Electric vehicle startup Aptera has just released a new video with perhaps the best look yet at the company’s futuristic electric three-wheeler.
You may remember Aptera from the mid 2000s, when the company introduced plans for a truly revolutionary-looking solar-powered electric vehicle.
With visual cues that seemed to invoke a Jetson’s-style spaceship, the three-wheeled vehicle employed an ultra-lightweight, ultra-efficient, and ultra-futuristic design.
Sadly the company ran out of funding when it wasn’t able to raise enough captial to match a planned government investment. Aptera ultimately folded in the early 2010s, and the forward-thinking founders moved on to start a successful battery company.
A decade later and with an entirely new landscape for electric vehicles, the founders are back and ready to finish what they started with Aptera.
Six months ago they unveiled their first new design prototype, an electric vehicle with 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of range thanks to its extremely efficient design. Even with a relatively small and inexpensive battery, the vehicle’s high efficiency and functional solar power means it can travel extremely far distances. For normal daily commuting, the solar panel alone can provide most of the required electricity.
The company claims that the solar panels are “designed to harvest enough sunlight to travel over 11,000 miles per year in most regions.”
Excitement grew quickly and the company quickly racked up thousands of pre-orders and millions of dollars of funding for the new vehicle.
Now with the Sol second functional prototype revealed, we’re getting an inside look at just how practical this seemingly far-fetched vehicle can be.
Many new electric three-wheelers, such as the Arcimoto FUV, have included fairly spartan interiors. Much of the company’s resources were invested in the mechanical and electrical design of the vehicle, with less effort spent on interior bells and whistles.
But the Aptera Sol shows a nicely finished interior that looks like what you’d expect in a conventional modern car – not an early-stage three-wheeled startup. The center console sports a large and very Tesla-like infotainment screen, which can be seen demonstrated up close in the video.
For such a highly engineered and aerodynamic vehicle design, the interior space actually looks surprisingly roomy.
There’s space for two passengers and plenty of cargo room in back, as the two models in the video demonstrate by taking their surfboards to the beach.
They even show off a camper feature with a tent attached to the rear door, forming a hatchback tent for car camping.
The vehicle is slated for delivery by the end of 2021 with a starting price of just $25,900 for the 250 mile (400 km) version of the car. Upgrading to the 1,000 mile (1,600 km) version still lands customers with a reasonable $44,900 price tag.
Three-wheeled vehicles are difficult to compare to typical four-wheeled cars though, as the conform to an entirely different set of regulations. They are technically motorcycle-class vehicles and thus a different set of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards apply. This helps reduce the development cost of the vehicles, but also means that they aren’t required to conform to the same stringent safety standards as “real” cars.
Aptera seems to have gone beyond the minimum requirements though, explaining that “Aptera features a level of passenger safety beyond just about any other vehicle on the road today, with a Formula-1 inspired safety cell, advanced airbag technology, and energy-absorbing composite material made of steel and aluminum.”
With a design this eye-catching, laxer regulations are a tradeoff that many customers seem prepared to make.
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