A recent social media post by Aptera shows that it is making significant progress toward its production vehicle. Not only is Aptera on the last phase before its production design, but they’ve kitted it out with a complete interior and exterior (something it didn’t do with the last phase of production).
Aptera, the California-based electric vehicle manufacturer, is in the midst of a production process in four phases. These phases have been known as Alpha, Beta, and Gamma so far. Alpha vehicles were the company’s first crack at the design, which they knew would reveal many problems. Beta vehicles served as incomplete demonstrator vehicles to test technological improvements to iron out big bugs. Production candidates for the Gamma phase are near-complete and allow them to iron out last-minute production concerns, whereas production vehicles will be the Delta phase.
So, seeing Gamma vehicles come to fruition shows us that Aptera is getting pretty close to actual production.
— Aptera (@aptera_motors) August 5, 2022
There are several things that jump out at me right away from these photos.
First off, we can see that they’ve stuck with the Tesla-inspired simple/minimalist interior. I know that’s not for everyone (I’m personally more of a buttons person), but it still looks very sharp.
Compared to this earlier design, we can see that Gamma ditched the cloth-like design in favor of a more smooth leather-like interior material, like Tesla.
Along these lines, I’ve noticed several individuals on social media expressing their disappointment over Aptera’s choice to utilize a yoke, as well as its decision to copy Tesla’s inside design. I personally think that this may be true (note that I said “may” because I don’t know for sure), or that Aptera’s relationship with Munro & Associates could have led them to following Tesla (Sandy Munro has become a big fan of Tesla in recent times), and I’m not the only one who has considered this. Because people dislike Tesla for a number of reasons, adding the idea that Aptera is blindly following Tesla stirs up tension on its own.
At the same time, though, we can see that they’re still doing things that are distinctly Aptera. For example, the yoke is more round and larger top-to-bottom than the Tesla yokes, which could make for real functional differences that make it a better choice than Tesla made. Looking at the seat, they definitely departed from Tesla orthodoxy and did something that fits the car’s development history more than it fits a Tesla mold.
Another huge difference I noticed from older Aptera designs is that headroom is much improved. There was always room for the heads of taller people, even in the Alphas, but they had a big problem with parts of the roof being in the driver’s field of view. We can see here that they vastly improved visibility for taller people, and that nearly everyone will fit well in the vehicle and be safe.
We can also see that Aptera has solidified on a two-screen design. Fans of the single screen Model 3 design, which completely lacks any kind of a traditional gauge cluster behind the wheel, will think Aptera made the wrong move here, but they probably don’t know that the Aptera is planning on using cameras instead of side mirrors to maximize aerodynamic efficiency.
These cameras need to have a screen somewhere, so Aptera had to have more screen real estate that isn’t in an awkward position to get left and right confused. The only logical way to do that would be to center them in front of the driver, unless the screens were going to go on the sides by the doors.
One open question this leaves us with is whether the Aptera’s mirror display will do anything else. I know I’d love to have a speedometer and maybe some other user-configurable vehicle stats on that display, much like a gauge cluster, but we don’t know whether Aptera will give us that option at this point.
One other thing that’s been obvious from the beginning is that there’s just generally a lot of space inside the vehicle. You’d think that a small vehicle that fits two people would mean it’s crampy, but when you don’t have to seat human beings behind an internal combustion engine, there’s a lot of flexibility in how you can lay things out. Because Aptera uses hub motors, there’s just a lot of space for people inside, even if the vehicle looks small in photos.
In reality, it’s a wide vehicle in person, so people who haven’t seen an Aptera up close in person need to adjust their scaling setting in their brain to really have an idea of what it’s like.
What We Can Expect Next
Honestly, we probably won’t see much change between Gamma (the vehicle in the images) and Delta, the next and last phase. Between now and Delta, they’re only going to make whatever adjustments are needed to make the vehicle easier to build efficiently and quickly. This is something they’ve been working with Munro on for quite a while already, so the changes might either be invisible to us or very difficult to see. I’m guessing that I might not be able to spot them unless I had a Gamma and a Delta side-by-side.
But, this is just an educated guess. As a firearms instructor once told me, “There are no guarantees in terminal ballistics.” Or, if you’re not a gun person, the basic idea is the same as “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.” Aptera’s team might really think they have it all figured out, but have to make a noticeable change between now and Delta to make the car easier to crank out en masse.
Aptera Has Come A Long Way, But There’s a Big Challenge Ahead
I’ll have to admit that when Aptera first came back from the dead, I was skeptical. I know many readers are still skeptical (and, I know some of you don’t think we should even write about them). But, we can see that they’ve survived a lot longer than many startups we’ve written about.
The real question now is how things will go for them at production. As a famous man in the EV industry once said, “production is hard.” And, he’s right. Having a great design doesn’t mean that a company can survive a production ramp.
Featured image provided by Aptera.
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