You may ask "What's in a name?" Aptera, a California company that has produced a two-seat, high-efficiency vehicle, was once known by the technical name Accelerated Composites. The Aptera 2 Series is still being developed and the company is taking orders from residents of the home state.
According to information from third-party reviews and from the Aptera Web site, the proto-type vehicle provides the equivalent of 300 miles-per-gallon though it must be recharged every 120 miles. The production of vehicles has happened quickly. Accelerated Composites was a start-up company in 2006 when it announced a car designed to travel at 65 miles per hour while providing 330 mpg.
Aptera captured the attention of the automotive industry when it was successful in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize (2007). Company founders were aggressive in adding project leaders and marketing personnel, as well as technical personnel.
All of this good news was followed by the negative response from a government loan agency. The Aptera electric car is a three-wheel design and the loans applied for were focused on four-wheel technology. Pressure in the right places changed the loan guidelines to include three-wheel vehicles. Aptera quickly requested nearly $200 million from the loan program.
Where to Now?
In making this announcement the company added that their vehicle would be twice as efficient as comparable cars. But in 2010, Aptera changed their estimates to state that the 2 Series would provide efficiency equivalent to 200 mpg with a range of 100 miles. Estimates for the hybrid Aptera vehicle remained at the 300 mpg level with charging at 120 miles.
Aptera has changed the overall design of the 2 Series, extending interior space and adding a few extras on the outside. The body will still be in the shape of a tear-drop and company officials state that design specifications put the crash-test capability in the same range as current conventional automobiles. According to the most recent information, real crash test results are not available.
One of the more interesting features of the Aptera 2 Series will be solar panels on the roof that will power a heat pump. The vehicle is designed to have keyless entry and a touch-sensitive computer screen for navigation, communication and entertainment. Battery power comes from lithium-ion packs.
Not the First Aptera Electric Car
The 2 Series is technically not the first Aptera vehicle. The company produced an Mk-0 proto-type vehicle that was never put into production. The 2e succeeded that first vehicle.
Specifications for the 2e are, according to the company:
- Subcompact class
- Two doors, three wheels
- 9 kW (12 horsepower) diesel; 19 kW (25 horsepower) electric
- 64 inch wheelbase
- 173 inch overall length
- 851 pounds starting weight
Somewhere in the company line there was an Mk-1 as well. This proto-type was not put into production either. The 2e eventually replaced this design as the leader in Aptera technology.
Seats and carpet are to be produced from used plastic bottle bottles and cups. Dyes for all fabrics are made from natural substances. In addition to a true aerodynamic design, the Aptera electric car will have gull-wing doors. The 2 Series will be equipped with a camera providing rear views in addition to side-mounted mirrors.
Aptera electric cars - great feedback from testers
Reports from professional, third-party testers state that the Aptera 2 Series could well change the game as far as alternative forms of transportation go. Among the key features that excited the reviewers were: overall design; wide front stance; simplicity of dashboard layout; and excellent windshield view. One report did offer a negative comment about the thin, manually adjustable seats.
History and Names
Aptera might seem a bit unusual as a choice for a "car" name but it fits well with the electric technology and design ideas of the future. The word apparently means "wingless" in Greek. The name was chosen because company founders feel it captures the idea of aircraft design and construction.
Company founders have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the plan off the ground. Aptera also reports that Google.org invested nearly $3 million in the effort. Media reports from the west coast show that Aptera is seeking larger facilities as it moves toward vehicle production.
About 4,000 people made deposits toward purchase of an Aptera 2 Series before 2010, with the deposits being held as refundable. Later figures show that only about 3,000 individuals have left their deposits with the program.
Individuals involved in establishing the company include Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony. Anthony had experience as a boat builder and the two approached Idealab founder Bill Gross, who helped them get started in business.
Among the questions fielded by the company in recent months are inquiries about vehicle handling in adverse weather conditions; air conditioning/heat controls, plans for starting production; and dealership opportunities.
Answers to many of these questions are simply not available at this time, company spokespersons say. Aptera doesn't want to compromise its place in a growing industry by revealing too much information to the public – at least not about ownership and dealership.
But a strong Aptera-fanatic community has grown around this vehicle design. There is an active, though unofficial, forum online. Bloggers and contributors are attempting to organize a "hospitality and electricity" network for Aptera electric car owners and drivers.
The general idea is to offer a place to recharge your vehicle, even when the property owner is not there. Taking the concept a step further, the Aptera community suggests that hospitality sites be designated so that the drivers and passengers can recharge as well.
The company expected to begin producing vehicles for 2010 but reports from car-industry media show that the 2010 is still a proto-type.