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Featured image: A screenshot from the Aptera webinar.

Cars

Aptera Responds To Customer Feedback, Makes DCFC Standard On All Vehicles

A few days ago, Aptera revealed the details for its Launch Edition vehicle. I won’t go into the full details here, but I wrote a detailed two-part article and a link to Aptera’s video presentation here. For the TL;DR crowd, the biggest details were that the Launch Edition will be rated for 400 miles of range, be all-wheel drive (all three wheels), and come with a full complement of solar panels. All options for the Launch Edition will be uniform to help the company get its manufacturing footing, but later production runs will be available with the full variety of options Aptera’s configuration tool allows for.

But, there was one big piece of news that stirred up a lot of displeasure, controversy, and confusion: the first run of vehicles would come without DC fast charging.

Aptera defended this decision by pointing out how efficient the vehicle is supposed to be. With as little energy as the vehicle uses, 6.6 kW Level 2 charging still allows for 57 miles of range to be added per hour of charging. Plus, Aptera made it clear that it was only doing this for early vehicles. Later Aptera vehicles would have Level 3 charging as an option and you’d be able to have Aptera add fast charging to early vehicles later.

The response to this was not good for Aptera. Among the people who understood that this was only for early vehicles, people were still very annoyed by it. Without fast charging, the ability to go on road trips would be very limited, and other people had questions about whether Aptera would survive as a company and retrofit fast charging later. Even worse, many people misunderstood the announcement and thought that Aptera would never offer fast charging on any vehicles, leading to some very angry responses, canceled orders, and people demanding refunds on social media.

Aptera Listens To Customers, Decides To Make DCFC Standard On All Vehicles

The announcement was made on Friday, and by end day Monday the company released a blog post and social media posts reversing course. They all linked to this YouTube video:

The big news was that they’re going to offer DC fast charging on all Apteras, with a rate of at least 40 kilowatts. With the efficiency of an Aptera, that should come out to about 400 miles of range added per hour of charging (at peak). This makes it the equivalent of around 150 kW of charging in most other vehicles, so it’s no slouch. Add in the extended range some Aptera vehicles will have in the future, and you’re talking about a very reasonable road trip vehicle if an Aptera has the cargo room you need.

But, Aptera didn’t just throw out a quick “mea culpa” and then move on, expecting them to suddenly be able to pull decent DC fast charging out of their butt. After all, if the company didn’t want to include fast charging in the first place, something was probably preventing that. If it’s something serious, then we’d be right to be skeptical that it would be able to provide that on any reasonable timeframe.

Aptera knew this, so it provided some receipts. It showed a prototype of the battery design and how it had already planned to integrate fast charging. The hold-up wasn’t anything to do with battery design; it was actually that they had paused the development process as they tried to get permission to use Tesla’s charging connector. Tesla only recently (November) changed the name of the connector to the North American Charging Standard (NACS), gave others permission to use it, and released data needed to do it. But, this wasn’t enough time for Aptera to have Supercharging-compatible fast charging ready in time on its normal schedule.

Because it was already pretty close, left room for the necessary parts in subsequent designs, and people were really upset about it, Aptera decided to go ahead and do whatever it takes to finish the process and have 40-60 kW charging ready to go for the Launch Edition and all Apteras after that. So, there’s a reasonable path to delivery

One Unresolved Question

Tesla released data and gave people permission to use its connector, but that doesn’t mean that vehicles built with a compliant Tesla plug will be able to use Superchargers. The network itself has not been opened in North America yet, so if an Aptera hit the street today with Supercharging capability, it wouldn’t be able to get a charge.

Tesla does have plans to do this, and Aptera says it will have a compatible car from day one, so it’s extremely likely that this will all work out, but we don’t have final confirmation from Tesla nor do we have a date for Supercharger stations opening up to other vehicles like Aptera. So, the vehicle could get on the road and need to use other charging stations for a while, or they could be ready to go.

We’ll just have to wait and see when that all comes together.

Having L3 Charging Capability Matters More Than What Plug It Has

When I first heard that the Launch Edition wouldn’t have Level 3 charging capability, I put the numbers into A Better Routeplanner and tried to see what a 42 kWh Aptera would probably be able to do out on the road. What you have to understand is that the 400 rated miles wouldn’t have been possible at highway speeds. So, the real range for a launch edition is probably a lot closer to 300 miles on road trips.

Without fast charging, a Launch Edition car would have been only useful for local and regional trips. Longer range future Apteras would have probably been OK, as a 1,000-mile Aptera would probably go 700-800 miles at highway speeds, which is enough for most people’s driving day. But a pack less than half that size just wasn’t enough without fast recharging.

The decision to go with L2 charging only because Aptera wanted the Tesla plug really bad seems like a really bad approach. While the Supercharger network is better than the CCS network as of this writing, having access to CCS would have been better than access to no high speed charging at all. It’s definitely a good thing that Aptera listened to customers and found a way to get DCFC back into its development path instead of sacrificing the company on the altar of Tesla’s charging plug, and it’s good it didn’t come down to that.

Featured image by Aptera.

 
 
 
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Written By

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.

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