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Aptera update: Heading to Market in October '09
Julia Levitt, 22 Jan 09

Aptera_Press6.jpg

In 2006, Jamais Cascio generated a lot of buzz with his post in praise of the slick, three-wheeled, crash-resilient, diesel-electric hypercar, the Aptera.

At the time, the design was still just a concept. But in just a few months, you may see the first road-ready models pass you on the highway or snag the too-small parking spot you were eyeing ... that is, unless you're one of the nearly 4,000 people who've already reserved your very own.

The Aptera has undergone some noticeable changes -- it's now all-electric rather than a diesel hybrid, and carries a higher price point than originally predicted -- and it's expected to be ready for full production and distribution in October 2009. Southern California-based manufacturer Aptera Motors will initially sell the vehicles only in their home state, at an expected cost between US $25,000-$45,000. The company plans to distribute the Aptera to the rest of the United States by late 2010.

According to the manufacturer:

The aerodynamically-inspired 2e will go from zero to 60 in under 10 seconds, top out at 90 mph and get the equivalent of more than 200 miles-per-gallon based on a standard EPA driving cycle.

(For those of you confused, as I was, as to why an all-electric car is being assigned an MPG, rest assured: not a drop of gasoline is needed. The number is MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent, an estimate based on research done by the X Prize Foundation as a means of expressing fuel economy in familiar terms. More on that here.)

The electric Aptera will get approximately 120 miles on one charge. For drivers who need to cover more distance between charges, a spokesperson for the company says Aptera Motors is also working on designs for hybrid and fuel-powered models that will be able to run on gasoline, but that will achieve MPG efficiency above 100.

This is undeniably a promising (not to mention very cool) step in the direction of energy-efficient personal transportation. But even as we continue to encourage innovation in what kinds of vehicles we drive, we want to stress that swapping our high-impact fossil fuel cars for new low-impact electric cars (which have energy efficiency possibilities beyond travel alone) will not be the only answer needed to bring us into an era of climate-neutral mobility.

Along with terrific vehicle options, reducing our footprint to allow one-planet prosperity will mean changes to our landscape, our economy and our culture in the form of controlling sprawl and building dense, attractive, livable cities that facilitate many options for transit.

For a crash course in why we need this, read Alex Steffen's popular post, My Other Car is a Bright Green City. And for continued coverage of leading innovations moving us toward this bright green future, stay tuned.

tn_Aptera_2e_Debut.jpg

Image source: Aptera Motors.


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Comments

Remember: This car will never make it into successful production. This is a "gadget", not an automobile and it has financed an elaborate lifestyle for the inventor.


Posted by: owlafaye on 22 Jan 09

Care to qualify that a little owlafaye? What does "successful" mean?

Simply denegrating the people behind it isn't a spectacularly productive contribution to this post.


Posted by: Scatter on 23 Jan 09

As with all these very promising Cars/Trikes... I will believe it when I see it... and of course not for sale exclusively in California... and not for a ridiculous price... I understand they plan to expand.. but again.. when I see it.


Posted by: Elepski on 23 Jan 09

What bothers me about this is the falacy behind reducing our footprint. Unless the electricity is comeing from green sources of energy, ie: wind or solar, then that still leaves us burning coal and natural gas...huge CO2 contributers, and at a need for more nuclear power! Where does all of that radio-active leftover go...hmmm??? Just a thought.


Posted by: Sasha on 23 Jan 09

While I can (and do) understand and concur with healthy skepticism, in this case I feel it's a little misplaced.

Tesla Motors started out with a high-end snazzy prototype for gazillions of dollars, and is evolving towards a consumer-end car pretty rapidly (incredibly quickly if you consider the typical product-development life cycle in the mainstream automotive industry) and has already served to propel our conception of who can / should / will design and innovate radical new personal transportation concepts forward to a less monolithic, more distributed vision.

As to whether people will buy the Aptera, the 4000 person waiting list says a lot about viability as a for-profit enterprise; and at the tech level, for all I've read thus far (I haven't yet gone to see them, but I will) they appear to be very well thought out and designed.

If they can get this vehicle legally set up in California (which has the toughest auto safety and emissions standard in the country) and use that as the case study to pursue the same status in other states, they will go quickly from being a local Left Coast venture to something much more significant - but at the moment, the fact that the ecological footprint of the factory itself is minimal is good. They'll need a proving-ground and some time in small to mid volume production before they can plan an effective ramp-up.

Had I the available capital to be thinking about a new enclosed vehicle, I would consider the Aptera myself (my main vehicle is a motorcycle - I do own a car but use it far, far less than the higher MPG bike) and who knows, by the time I have available capital and a need to replace my aging-but still good used car, perhaps Aptera will have sited dealerships in a few California cities!

To my mind, half the point of the Aptera is to completely shift our mode of thinking - it looks incredible, it's obviously high-tech and super aerodynamic - but rather than all of that being done in order to achieve the highest possible top speed or acceleration with a socking great engine pumping out noise, fumes and power (our current mode of vehicular jollies) it's all done to make it super-efficient! For far too long, we've been taught to think an efficient car/vehicle must be clunky, uncool, unsexy etc - the Aptera changes all that. Efficiency now looks very chic, slick and sexy.

Alright, my motorcycle does that too, as it's an absolutely beautiful machine on which I get 40-75 MPG depending on my riding style, but it's primarily designed for being *very* fast - this is at the nexus of the paradigm shift the Aptera moves us towards: the de-emphasizing of raw power, the re-emphasizing of elegance, balance and minimalism.


Posted by: Gerard on 23 Jan 09

Sasha,

Yours is a good point.

So far, all electric vehicles do represent a shift from point-source emissions to mass-source emissions.

However, we do have the capabilities to shift electric generation to a wide range of options, which if intelligently pursued in a diverse approach can *massively* decrease the emissions footprint of power generation; combustion-based cars as they exist today (and will exist for quite some time into the future if we continue with "business as usual" micro-incremental change as advocated by the big auto manufacturers) have no such chance for shifting away from their emissions footprint.

Given the huge portion of our energy and emissions which originate with personal transportation, ANYthing which serves to shift the current mode of thinking, breaks us out of our perceptive boxes, rattles the economic models enough to stimulate new thinking, ideas, products and paradigms is a good thing in my opinion.


Posted by: Gerard on 23 Jan 09

A new super light engine has been developed in America,see: http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Massive_Yet_Tiny_(MYT)_Engine#Comments
A diesel version in a diesel/electric Aptera could prove the final downfall of even GM and the Volt! Go For It! The oil shortage fueled (GRD) great republican depression is upon us and may "changes" are coming our way, some good, some bad, yours is a good one!


Posted by: Uncle B on 23 Jan 09

A new super light engine has been developed in America,see: http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Massive_Yet_Tiny_(MYT)_Engine#Comments
A diesel version in a diesel/electric Aptera could prove the final downfall of even GM and the Volt! Go For It! The oil shortage fueled (GRD) great republican depression is upon us and may "changes" are coming our way, some good, some bad, yours is a good one!


Posted by: Uncle B on 23 Jan 09

1) "This is a "gadget", not an automobile and it has financed an elaborate lifestyle for the inventor."

Oh, give me a break. You probably don't even know who the "inventor" is.

2) "As with all these very promising Cars/Trikes... I will believe it when I see it..."

I have.

3)" What bothers me about this is the falacy behind reducing our footprint. Unless the electricity is comeing from green sources of energy, ie: wind or solar, then that still leaves us burning coal and natural gas..."

Power plants use fuel far more efficiently than gasoline engines, and transmission losses are minimal (US average = 92.8% efficiency). Plus, it's far easier to clean up a few hundred power plants than 300 million tailpipes; EVs automatically get cleaner as more renewables go onto the grid.


Posted by: Meme on 23 Jan 09

If Apterra can get over 100 MPG equivalent that is already more than a factor of 4 reduction in energy consumption compared to the American automotvie fleet, regardless of the source of that energy. As some have pointed out, even a large coal plant generates energy much more efficiently than the internal combustion engine. From a national economic/security perspective, reducing our reliance on oil is extremely important, even if that means consuming more coal. But America has huge renewable energy potential if we choose to tap it. Electric or plug in hybrids set the foundation of enabling this change to wind and solar to power our transportation system.


Posted by: Bernie on 29 Jan 09

Electric cars just don't have to be as complex mechanically as the car you're probably driving now. Sophisticated electronics and software take the place of the pounds and pounds of machinery required to introduce a spark and ignite the fuel that powers an internal combustion engine.

For example, the typical four-cylinder engine of a conventional car comprises over a hundred moving parts. By comparison, the motor of the electric car has just one: the rotor. So there's less weight to drive around and fewer parts that could break or wear down over time.


Posted by: ccsdk on 31 Jan 09

"What bothers me about this is the falacy behind reducing our footprint. "

Well, for one thing, your current vehicle wastes 80% of the energy from the fuel in heat (only to be released from the radiator). There is a LOT of opportunity to reduce your footprint. If the MPGe is over 100 (200 or even 300) to get to work, that is a much lower footprint.


Posted by: weldong on 2 Feb 09

As someone who has an Aptera on order I find it fascinating that people can be so critical of a company attempting to do the right thing. I'm buying one because I think this a good solution for transportation, it meets my needs and I think it's cool. I'm voting with my dollars to support a different way of thinking.

I've been buying organic produce for 20+ years now for a lot of the same reasons; I think it's the right thing to do for the planet, it's good for me and it supports the organic farmers. Today we can buy organic produce at Safeway.

If it's not right for you don't buy one. In the end the market will decide, so let's at least give those courageous enough to try something new the opportunity to succeed.


Posted by: Michael Anderson on 8 Feb 09

I think that this is a great idea, However, with it's ~30K price tag, it seems that the total savings from owning one would be diminished versus purchasing a less fuel efficient compact car priced around 10K. If you break it down into it's monthly cost of ownership, at today's fuel prices, it will take quite a few years to realize a substantial return on investment. I want one, it is sleek and sexy, very efficient, but it is just a little too pricey for me. If they can slash the price tag by %50, I feel that many more people would be willing to own their very own 300 MPG "space-cruiser". This is a very cool car. I hope they can get the price down.


Posted by: Kris on 16 Mar 09

I too would love to see that price point dip a little lower - we'll see if enough early adopters order to help bankroll the developments needed to roll out a second generation at lower prices (iPhone anyone?) but I have a question: I though the proposed price-point was nearer 20k than 30k?


Posted by: Gerard on 7 Apr 09

Thanks for your question, Gerard. Here's an answer from Aptera spokesperson Jeff Green:

The Aptera will go anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000, depending on drive train and options. The vehicle was initially conceived to have a very spartan interior, but after focus groups and listening to our nearly 4,000 depositors, it became clear that the vast majority of the public wanted options such as GPS, IPod player, etc.


Posted by: Julia on 7 Apr 09

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