Ever since it was first unveiled in 2007, many people were captivated with the sleek, futuristic looks of the Aptera. When Aptera Motors went out of business in 2011, not having commercially produced a single vehicle, those same people were understandably disappointed. Now, word comes that a new company may be manufacturing and selling Apteras as soon as next year.
For some time now, there have been rumors that an automaker had taken an interest in bringing the Aptera back to life. That company is Zaptera USA, the majority shareholder of which is China’s Jonway Group. Operating through Zaptera, Jonway is looking at mass-producing the pure-electric Aptera 2e, a model that was already developed to prototype form by the original company. That production would take place in China.
Richard Deringer, chief operating officer of Zaptera, began to wonder how long it would be before Jonway actually commenced production of the car, plus he suspected that most American buyers would prefer to buy a car that was made stateside. With that in mind, it was announced yesterday that Zaptera USA will be splitting into two companies: the existing Jonway-owned Zaptera USA, and the completely independent Aptera USA.
The second company will produce a hand-built, gas-engined version of the 2e called the 2g, in Southern California. A hand-built 2e and a hybrid model are also being planned. While there are currently very few specs available for the 2g, its aerodynamic design and lightweight composite construction should reportedly deliver a fuel economy of over 100 mpg (2.35 L/100km).
The Chinese-built mass-produced 2e should be less expensive than its American sibling, but Deringer believes that US buyers will want what his version has to offer. “From the initial research that I’ve done, I get a lot of people in Silicon Valley and California and Texas and other places who would like the car hand-made, not Chinese-made, and they want it to match to what their requirements are,” he tells us. “We can do that in the US, it can’t be done in China.”
Deringer thinks it’s possible that consumers might end up being able to choose between the premium US-built car or the cheaper Chinese version. Without knowing Jonway’s plans for production, however, he really can’t say when or if that might be the case. “I got to the point where I said ‘Enough’s enough, we’re going to move forward, we’re going to build and we’re going to produce, and if you [Jonway] produce a mass car that you can sell across the country, that’s great but I’m not going to wait for it,’” he says.
He also tells us that by establishing the independent new company, he hopes to gain some distance in the public’s eyes from another member of the Jonway Group, the controversial Zap Jonway (which he was actually acting CEO of for a four-month period). Among other things, that company was recently sued by the US federal government, for failing to buy back hundreds of its Xebra three-wheeled electric trucks after they were declared unsafe to drive. “We have nothing to do with Zap Jonway,” he says. “We wish them well in trying to survive, but we don’t want any association with them.”
Aptera USA has most of the original company’s prototypes, equipment, patents and designs, so it wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Given that fact, Deringer hopes that Aptera USA could be making cars as early as the first quarter of 2014. He’s currently in the process of hiring engineers, and the company has already put in an order for 1,000 bodies from its Detroit-based supplier.
The 2g could end up in the US$50,000 to $55,000 price range. According to Deringer, that would put it at about $15,000 to $20,000 more than the Chinese Aptera, but in his words, “it would be a better car.”
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