Automotive

New company set to resurrect the Aptera automobile

New company set to resurrect t...
The Jonway Group's prototype version of the Aptera 2e, spied by Gizmag at Auto Shanghai 2013
The Jonway Group's prototype version of the Aptera 2e, spied by Gizmag at Auto Shanghai 2013
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The Jonway Group's prototype version of the Aptera 2e, spied by Gizmag at Auto Shanghai 2013
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The Jonway Group's prototype version of the Aptera 2e, spied by Gizmag at Auto Shanghai 2013
The a rear view of the Jonway Group's Aptera 2e
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The a rear view of the Jonway Group's Aptera 2e

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 a rear view of the Jonway Group's Aptera 2e
The a rear view of the Jonway Group's Aptera 2e

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.”

33 comments
The Skud
Just get it out there in the showrooms - then see if it, or the Chinese cheaper version, actually sell. But please make it a hybrid - that would be a selling point - there are too many small-engine only-IC cars around. The way Obama and the regulators are going in the US, hybrids might end up mandatory by 2014 anyway.
Nairda
I liked it in 2007, and I like it now :) Though I wish they would put two tires at the back. Some configuration otherwise. A nice futuristic dash that wraps around the driver and capacitive soft touch controls with "Corning world of glass" style interface woul dnot go astray.
Mindbreaker
Both price options seem quite excessive, though I would definitely like to see them on the road. I would go with a gas engine and hydraulic regenerative braking and acceleration assist...or flywheel regeneration. Both are fairly simple and avoid the high priced batteries of hybrids/electrics/plug-ins and the added weight. They don't have to be perfect. If it just saves 0-30 mph energy that would still help quite a bit. It also should have no trouble reaching 100mpg perhaps 150mpg and still have reasonable acceleration. This engine would be a nice match: http://www.gizmag.com/wave-disc-generator-combustion-engine/19394/ It is small and efficient and with hydraulic regenerative braking and acceleration assist 200mpg may even be realistic. Maybe that is too many nascent technologies but it would be something special.
BigGoofyGuy
I would go for the made in China model since it is way less expensive than the hand-made in America model. I think the gas engine one would make more sense than the pure-electric one (and the hybrid [like that found in diesel electric trains] makes even more sense). I think it would be neat if some one brought back the Corbin Merlin roadster (or at least something very similar to it). http://www.corbin.com/motors/merlin/index.shtml http://www.3wheelers.com/corbin.html
VoiceofReason
$50 GRAND?! HA ha hahahahhaha........no. They take a company that had a decent idea, then roll it up in a premium package to line the company;s pockets with gold. For that kind of money, I want free roadside assistance FOR LIFE, and a 10 year no questions asked unlimited mileage warranty. It'd be cheaper to buy a Prius and have a battery and solar package done to get the mileage very close to what the Aptera gets.
tekteam26
The price for the Aptera has to be driven much further downward. Already it has competition from Elio Motors that will be building an 85 mpg three-wheeled vehicle that will cost less than $7000 and be built in an old GM plant in Shreveport, LA. Sure the Elio's passengers don't sit side by side, but usually for commuting, you only have the driver in the vehicle anyway.
Tony Loro
I had a position for one but bailed when they hired the auto engineers and went overpriced bigger engine ect.
BeWalt
Happy to see! There is a market for the Aptera. There always has been a market for expensive, somewhat exotic vehicles and as long as a company can survive catering to that, it's all good. Think "Morgan Plus-Eight". But they do have to work on their sales pitch. It is incompetent management when somebody within the company labels some part of their product line "a better product" over some other. Not gonna work that way. Must find different ways of distinguishing the U.S. made ones. Tesla is showing how you can have the same thing at half price, and not repel people from wanting to shell out way more to buy the "full package". They won't tell you the 50k version of the "S" is not as good a car as the 100k one. Seriously Aptera, stop doing such a dumb thing.
Lewis M. Dickens III
"You can fool some of the people all of the time." seems appropriate here. Bill Allison, the renowned, suspension engineer who designed the Packard torsion ride and who's work inspired Sir Alec Moulton as a young boy almost slapped me when I told him that I loved the Mog. He pointed out that three wheeled vehicles are essentially motorcycles and from a suspension perspective was inherently dangerous. While I do love seeing that motorcycle engine in front of the radiator again but I do also believe that certain things need to be taken very seriously. Particularly when human lives are at stake. Bill knew suspensions backwards and forwards and had developed suspensions cross linking them in virtually every possible combination. He held more patents on suspensions than any other engineer. So when I covered the Progressive Automotive Insurance Automotive X Prize for AltEnergy.mag I got to watch the Aptera spin out a number of times I mentioned bills knowledge to the Reporter of Consumers Reports and she cracked up. The problem behind this is that there is an absurd notion that less wheels mean less rolling resistance. If that were absolutely true, all the rail cars would have 3 wheels, but they don't. They have bogied paris of 8 wheels and that provides the lowest rolling resistance. If you don't believe this then build 3 models with 4, 6 and 8 wheels. Put them on an inclined plane and let them roll. Use a piece of chalk to mark where they roll to a stop and you will see the truth to the physical phenomenon. Otherwise talk with the Japanese Professor who designed the Elica. That the Chinese bought into this fits perfectly with their buying into the MooCow Computers of our Brilliant Governor. Bill BTW Bill is the only person to have hit the Betz limit with his wind engine designs.
Charles Hart
Elio at 80mpg and $6800 works much better for me.