In a number of articles, I’ve been using A Better Routeplanner to simulate what an Aptera and other future 1,000-mile EVs would be able to do. I’ve done routes like London-Moscow-Beijing, the Pan Am Highway, and even a foolhardy and time-consuming African crossing. I did the best I could by modifying a car like the Tesla Model S and then changing its efficiency numbers to mimic what an Aptera would probably do.
It turns out that I was wrong about the numbers, but not terribly far off.
A Better Routeplanner saw that there’s a lot of interest in the Aptera, so the team got in touch with Aptera to get more detailed information. Aptera’s engineers know a lot about their test car and how the final versions will be. Using this information, the teams were able to work together to make a much better virtual Aptera than I was able to.
I asked one of the ABRP developers how it worked, and he told me it was a lot like an EPA range test, but just doing the math. By getting numbers like drag coefficient, rolling resistance, and lots of other little energy eaters that a car pushes against, they were able to run the numbers and do a virtual “coast down test.” Hypermilers sometimes do a test where they bring the car to a certain speed on level ground, put it in neutral, and see how far the car coasts before stopping on its own just from air drag and rolling resistance. This gives a good idea of how efficient a car is, aside from its drivetrain.
Automakers actually do something similar with many EPA range and MPG tests. Rather than run a car on an actual road course to simulate the EPA testing cycle, they go through it on a dyno machine. This gives the car a virtual test, which is then adjusted using EPA formulas to give approximate ranges that may or may not match the real world.
The math is solid, so why do many cars not get the mileage or range advertised? The EPA says that some automakers’ test drivers are “too good.” They’re able to hypermile the cars to get better EPA ratings than most drivers will ever see doing real driving.
ABRP knows that getting accurate range numbers is critical to the success of their product, so they didn’t create unrealistic numbers. Aptera says its cars will get about 10 miles per kWh, or 100 Wh/mile. ABRP and Aptera determined that the number at 65 MPH will be 148 Wh/mile, so that’s not as good as we had hoped, but is far better than most automakers on the highway, due to the Aptera’s epic low wind resistance. The 10 miles/kWh figure will be possible doing mixed driving, though. It’s just not going to happen at consistent highway speeds.
With These More Accurate Numbers, What Can We Expect?
I’m not going to go through all of the trips I planned for other articles, but it’s not far off.
The London-Beijing trip via Moscow will still be possible, but it’s going to be a little harder. Going as far as Moscow won’t be a problem, but the trip through Kazakhstan will require 3-4 nights of charging with a wall receptacle to get through. If it were me, I’d spend some of those nights checking out Baikonur, and seeing what I can see about the Russian space program. There’s a good museum from what I’ve read, and it’s possible to see launches if you go at the right time.
As a kid, I managed to see a shuttle several times, including one unauthorized viewing on a military installation when Endeavor stopped by atop a 747 for fuel to get back to Florida. Wikipedia users say that you can see a restored Soviet space shuttle, the Buran, at the museum. My wife would probably be bored to tears, but I’d have a lot of fun checking all that stuff out!
If there’s a more interesting trip through Kazakhstan, definitely let me know. Anybody attempting an EV trip through there in the future would definitely need to have things to do and identify places to get a charge.
After going through Kazakhstan, you’d need to stop for a fast charge just inside Uzbekistan, and then pop back into Kazakhstan to go for more fast charging in Almaty. From there, you can reach China’s DC fast charging infrastructure (assuming you have the right adapter to charge on GB/T).
The stops inside China would differ from my original plan, but it’s easy to make it the rest of the way. It’s still a struggle in western China, but you’d have no problem once you got a full charge at Urumqi. Once you get into the next province, DC fast charging is rather plentiful, as I detailed in this article. I didn’t detail the rest of the trip in the updated ABRP plan, but it’s not a problem for the Aptera.
How Is This Information Useful?
If you’re not a big Aptera fan and/or EV charging nerd like me, you are probably wondering what use all this information is. I mean, you’re not going to drive across Eurasia, right?
The most important thing is that we are likely just seeing the infancy of EV technology in the 21st century. Yes, EVs are nothing new, as they’ve been around as long as cars, but their development languished for most of the 20th century. The truth is that gas cars “ate” EVs by taking an electric motor and using it for a starter, giving customers the conveniences of electric without the trouble of cranking cars or push-starting them.
Now that we’re back to developing mass market EVs, they’ve gone from a 50-mile range in 2010 to over 500 miles with the new Model S. Aptera is going for 1,000 miles using a different approach, and we are likely to see more and more range in the coming years.
Another big plus is that we are seeing better range estimates and better ways of figuring out exact range. Apps like ABRP, when fed with good data, let you know what kind of range you’ll actually get on a trip. Taking the guesswork and accidental strandings out of EV ownership makes it a much more attractive option.
What Can We Expect Next?
Keep in mind that we aren’t at the final numbers for the Aptera. We have better numbers now with ABRP and Aptera’s work, but ABRP always improves and comes up with better virtual vehicles after customers take them out on the road and connect them to ABRP’s servers with an OBD dongle or directly with things like Tesla logins. Real-world numbers can never be replaced with simulations.
Also, expect people to start taking some of these crazy trips next year when the Aptera goes on sale and the first deliveries happen. I don’t think I’d do something as crazy as crossing Eurasia or Africa, but I’ve already seen reader comments and tweets saying that they want to take on these challenges.
I’m likely to keep it safe with US trips, but some people are a lot more willing to risk it all than me.
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