First Aptera Electric Cars Roll Out: Vehicle of the Future?

Electric cars have gotta be the way of the future with their clean emission-free engines...but are they all going to look as strange as the tricycle-wheeled Aptera? The first pre-production vehicles rolled out recently, and the company has now revealed more data on how its sleek vision of the future car will perform on the road.

The car's dubbed the 2e, and it's an all-electric powered beast with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. It has three wheels, with two in front—for better grip while steering—and one trailing. The electric motor develops 60lb ft of torque, which is enough to accelerate it up to 60mph in 9 seconds. That doesn't sound like much compared to the 100-plus lb-ft of torque from a typical gasoline engine, but remember that electric engines deliver their power smoothly as they speed up, meaning it'll feel very different when you're riding inside.

The battery pack is slated to come in two different sizes—10 kWh and 13 kWh of capacity—with the smaller battery offering the car a 100-mile range.

The car's body looks half like a tear-drop, half like a crashed Cessna aircraft. That's to give it an efficient and low drag coefficient of 0.15—compared to the 0.31 of a Lamborghini Diablo or even the 0.26 of a Toyota Prius—that's a terrifically low figure which leads directly to more of the Aptera's power being delivered as speed and less wasted in drag. But that's how it gets up to a top speed of 90mph with such a low-power engine. It also features gull-wing doors, and enough storage space for 15 typical grocery store bags

It's going to cost "between $25,000 and $45,000" when it goes into mass production in October. Its maker plans to release the car, that is legally considered a motorbike, in California first. Then it will roll out across the U.S., as it's 20,000 annual production kicks off.

But is the Aptera really a taste of the future, available today? Kind of. It has a very bold design, and its fantastically small eco-footprint is certainly a shining example compared to the environment wrecking gas guzzlers on the road currently.

But the Aptera 2e is really something of an oddity. It's too small to be a family car because it only seats two people. And with a range that limits it to short commutes rather than long-distance runs—100 miles between recharges—it won't get you very far. Besides, its crashed-airplane looks contrast radically with current car design, and it ends up not looking very futuristic at all, but instead retrofuturistic, like how "future" cars were imagined back in the '50s. These limitations will definitely have an impact on its overall sales, and there'll be lots of competition from more conventional-looking vehicles like the electric Smart car due sometime in 2010.

The company has, however, already taken 4,000 order deposits, which hints that the car may have a degree of success. And I hope it does. Though it's a strange beast, hopefully it'll lead by example and our future autos will incorporate lessons from its slippery aerodynamics and eco-friendliness.

[via RegHardware]

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12 Comments

  • Kit Eaton

    @Paul. Apols for "beast"--just me being British and using the word in a flattering sense. The Aptera is indeed rather staggering in an eco-sense, and the low Cd is impressive. And that's the source of the Cessna mention, of course--aircraft have to be more aerodynamic on the whole than cars. But as a result the car does look kinda weird. I suspect the future of green electric vehicles will be predicated on advanced motor design rather than above-all-else aerodynamics.

  • Paul Beck

    What a shame that you keep alluding to this innovation with a .15 drag coefficient as a 'beast' or a 'crashed Cessna. Shameful. We ALL need to awaken before it's too late.

  • Shamus Thornton

    It doesn't look like a crashed anything! It's not retrofuturistic either. The Aptera designers simply adhered to optimal aerodynamics and maximized efficiency. When compared to the Electric Smart Car, the ZAP Alias, or the NMG, it wins the comparison. The others are either short on speed or range, or cost way too much or both. If the Aptera 2e really sells for $25K, then it will sell for less than the Honda Civic Hybrid does now. It will sell well with those who are comfortable being the center of attention everywhere they go. Now how many of us are there?

  • Randall Kniess

    Well, the design is quite nice and I'm sure that in most of California it will do well. But up here in the upper Midwest in the winter, seeing is believing. When temperatures are at -25 F and with no sun for days, I'm having a hard time believing it will operate let alone keep a person warm. I think that the ride home would be long, cold, and desperate one filled with the thoughts of killing Al Gore!

  • Randall Kniess

    Well, the design is quite nice and I'm sure that in most of California it will do well. But up here in the upper Midwest in the winter, seeing is believing. When temperatures are at -25 F and with no sun for days, I'm having a hard time believing it will operate let alone keep a person warm. I think that the ride home would be long, cold, and desperate one filled with the thoughts of killing Al Gore!

  • Randall Kniess

    Well, the design is quite nice and I'm sure that in most of California it will do well. But up here in the upper Midwest in the winter, seeing is believing. When temperatures are at -25 F and with no sun for days, I'm having a hard time believing it will operate let alone keep a person warm. I think that the ride home would be long, cold, and desperate one filled with the thoughts of killing Al Gore!

  • Randall Kniess

    Well, the design is quite nice and I'm sure that in most of California it will do well. But up here in the upper Midwest in the winter, seeing is believing. When temperatures are at -25 F and with no sun for days, I'm having a hard time believing it will operate let alone keep a person warm. I think that the ride home would be long, cold, and desperate one filled with the thoughts of killing Al Gore!

  • Randall Kniess

    Well, the design is quite nice and I'm sure that in most of California it will do well. But up here in the upper Midwest in the winter, seeing is believing. When temperatures are at -25 F and with no sun for days, I'm having a hard time believing it will operate let alone keep a person warm. I think that the ride home would be long, cold, and desperate one filled with the thoughts of killing Al Gore!

  • jim stACk

    over 4,000 pre-paid orders and they only accept an order in California. Imagine what it will be when they include the entire USA, when gas is over $4 again.

    I'd buy one in a second but they won't take my order yet from Arizona. Good things come to those who wait....tic..rtic

  • jim stACk

    over 4,000 pre-paid orders and they only accept an order in California. Imagine what it will be when they include the entire USA, when gas is over $4 again.

    I'd buy one in a second but they won't take my order yet from Arizona. Good things come to those who wait....tic..rtic

  • jim stACk

    over 4,000 pre-paid orders and they only accept an order in California. Imagine what it will be when they include the entire USA, when gas is over $4 again.

    I'd buy one in a second but they won't take my order yet from Arizona. Good things come to those who wait....tic..rtic