Aptera: Entrepreneur developed 3-wheeled hybrid

The Aptera has received a lot of press during the past couple of months, thanks in part to two critical characteristics: One- Its radical three-wheeled design. Two- the hybrid gas-electric version claims to be capable of 300 miles per gallon! How? The inventive drastic reduction by means of weight and drag.
Although many concepts remain just that, a “concept,” the great news here is that the Aptera Typ-1e hits California streets sometime this year. The Aptera looks like it has been time-warped from the future and brings with it some relatively radical innovations. The skin of the car is constructed of epoxy resin and let’s not forget that is has only three wheels, two in front, one in the back.

The high-tech touches include rear and side-view cameras instead of mirrors to further reduce drag, the car has displays fed by the embedded cameras that show a 180-degree view of the rear and side area of the car. A roof-mounted solar panel also provides just a little extra juice. Its safety features include a front-end crumple zone to protect passengers and air bags. This electric version of the car tops out at 80 mph and it can go 70 miles at that speed between charges.
The Typ-1e will be able to charge from any stand 110-volt outlet, according to company specs. The laminate composites have reduced the weight to 1500 pounds and the coefficient drag of the sleek and low-riding frame is the lowest among any car ever to legally cruise on public roads. The vehicle seats two in the front, with one seat in the back big enough to fit an infant car seat. The seat can be removed and used as a cargo area which will hold up to15 bags of groceries or two full-size golf club bags.
In 2009, the Aptera Typ1-h is expected to make its debut. And a more conventional model currently in the design phase called “Project X” or even perhaps Typ-2, projecting plans of a four-wheeled chassis including seating for four to five passengers.
Like many of the electric vehicles you can buy right now, the vehicle is registered with the Department of Transportation as a motorcycle, which also implicates that the vehicle has circumvented expensive and time consuming safety regulations. A motorcycle classification and the electric drive train put the Aptera in the vying for carpool lane allowances with only the driver onboard.
The Aptera was born on in the mind of the current CEO, Steve Fambro. He started this entrepreneurial trip as a bored biotech engineer daydreaming about alternative ways to get to work. The company got its kick-start from the start-up incubator company, Idealab. The company has secured $500 refundable deposits from 400 anxious consumers and is currently in its second round of financing.
This unique and challenging business start-up is a fine example of how ridiculous gas prices are spawning encouraged entrepreneurs to jump into the car business which is still dominated by gas-guzzling heavy weights.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

2 responses

  1. The word is “implies”, not “implicates”. :)
    Yes, being classified as a motorcycle gets them out of the *requirements* for safety testing. But they’re doing it anyways. They’ve been doing extensive computer crash simulations for months (just like they used simulations to figure out how to make it so aerodynamic), and they’re going to begin actual crash tests shortly — both full frontal and side impacts. The vehicle is structured like an F1 car, with an aluminum/steel safety cage surrounded by carbon fiber panels (carbon fiber absorbing five times more energy per pound than steel). Unlike an F1 car, however, the combination of the Aptera’s light weight and the fact that its nose and the center of its sides ride higher than most car’s bumpers, allows it to ride up and over other vehicles in an accident. Oh, and its frontal crumple zone is larger than in most coupes, which means lower Gs to the occupants in a crash.
    I’d probably feel safer in one of these than in my Saturn. My only concern in an accident would be repairs. While carbon fiber panels shatter in an impact, they tend to avoid transferring energy to other panels in the process (thus limiting what needs to be replaced). However, the downside is that only Aptera makes these panels. Being a small company with the capacity to only make a couple cars per week, I’d have to wonder about part availability.

  2. This looks like a great car, can’t wait to see it out on a lot where I can buy it. At 300 miles per gal, its a deal, and looks easy to maintain, simple, which is what we need.

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