Timing is everything. Ten years ago, Aptera said it was going to bring an efficient electric car to market. This was before Tesla burst onto the scene and the idea of driving an electric car was reserved for confirmed risk takers. The fact that the car had only three wheels didn’t help either. Trikes have never been seen as viable transportation devices in America.
Aptera is the name for a bird without wings. In fact, the original concept cars looked very much like a modern airplane fuselage with the wings removed. Although the company attracted a lot of attention for its innovative ideas, it soon crash landed and filed for bankruptcy.
Now it is back with several of its original leaders in control once again. According to IEEE Spectrum, the original concept remains at the heart of the new Aptera but the design has been updated to incorporate all the lessons learned in the electric car segment over the past decade. For instance, Aptera had to engineer and manufacture its own charging port for the original. Today, the port is simply ordered from a supplier.
The company’s goal is to produce the most efficient electric car possible and claims its new design will permit a driving range of 1,000 miles using a 100 kWh battery. That works out to just 100 watt-hours per mile. In comparison, the latest Tesla Model S uses about 250 watt-hours of electricity per mile. The company says it will offer other battery sizes as well, starting with 40 kWh. In theory, even the smallest battery would give the car a range of 400 miles.
Every aspect of the original design has been smoothed and improved with the focus always being on maximizing efficiency, something traditional car companies show little interest in doing. Chris Anthony, CEO of the new company, says, “What astonishes me is that none of them have yet taken up the challenge: How efficient can a car be?” The new Aptera will feature three in-wheel motors, each rated at 67 horsepower. The company may experiment with a two motor design — one motor in each of the front wheels — to see if that increases efficiency even more.
The company has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $2.5 million. The money will be used to get a working prototype on the road before the end of this year. It says with such an efficient car, charging times won’t be an issue. The less energy used, the less needs to be added. A modern 50 kW charger can add 200 miles of range in a half an hour. Even a 120-volt North American household plug can add 100 miles of range overnight, according to Green Car Reports.
No prices have been mentioned as of yet, but even though battery cell prices have fallen dramatically in the past 10 years, the cost of the battery pack alone will mean the Aptera won’t be able to compete on price with the least expensive gasoline powered cars. Volkswagen and other companies are working to bring lower priced EVs to market, with an entry level ID.3 projected to start at around $22,000 when it goes on sale in a few months.
Is there a place in the new car market for an ultra-efficient electric car with three wheels? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
Photo credits: Aptera