Aptera, the company making a super-efficient electric vehicle with ranges up to 1000 miles, had some great news to report as it pushes toward production later this year or early the next. Orders are still piling in, and investors (including a prominent automotive expert) are putting cash into the company.
“I’m betting on a solar future, and I’m betting on Aptera,” said Sandy Munro, the lean design expert who recently has been giving Tesla high praise. “The industry needs more creative engineering like this to progress ahead. I’m happy to be assisting Aptera as they move into production and beyond.”
He’s just one of the company’s investors so far. The company recently closed out a $4M Series A round, so it’s clear that at least a few other investors think Aptera is worth a shot, and they likely were encouraged by Munro’s support for the company.
“We’re excited to have Sandy’s support as we move into the Beta Design design phase of our Solar Electric Vehicles production plan. His decades of automotive knowledge and genius analysis of other EV players is great validation that we’re on the right path,” said Chris Anthony, Co-Founder of Aptera.
More importantly, though, the company has 7,000 customers so far who were willing to lay down cash to order a car. When these sales are complete, they will total $250 million dollars. Seeing a company with over a quarter of a billion dollars ready to flow speaks for itself rather loudly, especially if you’re an investor. Everybody and their dog has an idea, but few people are in a position to prove that there’s interest in paying for it.
Aptera is clearly getting to the point where the industry and investors are taking it seriously, so its chances of success must be pretty good!
For those just tuning in about this company, Aptera has an interesting history. Some of CleanTechnica’s earlier articles were about the company back when it planned to build a hybrid vehicle that would get 300 MPG. The vehicle looked promising, even attending events in Washington, DC and gaining the support of Congress and President Obama to get a government loan to get started.
— Aptera Motors (@aptera_motors) January 26, 2021
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the company wasn’t able to get the loan and couldn’t attract enough private investment to get into production a decade ago. A Chinese company bought the rights and said they’d built them, but they never got it done, either.
More recently, the company was formed again by its original founders and they announced that they’d build an all-electric vehicle shaped like the original, and with enough solar panels on it for many owners to not need to charge the car (most of the time, at least). That new announcement generated a lot of excitement, but their technology presentation a few days later gave us a lot more details about the vehicle.
We learned that the vehicle would likely only be charged with Level 1 charging by most customers because enough range could be added every night to cover most needs (assuming that the solar didn’t cover things by itself). The company does know that people want faster home charging and DC fast charging for trips, so it told us that the vehicle could do 3 kW, 6 kW, and 50 kW charging. We learned that the cooling system would have no radiator, instead using fluid tubes in the body of the vehicle to cool the battery pack.
We also found out that the 3-wheeled Polaris Slingshot led many states to change their laws since the Aptera was attempted a decade ago. Now, nearly all states allow you to drive the Aptera without a motorcycle license or endorsement, so you might not need anything but a regular driver’s license to operate it. To do this, the states created a new category of “autocycle” for three-wheeled vehicles that operate more like a car. What qualifies a 3-wheeled vehicle for this varies from state to state, but it’s usually car-like things like a steering wheel, pedals, and car seating — all of which make it quite different from a motorcycle.
Another thing we learned was that the vehicle’s hub motors are quite durable. So far, we’re all used to vehicle having a motor deep inside the car, not sticking out like a Warp Nacelle on Star Trek. It turns out that the motors Aptera is using have been torture tested to a great degree, surviving dirt, mud, ice, snow, and salt even when bone-crushing vibrations and shocks are involved.
I did a series of articles trying to figure out where the vehicle could go, and it looks like an Aptera could do crazy things, like drive from Alaska to Chile or from London to Beijing. You’d need to have the right charging adapters and put in a lot of prep work to make it safe, but it would be physically possible. After I did this, A Better Routeplanner added the Aptera prototype to its trip planning software, giving us a much more accurate look at what the vehicle could potentially do.
With everything we know so far, it looks like Aptera just might make it this time. It got a lot of investment between 2005 and 2011, but couldn’t quite make it to production. The founders likely learned a lot since then, and they’re making the vehicle very relevant to 2021. The fact that investors are jumping in for this second attempt, especially investors like Sandy Munro, means that they must be doing something right. People who know what they’re doing don’t like to throw money away.
What gets me the most excited about the vehicle is the efficiency, though. The fact that it could do so much on so little shows us just how much weight we are wasting in our cars today. Pushing big, heavy, relatively blocky vehicles around isn’t easy, and puts quite a toll on our battery packs. As an occasional hypermiler, it will be neat to see if it’s possible to exceed 1000 miles, and see what else the vehicle can get away with.
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