Last year, I had a chance to visit Aptera and take a ride in its prototype vehicles. It was a fun experience, and we could see that Aptera is fundamentally on the right track to making a decent vehicle. We were pretty mild-mannered when we visited, but from what I see in this recent Rich Rebuilds video, I probably could have had a lot more fun joking around with the staff.
They started by fooling around with paper airplanes for a minute (my daughter visited with me last time, and would have loved to participate in such “aerodynamic testing”). Then, they started looking at the vehicles. Chris Anthony, one of Aptera’s CEOs, gave Rich and his friend the tour, explaining a lot about the vehicle in a hurry.
He explained the efficiency of hub motors, how the shape of the car is like a fish going along the bottom of the sea, and how the car adds miles when it’s sitting in the sun instead of losing miles. How? As many readers know, the hundreds of cells provide 700 watts of power and the Aptera doesn’t need that much power, so it makes an actual difference instead of wasting money.
It’s no wonder they have something like 18,000 orders for it now (you can get yours here, and save $30 if you feel like giving us the referral), and hundreds of Aptera Ambassadors.
The Model S weighs around 5,000 pounds, and the Hummer EV weighs over 9,000 pounds. The Aptera? Only 2,000 pounds. With the 3 hub motors and such little weight, it’s actually a very fast vehicle. So, no, it’s no Toyota Prius that’s going to anger people as you hypermile it onto the freeway. Economic no longer has to mean slow like it did back in the day with the 3-cylinder Geo Metros I still like to bag on.
Plus, it doesn’t get bug splats, as the air flows smoothly enough to push the bugs away instead of shoving it into the vehicle’s front or windshield.
Rich guessed that the vehicle would cost around $35,000 with all of the technology, carbon fiber, Kevlar, and other expensive materials. But Chris told him that it’s actually only $25,000 (for the bottom 250-mile package, of course), despite being the most efficient form of transportation basically ever.
One of the big fears people have about aerodynamically-efficient vehicles is whether it would be safe and whether the wind would blow it around. Of course, Rich asked that question. In both cases, the answer is that it’s safe. It’s got a very hard shell that the vehicle’s occupants sit inside of, and it’s aerodynamically-efficient on the sides, so even a passing semi-truck won’t blow it around. It doesn’t have big, flat sides like many vehicles do.
He then showed them how the Beta vehicle has changed compared to the Alpha I looked at. Improved interior room, better suspension, and other things have made it even better. Even better, the front suspension is a lot cleaner, with less drag and a sway bar to make handling better in the front. While Tesla and SpaceX moved away from composites and toward metals for everything (the steel Cybertruck and giant aluminum castings for others), but Aptera solved problems with composites to make it manufacturable, and easily.
I definitely need to go again soon to see a Beta.
They also got into right to repair, which is a big deal for Rich if you know anything about him. He’s been in a number of fights with Tesla over the ability to get parts to repair totaled vehicles, and has even been screwed over by Tesla on a few things. The fanboys will argue that getting cut out of the referral program was fair, but Rich has actually sold a lot of Tesla vehicles, despite his complaints. Aptera is working to make sure everything on the vehicle that can be repaired by a customer or independent shop will be as easy as possible. Aptera wants to ship repair parts out within 24 hours instead of getting in the way and denying parts completely the way Tesla used to.
The Test Ride
The test driver I rode with at Aptera wasn’t afraid to have some fun and drive the Aptera hard. The good news about this is that they’re working on making the vehicle stand up to at least some hard driving instead of being a vehicle that will fall apart if you don’t drive it like a grandma.
Their driver was the same. They took the Beta vehicle and weren’t afraid to take off hard, do burnouts, and otherwise put the thing through its paces. It would have been extremely weird to have a Rich Rebuilds video without at least some tire smoke or other automotive shenanigans, and I’m glad to see Aptera was willing to have fun along with him.
Some Things We Can Take From This Video
For people following Aptera, it looks like there’s not much new going on. Unlike other automotive companies, Aptera hasn’t been secretive about its development process and the company likes to regularly tell us (and show us) new things that it is doing. Aptera is a very open company. I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy if someone went in there at 3 AM, broke in, and took pictures, but we can’t expect anybody to be cool with trespassing, breaking & entering, etc.
But even if you did that, you probably wouldn’t learn anything new other than what the inside of a San Diego jail looks like (I’m pretty sure there are no seals or beaches). They’ve been that open about the process with us to the point where it would be pointless to spy on them.
That having been said, new things always slip out in these videos. The fact that bugs don’t splat on it was a new one for me. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it’s a cool fact. The way that the split window helps mitigate high pressures caused by the fenders (an unavoidable thing) was a new one for me, too. Once again, it makes sense in retrospect, but these little facts add up to really being able to tell the story of the car in a more complete way.
We can also see that Aptera is moved into its new location in Carlsbad. I’m not that familiar with San Diego, but I know the test driving didn’t happen on the streets near the airbase like it did when I went. That and other little clues tells us that next time I go visit, we’ll have to go to Carlsbad (and not the bat cave Carlsbad I’m more used to).
Featured image by Aptera.