My Visit To Aptera Showed Me It Is Definitely On The Right Track (Part 3)

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The dynamics of driving in parking lots and at low speeds is important, but the Aptera is designed to be a vehicle that’s not only capable of driving on the highway, but going up to 1000 miles on a charge. You’re not going to do that at parking lot speeds unless you’re a glutton for punishment.

Fortunately, I did take a ride on the road to see what Luna was like.

The Beta vehicles (Luna is an Alpha) are going to have a revised suspension that is more comfortable and stable, but I really liked the feel of the first suspension. It was a little harsh, but I’ve never been a fan of supple luxury cars. A “rough” car also tends to give more feedback and controllability than a car that’s designed to give you a super comfy ride. But suspension technology has come a long way since the 1980s, and suspensions can be both comfortable and less harsh in newer vehicles. Personally, I’m glad to see that Aptera started with a vehicle with good driving dynamics and now they’re refining it to make it more stable and comfortable with revisions. This means that the end result is likely to strike a good balance.

Aptera

I doubt that a fan of a 90s Buick Gunboat is going to like the final result, but nobody is expecting that kind of ride on a 2-seater car. Someone looking for that experience is also very unlikely to want something as exotic as an Aptera anyway.

Another thing I noticed as a passenger is that the interior wasn’t rattling or otherwise uncomfortable. Despite being a very early test vehicle, it was quite finished and polished feeling. This is a very good sign, considering that the vehicle will definitely improve for production. It’s good to see that Aptera has achieved a good starting point. Some features, like the software and the door mechanisms, are still not fully functional on the Alpha cars, but it’s good to see that the company is bringing it all together.

My only complaint about the interior is that it is somewhat minimalist, like a Tesla. But, I’m under no delusion that I’m not a curmudgeon in this regard. The minimalist look is popular in newer vehicles, and buyers tend to like that now. Either way, it’s a relatively minor thing.

Things Are Supposed To Break In Alpha Aptera Cars So Ours Won’t

Prototypes are relatively easy compared to mass production, but it’s a vitally important step that can’t be skipped. Computer designs, simulations, and such can only get you so far. At some point, you have to start going out and finding problems unless you want customers to have a very poor experience.

In Part 2, I explained that interior room was an issue, but now that Aptera knows it’s a problem for people, the Beta car will be vastly improved to give better headroom and visibility. I’ve also seen that the testing revealed that the suspension would need fairly major revisions, including the addition of a sway bar and a completely new rear suspension. Many other changes are also in the pipeline.

While all of this information is very valuable, what may be the most valuable thing to learn is seeing what actually breaks on development cars. You don’t want customers to buy a new product only to watch it crumble around them, so you need to push test vehicles to their limits, and beyond, to make sure customers will have something durable and safe.

With all of this in mind, I do want to tell readers about two things that broke, and why it’s a good thing.

The first thing I noticed was that an interior piece with some sort of test instrumentation fell on my foot during the drive. It was on a hinged panel of some kind, and it wouldn’t stay put away when I pushed it back up. The final car probably won’t have anything like that mounted up under the dash, but it does seem that something under there had more weight hanging on it than they intended. Now, they know there’s a weak point of some kind that could be beefed up a bit.

At the end of the drive, Daniel nailed the accelerator to show off the vehicle’s power, but something snapped. Given that there’s no transmission or driveline, this had to have been an issue in the hub motor or its mount. The company didn’t want to give me more details other than that the car “needs to be worked on,” which makes sense given the early part of the process it is in, but it would be extremely unfair to criticize Aptera or Elaphe for a drive failure under full throttle in an Alpha vehicle.

It’s actually good to see them discovering a failure this early in the game instead of assuming everything is OK and then letting customers discover that there’s an issue. If Daniel had been working for a car dealer and broke the car by driving it hard, he’d probably be looking for another job. But with an early development car, it really makes sense to basically be looking for ways to make things fail so you can see what needs beefed up to survive the real world’s harshest demands.

I’m glad to see that the Aptera test cars are being abused, and pushed to their breaking points. It means that by the time the final vehicles land in our driveways, we’ll have a polished product. And, keep in mind how stones are polished in rivers. Only by breaking against other rocks do they get smooth.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’m super excited to see the Beta cars from Aptera start to hit the road. The shortcomings of the Alpha that I noticed are all supposed to be addressed, along with many other issues that we’ve both been told about and don’t know about. Aptera is also supposed to make many more of them, and even crash-test some. We know that the Betas won’t be as pretty as the alphas, but they’ll definitely be more functional and polished mechanically.

One thing I’m really looking forward to seeing is whether any of the Betas will be ready for road trip tests. The Alphas only have a 12 kWh battery for early testing, which would only give them a theoretical range of 100-120 miles. For testing in different locations, they’ve had to take the vehicles out to far flung locales by trailer.

At some point, we’re going to start seeing Beta Aptera vehicles in more places as the design gets to the point where the company is confident taking it out on longer journeys, and that’s something I’m personally looking forward to.

Do you feel we’ve helped you understand Aptera’s vehicles better? If so, feel free to use our referral code to get $30 off your reservation. Each referral helps CleanTechnica get our own Aptera test vehicles.

Featured image and all images by Jennifer Sensiba.

This article is part of a series. You can find Part 1 here.


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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 2025 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba