Automotive

Aptera Motors shuts its doors

Aptera Motors shuts its doors
Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it has ceased operations
Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it has ceased operations
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An Aptera, spied at the Automotive X-PRIZE in 2010 (Photo: Gizmag)
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An Aptera, spied at the Automotive X-PRIZE in 2010 (Photo: Gizmag)
The Aptera Series 2e
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The Aptera Series 2e
The Aptera Series 2e, with its roof-mounted solar cells that powered its climate control system
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The Aptera Series 2e, with its roof-mounted solar cells that powered its climate control system
The interior of the Aptera Series 2e
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The interior of the Aptera Series 2e
Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it has ceased operations
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Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it has ceased operations
A rear view of the Aptera Series 2e
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A rear view of the Aptera Series 2e
The Aptera Typ-1
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The Aptera Typ-1
The Aptera Typ-1
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The Aptera Typ-1
A rear view of the Aptera Typ-1
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A rear view of the Aptera Typ-1
An early image of what would become the Aptera Typ-1
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An early image of what would become the Aptera Typ-1
An early image of what would become the Aptera Typ-1
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An early image of what would become the Aptera Typ-1
An early image of what would become the Aptera Typ-1
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An early image of what would become the Aptera Typ-1

With its stunningly-exotic "car of the future" looks, extremely high claimed fuel efficiency, and a projected price of under US$30,000, the Aptera was a car that captured many peoples' imaginations. Perhaps best of all, when the vehicle was initially launched, the first consumer models were slated for delivery by the next year - this appeared to be no pie-in-the-sky concept. After several years of pushing that delivery date forward, however, Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it was ceasing operations.

As early as 2005, California-based Accelerated Composites (as the company was then known) was releasing images of its proposed 330 MPG (0.71L/100 km) three-wheeled diesel/electric hybrid car. This incredible mileage was said to be due not only to the vehicle's aerodynamic shape - it was claimed that it would have the lowest drag of any mass-produced car in the world - but also to its lightweight composite construction.

By late 2007, the company officially launched the Aptera Typ-1e and Typ-1h. The 1e was an all-electric model that had a reported range of 120 miles (193 km), while the 1h was a gas/electric hybrid that still managed a whopping 300 MPG (0.78L/100 km) - the diesel engine was dropped due to concerns over emissions. Both models had seating for two adults along with space for a center-mounted infant seat, and enough rear cargo space to carry 15 bags of groceries or two full-size golf club bags. Solar cells in the roof powered the "always-on" climate control system.

The Aptera Series 2e, with its roof-mounted solar cells that powered its climate control system
The Aptera Series 2e, with its roof-mounted solar cells that powered its climate control system

The 1e had a scheduled 2008 delivery date, with the 1h set to follow soon after. Hundreds of potential buyers from the California area (the first market in which the car was to be sold) put down US$500 deposits in order to be among the world's first Aptera owners.

By early 2009, no cars had been delivered, but the company had progressed to its all-electric Series 2e. We published a full list of its specs at the time. Among its improvements over the Typ-1s were aerodynamic side-mounted mirrors, and wider door openings that made getting in and out of the vehicle much easier. Perhaps the biggest change, however, was a switch from belt-driven rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive. A hybrid 2h was also in the works.

Volume production for retail deliveries was pushed ahead to October of that year.

The Aptera Typ-1
The Aptera Typ-1

Much as some people loved the Aptera's teardrop styling and three-wheeled configuration, however, it was perhaps a bit too extreme for the average buyer. The company decided to switch gears, and began developing a composite-bodied mid-size electric sedan that would be similar in style to the Toyota Camry. As word spread about the impending arrival of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, however, the prospect of an ordinary-looking car made by a small startup company wasn't drawing a lot of interest.

Although Aptera Motors did receive conditional approval for a US$150 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy's advanced vehicle fund, it was still unable to raise sufficient funds to begin production of the sedan. As of December 2nd of this year, the company officially shut down, laying off its work force of approximately 30 employees.

"We remain confident, even as this chapter closes, that Aptera has contributed new technologies to build a future for more efficient driving," president and CEO Paul Wilbur wrote in a statement given last week. "Through the dedicated staff at Aptera, our board and suppliers we have touched this future. All that remains is for someone to grab it. We still believe it will happen."

Source: Automotive News

29 comments
ds
i liked this concept from the start. need kind of elbows to secure your space on that market. shure though we\'ll see that one on the road cos it\'s perfect in function ... let\'s not talk about the rollover test. maybe two back-wheels 4ft wide would give it the necessary grip for dangerous driving.
William H Lanteigne
They tried to reach too far. This would always have been a low-production niche vehicle, not mainstream. It might have had better acceptance, and actual production and sales, if they had introduced a gas(petrol) -engine variant first, followed by a gas(petrol)/electric hybrid, then finally the electric version. Businesses usually fail due to bad business decisions, this failed due to ideological shortsightedness.
Gadgeteer
I hate to speak ill of the recently departed, but this always reeked of vaporware to me. At best, I could imagine it becoming a 21st century counterpart of the DeLorean, something that would sell only a few thousand vehicles. But the Aptera never even made it that far. Heck, it didn\'t even make it as far as the Tucker \'48, where a few cars were built and today are in the hands of collectors and museums. Nothing but testbeds here, not even limited production.
Todd Dunning
Yet another Solyndra - even down to the taxpayer funding. There\'s plenty of other cool tech that understands you have to serve multiple purposes for the customer, not just one. A sign of business maturity is to listen to the customer closely. If they\'re not buying, find out why - and quickly. A religious deathgrip on Global Warming is not enough. Or if they\'re not buying, just do a GM and get billions in bailouts to produce the next Chevy Volt bonfire. If it\'s green, it can suck totally and still be cool. For awhile at least.
Flipider Comm
People in India would buy one billion of these cars if it has a purchase price of $4,000.00 each.
Ira Munn
There were buyers, as denoted in the pre-sale deposits, but none sold? Why was this? Owners talking about and driving the vehicles would have been the best marketing, especially since attention is drawn to the vehicle\'s uniqueness. Model change after model change, and none of them put on the ground. The technique of Fire, Adjust, Fire, Adjust, was not used. Nobody fired. Why oust the diesel-electric hybrid? If the environment was a concern, a bio-diesel fuel alternative could have been promoted. Obviously, more transpired than what this article provides. I would appreciate someone \"in the know\" to comment in this space.
John Faragher
is the terrafugea based on this in anyway? I mean take a look!
James Ng
Aptera should have learned the lesson from TaTa and Apple and build a simple, good enough car. Do a introduction program liked BMW with their electric car to test and adjust. It\'s a shame that the company went under because of bad management team.
epochdesign
This comes as no suprize to me. But sadly most of these companies are OPM (other people\'s money) companies (\"vaporware\" as Gageteer puts it), meaning they take a great idea, manage to get some backing, market the heck out of it, get more backing, finally they need to come up with something to show for it, build a prototype, dog and pony that around, get more backing, repeat as necessary until reatily finally catches up. Pretty much the great idea is lost in the ability to make a fine living and not do anything with the idea. In this case, as in most, the great idea was poorly executed, meaning too narrow of a focus and too little of a market to start with as pointed out by WTL and TD. I liked the idea and still do, but this car was a very bad execution in fulfilling the consumers needs, as also pointed out above. In all likelyhood, there was never any intention to manufacture the car. I\'ve seen first hand, fake assembly lines in OPM companies intended to WOW potential investors, but nothing ever gets built, with the exception of a prototype or two to take to trade shows and demo for investors. A sad reality for those truely great ideas that will never see enough money to get as far as Aptera.
Hoodoo Yootink
like the concept, great ideas, but the car is ugly, it looks like a slug, or a sperm \"...it was perhaps a bit too extreme for the average buyer...\" water it down all you like, but its ugly. No matter what kind of innovation is put into it when you talk about sales the aesthetic factor will always come into play.