We’re about to get hit with a surge of burly electric adventure vehicles, from a plug-in pickup from Rivian to the electrified rebirth of Hummer. Each of these rigs will be powerful—and heavy. But what if there were another way? Such is the question posed by Aptera and its eponymous three-wheel electric vehicle with solar assist, which the San Diego company aims to roll out in 2022.
Aptera is a featherweight—it should weigh between 1,800 and 2,200 pounds. Along with an absurdly low drag coefficient, that spry makeup will enable the solar panels on its shell to create enough power to send it 45 miles daily—meaning some owners might not have to plug it in at all, though when they do they’ll gain up to 1,000 miles with a single charge.
“You could head out on a five-day camping trip and actually leave with more energy in your battery pack than when you got there,” says Aptera CEO Chris Anthony.
Though there’s room for only two passengers, the rear has space for a seven-foot surfboard or a bike. And while its teardrop-in-space design might make the Aptera look like some perilously delicate contest entry, its composite monocoque design—similar to an F1 car or Cirrus aircraft—should make it durable. The far-out machine will feature a range of powertrain configurations, including a three-wheel-drive model promised to go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.
Uncle Sam will classify the Aptera as an autocycle; in a handful of states, you may need a motorcycle license to operate it. Orders are being taken, with prices ranging from $26,000 to $46,000. The company plans to have a production prototype by the end of 2021.
If some of this sounds familiar, you’re not mistaken. Aptera was poised to produce an EV a decade ago, but a failed effort to secure a $600 million Department of Energy loan led to liquidation. In the years since, Tesla has powered EV development, meaning instead of creating parts from scratch, Aptera can now buy them ready-made from other suppliers. With the same co-founders but significant personnel changes, the company is counting on brighter skies this time around.
“Coming out of COVID, inspiration is in short supply,” says Anthony. “But I think people will see Aptera and say, ‘I always thought that vehicles could be something like this.’ ”
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