AUSTIN (KXAN) – There are more and more electric vehicles on the road these days, and its a trend that isn’t stopping anytime soon.
As technology improves, the vehicles are not only becoming more abundant but are also growing in size. Even one of the most notorious gas guzzlers on the road, the Hummer, is getting a reboot as an electric model. The industry and its cars are getting bigger.
Meanwhile, California-based car company Aptera Motors is scaling down.
“Everything seems to be getting less efficient, not more efficient when it comes to energy use,” says Chris Anthony, co-founder and co-CEO of Aptera Motors. The company was founded in the mid-2000s to create a vehicle that wasn’t only electric, but also efficient. “It really started as an exercise in the science of efficiency.”
The recession led to the company being sold off. Co-founders Anthony and Steve Fambro had left the company several years earlier. Anthony, an entrepreneur who got his start in finance and designing boats, went off to start a company specializing in lithium batteries, while Fambro went into hydroponics.
In 2019, the two reunited and bought back the company they started. Now, with a greater push across the industry towards EVs, they hoped to realize their dream.
That dream led to The Aptera.
“It’s built more like a Formula 1 car or an aircraft than what you might imagine a steel vehicle to be,” Anthony says. “We went with a super aerodynamic shape… super lightweight and something that had a really efficient power trans, so you can get power out from the wall socket, to the battery and out to the wheels as efficiently as possible.”
That efficiency has an added benefit — solar panels. The standard model of the car, which seats two, comes with solar panels on the roof and dashboard. Panels on the hood and rear can be added on.
“We can fit about 700 watts of solar on our roof… and that will take us about 40 miles,” Anthony says.
The base package can charge 20 miles on a sunny day. With most people driving a little more than 20 miles a day, Anthony says charging the vehicle using a wall socket isn’t always necessary.
“On a cloudy day, you might get half the power,” he says. “Still 20 miles free from the nuclear generator we have in the sky is much better than paying the power bill.”
Anthony claims that a fully charged Aptera, with all the solar panel add-ons, could drive 1,000 miles without recharging. That’s double the distance of Tesla’s long-range model can travel. “We use about a quarter of the energy of a typical electric vehicle,” Anthony says.
Why does it use less energy? The lightweight material is a big part of it, plus the design reduces drag, but also the vehicle is missing something — a fourth wheel.
“If you ever see small sports cars on a race track, any time you take a hard corner, it lifts its innermost rear wheel,” Anthony says. “So we figured why even have the fourth wheel.” Removing this wheel removes a point of friction (where the fourth tire would touch the road) and further reduces drag, which again, increases efficiency.
The Aptera is considered a motorcycle in most states, but since it has three wheels, you don’t need a motorcycle license or endorsement to drive it. Meaning smaller license plate, motorcycle insurance, etc. That third wheel, however, means you don’t need a motorcycle license to drive it.
The vehicle can fit up to two people “and a dog.” Anthony says the car can comfortably sit someone up to 6 feet, 8 inches tall. However, taller people should probably test this out for themselves before purchasing an Aptera. Anthony said one tall customer visited the shop and fit comfortably in the vehicle, but torso height and leg length could mean some people may not fit.
The base model of the car will run you about $25,000, with add-ons like an off-road package, additional solar panels and a camping setup. More than 10,000 preorders have already been placed with production scheduled to begin later this year.