In a recent announcement, Aptera kicked off an investment competition. To get in the game, you’ve gotta invest at least $10,000 in the company. The prize? If you’re among the top 2,000 investors, you get one of the first Apteras to leave the factory. If you beat everybody else, the first car will be yours, with the other 1999 slots in order of amount invested.
Today we are announcing a way to accelerate our production plan: #AccelerateAptera. If you invest $10,000 or more through March 26th, you will be put on a leaderboard for the first 2,000 vehicle reservation slots. → https://t.co/5gUyumDiW6 pic.twitter.com/8jOR2RgBJ1
— Aptera (@aptera_motors) January 27, 2023
Once Aptera is done with the 2,000 investor “leaderboard” deliveries, it has somewhere between 38,000 and 40,000 more orders to fill, which would bring in $1.5B in revenue. In a blog post announcing the competition, the company was careful to first detail just how ready it is to kick the vehicle into production and bring that revenue into the company (which is something that should impress investors).
Why Is Aptera Doing This?
In a blog post, Aptera explains that it has been selected for a State of California grant worth $21.9 million. To get those funds, the company has to raise its own matching funds and spend those first, and then it will be reimbursed for that spending.
If you multiply 2,000 “leaderboard” slots by $10,000, you get $20 million, plus whatever additional funds the competition-style funding round brings in. So, this should be what Aptera needs to get the grant money and turn that $21.9 million into over $40 million (which is almost what the company says it will need to get started).
Aptera also says that once it reaches its funding goal, it will need about a year to start production, and that the longer it takes to get those funds raised, the longer it will take to get that year started and work toward production. But, this vehicle slot opportunity ends on March 27th, so it is trying to get investors to go ahead and get the money in ASAP.
Putting This In Perspective
The most obvious perspective is Aptera’s own history. The previous incarnation of the company, which went under in 2012, had a similar problem. Unable to raise funds and get a government loan they seemed to think they were going to get, the company couldn’t make production and failed. Now, they’re within $50 million of the goal instead of falling short by over $100 million.
The company also seems to be a lot closer to production and has a much better design than it did last time. Aptera has also been working with Munro and Associates to optimize the vehicle’s design for easier and faster manufacturing, and has gone through several revisions.
So, it seems to have a better shot than it did last time, but there’s really no way to know for sure at this point whether Aptera will finish things out and make it to production.
It’s also instructive to look at the rest of the three-wheel or solar car scene.
At the beginning of this month, we reported on Sono Motors and its “#SaveSion” effort. Like Aptera, it has been having trouble bringing skeptical investors onboard, and Europe is having problems above and beyond global financial headwinds. So, the company asked reservation holders to go ahead and pay in full for their cars. Now, the company is announcing that the campaign was successful enough for it to be extended another month.
The company said that not only was a significant sum raised in this way, but the fact that people were willing to pay in full was enough for it to attract investors back to the table. So, the strategy of bypassing traditional big investors seems to have a lot of potential for less traditional companies trying to do something unusual.
But, this doesn’t mean we should necessarily take this as a sign of good things for Aptera’s similar approach to bringing in money.
Sadly, other three-wheeled or solar automakers aren’t doing as well. Arcimoto is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and has halted production. Elio Motors has been dead for years. Lightyear is also bankrupt, and only days after announcing it had changed its focus to another vehicle (kind of like the first version of Aptera). So, things are looking pretty gloomy in a corner of the industry that wants to run on sunlight.
Unusual Efforts Get Through, But Not Often
Optimists for these companies will point to examples like the Wright Brothers, who succeeded in flight not long after the New York Times famously said that human flight was still at least a million years away. The cynical writers of those days do what today’s hopeless cynics do: tell people that it’s not worth trying.
But, on the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that many, many people tried to fly before the Wright Brothers actually got time in the air, going back millennia. The New York Times article was written after seeing another proposed flying machine fail. So, the skeptics weren’t dumb cynics. They just didn’t have the benefit of hindsight that we do today. All that they had seen up to that point was failure, so they were just expecting the past to be a good indicator of the future.
Solar Vehicles Are Now Possible, Even If Not Financially Feasible
Unlike the Wright Brothers, these companies are trying to navigate the financial and investing world and not the world of what’s physically possible. All of these companies’ prototype vehicles have shown that getting a useful amount of electric range from solar is not possible. Others what weren’t into solar have shown that people could really enjoy or benefit from smaller three-wheeled vehicles.
The proof is there that the concepts these companies worked on works, but the next question is whether people would lay down cash or get into a loan to put one in their driveway. Sadly, the current state of solar technology either delivers very limited added range or requires the design to be unconventional enough to not be super useful for many drivers.
The good news is that we won’t be stuck with today’s solar technology forever. As I pointed out in 2019, established manufacturers like Toyota are cautiously experimenting with it as solar cells improve, and improvement in solar cells is a project many laboratories are working on increasing the amount of solar power you can get per unit of surface area.
So, even if companies like Sono and Aptera ultimately fail, we will probably see this happen again in the future, but with more power behind it.
Featured image by Aptera.
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