The XR3 vehicle has been in development for years, but it’s now ready to go into mainstream production. And almost as important as its 200 mpg hybrid drive system, the trike boasts sleek design lines. It is, in fact, the shape the Aptera should’ve been.
Robert Q. Riley’s company offered the XR3 as a kit-car option last year, but work has continued behind the scenes, and it’s nearly ready to hit the road as a serious production car. All that remains is some prototype testing, and some work at the Center for Automotive Research to optimize its drive-train system.
The drive train is the core of the vehicle–it uses a patented three-wheel system, with the rear wheel being solely electric-powered, and the front two wheels deriving power from an efficient diesel engine that can burn eco-fuels. Working alone, the Li-ion powered electric motor can push you 40 miles, and the diesel engine can get 125 mpg by itself. Combined, the two give the car a ridiculous efficiency of 200 miles per gallon of fuel.
But really where the XR3 scores is in its looks. Despite a tiny hint of 1980s Street Hawk-ness, it looks like it means business, and appears pretty solid and sturdy. That’s something not to be overlooked: Though the design team has taken a somewhat Smart car-like approach to safety, with a light but very strong steel roll-cage, the perception of how safe a vehicle is will definitely impact its sales. And if the XR3’s looks are like a super-advanced sci-fi motorbike, then the Aptera’s geeky, awkward looks are like the impossible spacepods that flit through the skies of The Jetsons. Though the Aptera’s drag coefficient is undoubtedly lower, its styling is so odd that I imagine many potential buyers will be put off.
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