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New company set to resurrect the Aptera automobile

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June 10, 2013

The Jonway Group's prototype version of the Aptera 2e, spied by Gizmag at Auto Shanghai 20...

The Jonway Group's prototype version of the Aptera 2e, spied by Gizmag at Auto Shanghai 2013

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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 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.”

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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29 Comments

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.

The Skud
10th June, 2013 @ 07:45 pm PDT

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.

Nairda
10th June, 2013 @ 10:10 pm PDT

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.

Mindbreaker
11th June, 2013 @ 03:15 am PDT

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

BigGoofyGuy
11th June, 2013 @ 06:17 am PDT

$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.

VoiceofReason
11th June, 2013 @ 06:28 am PDT

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.

tekteam26
11th June, 2013 @ 09:20 am PDT

I had a position for one but bailed when they hired the auto engineers and went overpriced bigger engine ect.

Tony Loro
11th June, 2013 @ 09:23 am PDT

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.

BeWalt
11th June, 2013 @ 09:29 am PDT

"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.

Lewis M. Dickens III
11th June, 2013 @ 09:49 am PDT

Elio at 80mpg and $6800 works much better for me.

Charles A Hart
11th June, 2013 @ 10:34 am PDT

I doubt that the price quoted is correct as that would put the Aptera in the same range as the Tesla and the Aptera is designed from the ground up to be a much less expensive car. Plus the Aptera is not designed to be a gas only car. This was a possible configuration down the line, the original is designed to be Electric followed be a Hybrid.

Jerry Peavy
11th June, 2013 @ 10:41 am PDT

They should've just given it a Gold Wing engine right from the start.

mookins
11th June, 2013 @ 11:53 am PDT

Like most, I would love to drive an EV. I want to be able to fuel up from the sun with a PV panel or plug in to reduce fuel costs by 80%. Too bad it's not practical yet. I believe it will be within a decade.

Meanwhile, the Aptera platform is a long overdue innovation in efficiency. It can be used with any power train. And when the battery technology allows, Aptera can be converted to an EV. That is my reason to own one.

That said, I am not ready to plunk down $50K+. I don't know how much I would pay until I know all the details and test drive, but NOT that much. This is where management comes in. It is their job to get the price down. First, why build in CA? The business climate there is terrible.

Don Duncan
11th June, 2013 @ 12:08 pm PDT

I don't think they get it,I would be surprised if they sell any at 50,000 dollars.A aerodynamic motorcycle,enclosed 2 seater,one door,4 wheel tilting 100 -200 mpg USA-1-2 liter per 100Km,Coefficient of drag around .0.16 as comfortable as a sedan,safe,fun.thats what commuters need.We must stop this huge oil consumption,traffic grind locks,LA traffic moving at 20 mph,one person in a 4000 pound car,10 -20 mpg USA maybe ?We are headed for big trouble,We need some smart thinker's to change things around,lets not wait and allow the manufactures force us to screw up the environment,while we go broke.their all ready complaining about CAFE 54 mpg requirement,what a joke.More rounded corner boxes with 4 wheels,Boring !!!!

Thomas Lewis
11th June, 2013 @ 01:07 pm PDT

Ugly car. Trunk looks like it's impossible to use. Front wheels sticking out so far are going to be sliced off or bent by a bus or truck.

No wonder the first company went under.

robo
11th June, 2013 @ 02:25 pm PDT

Aptera went out of business because they were undercapitalized for the size of the project they were undertaking. The shape of the car is cool, that's the innovation they brought. But the powerplant is probably under-powered and raspy, the steering/suspension/handling is probably unsophisticated, the cabin is probably poorly executed - I suspect they were just too small and inexperienced to properly execute a modern car.

The car itself looks too long and unwieldy for a city commuter, how can it compete with a stubby little Smart car? It would be an awesome highway tourer though. If it were properly designed! That's the big "if".

Grunchy
11th June, 2013 @ 04:07 pm PDT

Buckminster Fuller came up with this car in 1933, and addressed a couple of the concerns in his design. There was an accident with another car that had nothing to do with the design but it wrecked the car. Chrysler was supposed to start producing it, but they felt it would unfairly compete with all of their other cars, so they backed out. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dymaxion_car

(and here: http://www.gizmag.com/dymaxion-car-makes-a-rare-public-outing-at-salon-prive/19013/ Ed.)

jerel2u
11th June, 2013 @ 04:19 pm PDT

Wake me when you can buy one. This sounds like the same ancient song and dance by little boutique EV startups going out of business and morphing into some other company which also struggles. It's even worse than most in having all the confusion of 2 companies in different countries trying to do the same thing. Are they competing with each other? Partners? Don't get it. The Aptera was truly one of the more advanced concepts, but despite the phenomenal and well-deserved and really kind of miraculous success of Tesla, I still expect this to go nowhere like virtually every other cool EV venture ever made. Tango. Coda. GEM. Sparrow/Myers. Nevco. Think. Reva. Better Place. Fisker. Zap. Zenn. Stop me when you get tired. Who knows, maybe they will succeed in making a few before they collapse.

It's too bad, sorry for being so cynical, and the Aptera is truly innovative. But come on.

HerrDrPantagruel
11th June, 2013 @ 04:39 pm PDT

A multinational that sets up a US operation based in California is run by fools.

Slowburn
12th June, 2013 @ 07:05 am PDT

Zaptera not the most reliable distributer. but at $50large they don't need to worry, they won't sell. Cross the body with an approved 250 cc scooter motor and sell at $12,000 and sell thousands.

Jeff Bequette
12th June, 2013 @ 09:34 am PDT

1)This Aptera vehicle is over priced at $50k.

2) It looks like a plane without wings, if the company is going to sell for $50k, make it fly.

3) For $50k it better be a top of the line Hybrid with every amenity standard.

4) For $7,000 you can buy an Elio. ( I have no affiliation with the company,) but if you're going to buy a three wheeled vehicle,save $43k

Gargamoth
12th June, 2013 @ 09:40 am PDT

>Gargamoth - It looks like a plane without wings

In fact, that's really what it is. The designer wanted to make an airplane, but his wife said no, so he made this instead.

limbodog
12th June, 2013 @ 10:23 am PDT

no, fuller came up with something called the dymaxion...and it was nothing like this "car".

in fact, it is not a airplane without wings. you know not.

undercapitalized? hardly. but yes, if you they wanted to make 10k/year cars then they had no where near the money. they had money to go small, they went big with nothing to show for it but a trail of excuses.

scottno
12th June, 2013 @ 10:05 pm PDT

I really like the look of the Aptera and would never buy the straight gas version, only the plug-in hybrid or all electric version. It could yield 180MPGe or more easily.

But it is doomed. Way too expensive, a startup company that doesn't have the reliability of Toyota's Prius, Chevy's Volt, Tesla's Model S, etc.

Sad but true. RIP

Daniel Watkins
22nd September, 2013 @ 03:03 pm PDT

There is no reason for the car to be priced at any more than the original Aptera, which was less than $30,000. They have all the designs, molds etc. so nothing further needs to be done. What they do need is sufficient funds to begin producing the car! As far as reliability is concerned, the Aptera is much less complicated than the Prius, Volt or Tesla and being hand made it should not be any less reliable. For those who do not like the design my advice would be, don't buy one and quit complaining! For those who come up with imagined handling or other problems, please do some research before you comment further.

Jerry Peavy
10th November, 2013 @ 07:37 pm PST

Wasn't the core idea for the Aptera for an efficient hybrid car under $30k? At $50-55k, this is going nowhere.

Kevin Hill
25th December, 2013 @ 06:15 pm PST

Well, I've been watching and reading about this little car for a very long time and felt that the original people on the project had the right idea, Produce a very high mileage car with the price in the great range that the common working stiff could afford!.... Not the 50K mentioned here. Sad, but someone got ahold of them or maybe building the bodies in Detroit has them at union rates. That old mentality has to stop... times are different now. Keeping the price in the fair range would sell many cars and lock them in. But maybe the Government wanted them to fail to begin with by not granting them the money years ago which was the death blow back then. The Gov surely doesn't want any one little company to threaten their big 3 back in Detroit! Good old boys club. Guess it'll be the Elio for me. So sad that Aptera has to go the way of the Volt and others in price....

Stingray1527
29th January, 2014 @ 05:22 pm PST

Hi there, does anybody have a contact of the company building the Aptera in US? I can't find a homepage of Aptera USA, Inc. which is always mentioned in the blog entries.

Anja Müller
10th February, 2014 @ 06:22 am PST

The ELIO would be a Good Compromise even with an IC Engine, at $6800

Low Cost, 84MPG, easy to maintain. Many people can Afford One, which is not the case with a Tesla, Apterra, Zapterra or whatever you call it!

David Lindsay
9th October, 2014 @ 09:50 am PDT
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