11,000 miles per year purely from solar energy. Although there have been several electric vehicles that tried to embed solar cells in its body to power the vehicle, the impact of solar power is always limited. But since the Aptera is extremely efficient, the solar power that it will generate can make a difference. According to the automaker, the Aptera vehicle is composed of fewer parts instead of larger parts that make up a vehicle, making it smoother as well as more cost-efficient to produce. This combined with its aerodynamic shape reduces drag to a coefficient of 0.13. For comparison, Tesla’s Model 3 has a drag coefficient of 0.23. In addition to this, it will come with a level two autonomy capability, meaning it can control the steering, acceleration, and braking, but the driver must be at the wheel to intervene when needed. The interior of the Aptera is minimalist and reminiscent of Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y. It even has a similar display and user interface. According to Aptera, the user interface inside the car informs drivers in real-time of ways that they can conserve energy and extend the car’s range. The company also plans to bring in its battery technology that is currently developing at the San Diego–area facility it moved into in February. It also plans to develop the user interface for the vehicle there, as well as some advanced 3D printing techniques that may be part of an assembly process that can be efficiently scaled up as needed.
Aptera is innovative and the combination of solar panels with electric batteries is amazing. Even the fact that you can park the vehicle at work or wherever, and go back to it with more energy without having to pay a dime to drive it every day is a kind of freedom a lot of people would love, but the company’s storied history gives a reason to be skeptical and we just have to wait till it started delivering the Aptera car. Aptera is only taking reservations at this time and has not shipped actual cars. Everything about the Aptera car is based only on their promised specs and answers to questions, not on what an actual vehicle can do. Also, note that the prior company went bankrupt and never delivered a vehicle, so one must be wary of their promises until real results are delivered, so The company can’t compete with Tesla which has delivered real and visible results, at least for now.
Pricing for Aptera
Pricing for the Aptera with a fairly small battery pack that can achieve 250 miles of range starts at $25,900, and the company has said that the first production vehicles will be made later this year. Buyers can also configure the Aptera with a battery pack that extends the range to 400 miles for $29,800, 600 miles for $34,600, and 1,000 miles for $44,900. The closest solar-car alternatives to the Aptera are four-wheeled vehicles which are Sono Sion and Lightyear One. The Sono Sion is a solar-supplemented hatchback, to be made in Sweden and positioned primarily for Europe, while the Lightyear One is a Dutch effort being conceived by World Solar Challenge veterans.
So, What do you think about the Aptera? Do you think it can compete with Tesla? Let’s hear your views or opinions via the comment section.