Aptera put out a video update on Monday showing off the company’s three and only Alpha prototypes. With these vehicles complete, the company is moving on to build Beta” vehicles, of which there will be somewhere between 6 and 12 vehicles.
For those unfamiliar, Aptera intends to build four phases of vehicles: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. Alpha vehicles are only early prototypes to validate the most basic things, but also to give people a better idea of what the vehicles will be like. Beta vehicles will have some functional, packaging, and manufacturing improvements, but will generally be ugly and designed for safety and function testing only. Gamma vehicles will be production candidates to iron out final production questions, and Delta vehicles will be the production vehicles.
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What The Company Learned During Alpha Testing
During the Alpha phase, the company identified several ways to improve headroom (apparently something test-drivers wanted more of), give more room for batteries, and also improve aerodynamics despite increasing the vehicle’s size. This means that the Beta vehicles will be a little different, but the frontal area only went up about 1%, so it’s not going to be extremely noticeable.
The Alpha phase also helped the team identify ways to improve vehicle dynamics. Handling, turning radius, maneuverability, and stability were analyzed by Roush, a company known for its performance vehicle work. This means that the Beta vehicles will be a much, much better drive than the Alphas were. The redesigned suspension will also be optimized for mass production, so Aptera will be able to build enough to everyone who’s getting one (that would definitely include me!).
Beta vehicles will also have a revised body structure to make them easier to mass produce. Weight will be reduced and door mechanisms will be better for customers.
By working with Elaphe, the manufacturer of the in-wheel hub motors, Aptera has been able to figure out ways to help the company make the motors a better fit for the vehicle. One big thing was changing the routing of power cables, which will allow them to hide beneath aerodynamic covers and stay out of the way. The company is also working with other suppliers to make sure that the other power systems — like the batteries — are also best suited for the vehicle’s efficiency goals.
Like everything else, the battery pack will be designed for faster mass-production. The cells will be made to be combined more quickly with BMS systems in production, and this allows production to go 10 times faster.
Ergonomics were also vastly improved. As mentioned earlier, Aptera found the headroom to be somewhat lacking, but it also made tweaks to the position of the driver’s seat, steering wheel, and other controls to better suit more of the population. This will allow the vehicle to be safer and more comfortable. Aptera seems to be taking human factors very seriously compared to the biggest EV manufacturer, so hopefully it will come up with something that works really well for drivers.
You can see a short video about all of that here:
Or see a long, very detailed video here:
What To Look Forward To In Beta Testing
As the company starts showing off Beta development, expect to see more of the improvements mentioned above show up in the videos. They won’t look as polished as the Alpha cars were, but they’ll be able to see whether the design improvements they made after the Alpha phase really work well in the real world. Given the expertise we’ve seen Aptera working with (companies like Roush, Monroe, and others), the Beta vehicles should be vastly improved over the Alphas.
As we can see in the first video, the upper and lower control arms are far slimmer and sleeker than the tubular Alpha arms were. In a vehicle as aerodynamically-tuned as the Aptera, every little thing can make a huge difference. The new design also has the wires (which are huge, as they drive the whole vehicle) tucked away neatly where they can’t get in the way of flowing air. This means that the company is still taking the goal of a 1,000-mile range very seriously.
The rear suspension has also gone from a single-sided bar like you’d see on many motorcycles to a double-sided unit, which should give much better performance. I don’t know yet how tire changes will go with that, but we’ll have to wait and see. Aptera does seem to be very committed to making a very serviceable vehicle, so I don’t think it will drop the ball on something as common as changing a tire.
Aptera’s solar team has also been making tremendous progress. The solar panels are designed to last at least 10 years, despite regularly operating in conditions that would destroy most home solar panels that you’d put on your roof. Not only must it be able to face wind, freezing, and hail like other panels, but it must also be able to withstand the vibrations, harshness, and speeds a car goes in the real world.
Aptera Is Hiring
At the end of its latest video, it says that the company is hiring, and encourages people to take a look at the company’s LinkedIn page to see what jobs it is hiring for. I took a peek to see what they are up to on that.
On the technical side, Aptera is looking for battery engineers, harness and connectivity engineers, and a chassis design engineer. The company is also looking for communications, public relations, and social media people to help get the word out about the company. This shows a good mix of promotion and technical skill for a company in its current development cycle.
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Featured image: screenshot of the improved suspension for the Aptera Beta test vehicles.