2014 Paris Motor Show highlights

Aptera Motors shuts its doors

By

December 6, 2011

Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it has ceased operations

Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it has ceased operations

Image Gallery (12 images)

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 s...

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

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

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
Tags
29 Comments

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.

ds
6th December, 2011 @ 12:19 pm PST

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.

William H Lanteigne
6th December, 2011 @ 01:09 pm PST

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.

Gadgeteer
6th December, 2011 @ 02:53 pm PST

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.

Todd Dunning
6th December, 2011 @ 10:01 pm PST

People in India would buy one billion of these cars if it has a purchase price of $4,000.00 each.

Robert DuBois
6th December, 2011 @ 10:16 pm PST

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.

Ira Munn
7th December, 2011 @ 12:58 am PST

is the terrafugea based on this in anyway? I mean take a look!

John Faragher
7th December, 2011 @ 02:48 am PST

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.

James Ng
7th December, 2011 @ 09:07 am PST

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.

epochdesign
7th December, 2011 @ 09:07 am PST

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.

Hoodoo Yootink
7th December, 2011 @ 10:41 am PST

So can we at least buy the prototype models? How many prototypes were built? What will happen to all the assets.

A shame in deed.

Vadim
7th December, 2011 @ 10:43 am PST

OK everyone, get a grip. The Aptera was not vaporware, many test beds and final models were produced and the Aptera competed well at the x-prize competition. Yes there were problems at the x-prize with handling set up etc., this is a new from the ground up car and all competitors had problems. The electric version got just under 200 miles on a charge at 60 mph! When you get no help from the government while they back big companies like GM, it is no wonder they went under.So now you can now get a Volt for only $40,000, and a range of 95 miles, compared to a Aptera with a price of less than $30,000 and a range of 200 mile!

Jerry Peavy
7th December, 2011 @ 11:01 am PST

My partner was contacted by them about two years ago to talk about building fuel cells for these. Never went too far with that but did find out that the vehicle they had produced was classified either as a motorcycle or a quadricycle (4 wheel bicycle) so you had to have a motorcycle licence to drive it. In some places it would not be street legal if classed as a quadricycle either. And of course there were none of the safety design features such as airbags nor did it have to meet vehicle safety standards for crash worthiness and so on. Don't know if they intended to go through that process or stick in the grey area where they were.

Interesting vehicle and as suggested would have been interesting to see it with a ic setup. Think one of the new small TDI diesels in that body would have been impressive for mileage. Thinking of the one out of the Smart which some people have seen 100mpg in that brick of a car. In something a lot more slippery would be interesting to see.

Wragie
7th December, 2011 @ 11:39 am PST

well we can all rest easy knowing Jay Leno got his delivered.

Jay Lloyd
7th December, 2011 @ 11:45 am PST

Add this alongside Solyndra to the ever growing list of dead-on-arrival projects funded by our tax dollars. Just where does one find these government bucks handed out with no guarantees? I'd like to know because I've got a project that could use a few sheckels, as do a lot of people who have nobody on the inside of the beltway. Getting pretty sick of seeing this crap.

Neil Larkins
7th December, 2011 @ 12:08 pm PST

Now would be the time for Ford to look into this car. It is some what ugly but than can be fixed. Most startup Co have to little cash and run out of cash and time. The people that were running the Co probably left with a little money.

luggdog
7th December, 2011 @ 01:49 pm PST

It wouldn't surprise me if the rot set in with the personell imports from Detroit. Might be interesting to see their career paths now. Big payoff from the majors maybe?

apprenticeearthwiz
7th December, 2011 @ 03:59 pm PST

>Add this alongside Solyndra to the ever growing list of dead-on-arrival projects

>funded by our tax dollars.

1. "Two" is hardly an ever-growing list.

2. According to the story, the company received "conditional approval for a loan", but does not state that it ever received it (presumably not being able to meet the conditions. That makes the ever-growing list "one".

>Just where does one find these government bucks handed out with no guarantees?

I don't know... not in this story.

>I'd like to know because I've got a project that could use a few sheckels, as do a lot

>of people who have nobody on the inside of the beltway. Getting pretty sick of seeing

>this crap.

I think your politics is prompting you to experience what's termed "fake outrage". This story is about the failure of a company with a promising product, not about government loans (which didn't take place). You might want to enter the term "corporate welfare" into a search engine. Your government routinely hands out lots of money to very large corporations, including incentives to Exxon-Mobil, the wealthiest company in the world. However, the outrage must be reserved for the Department of Energy making loans, not grants, to companies that are developing next-gen technologies to decrease dependence on foreign oil and create jobs at home. Sad.

alcalde
7th December, 2011 @ 05:04 pm PST

Neil - the DOE loan was conditional - they didn't pocket the $150 million and walk away - they didn't get any of it.

Firehawk70
7th December, 2011 @ 05:08 pm PST

This company had a problem very much like Abner Doble did with his steam powered cars in the 1920. He just could not quit fiddling around with the design and every one he built was different even though they were supposed to be the same model.

Aptera should have settled on a design then started building it! Instead they kept futzing with it with minor and major changes.

Gregg Eshelman
7th December, 2011 @ 09:15 pm PST

I drove to work today - like every day - in my TWIKE electromobile : a battery-and-pedal powered twoseater, built in 1996. It has a range of between 150 and 200 Km on a single charge, a top speed of 90 Km/h and its LiOn battery fully charges in less than 2 hours on a regular household power socket.

This technology has been available for a very long time, and has proven to be very safe and very durable. Cheap ? Yes, but only if you count in the hidden costs of fuel-powered cars.

People expect a car's price to be a linear expression of its weight. But think of it this way: what would you be prepared to pay for a 'Beam-me-up, Scotty !' transportation facility, in which no vehicle at all is involved ?

I rest my case...

Bart Viaene
8th December, 2011 @ 05:13 am PST

Loved this vehicle from its first post, but as soon as they started importing "Senior Automotive Executives" & " Looking for a midwestern building facility" I knew the Aptera, no matter how well it performed in the Xprize, was due to evaporate. Time to evaporation is approx. related to distance from boss's office to the production site. As for looks- it is a personal thing- there are people who think Escalades are good looking!

Jeff Bequette
8th December, 2011 @ 06:14 am PST

Stability could have been improved by simply pushing one wheel forward and the other one back during turns. This shouldn't be abandoned.

Dawar Saify
8th December, 2011 @ 07:03 am PST

The low drag shape is sound and front geometry could be better. The attempt to do too much at once is hard to resist. Any composite body needs refinement to be cost effective. Not settling on a power plant didn't help. This would be best marketed as a kit motorcycle using a honeycomb aluminum or tube space frame. The engine could be a 3 cyl. diesel and 5 spd trans with shaft drive. MPG over 120 and cost about $10,000 USD to assemble would be acceptable.

Grant-53
8th December, 2011 @ 02:49 pm PST

I worried when I heard Aptera was bringing in executives from Ford? (was it?). Why do that unless financing was in doubt and credibility needed boosting? I'll bet grassroots financing would have been possible if only they had asked their supporters. Wouldn't you invest if a perk was to get a car early and at a discount?

Perhaps this was the Tucker political scandal again (The "once big, now little 3" protecting the home turf). I doubt it though. Aptera filled a small niche. Maybe it was just the growing anti-small business bureaucracy that is killing off the economy generally. We can switch our attention to Zoleco. I would rather buy a kit anyway. The extra hassle is compensated by the fact that no federal or state # is attached, meaning it does not qualify as a "commercial vehicle" and does not have to be registered or licensed.

voluntaryist
8th December, 2011 @ 02:49 pm PST

The company failed the moment it dropped the diesel engine. Yes it would of been an OK car with a gas engine, but why a hybrid? Added cost, added expense, added problems. Then they wanted an EV, EV are crap. They were crap in the 20's they are crap now. Any car running on stored electricity will be crap. Yes in 10 years we will have better batteries, they will still be crap. hydro carbons are the best way to store energy, so our future will be bio/dino diesel.

The only good thing about this car was the shape. but then they abandoned that to. They deserved to fail. Maybe one of the 30 employees can sneak out the designs and sell them to a Chinese company who can make the car and sell it to the US.

Michael Mantion
8th December, 2011 @ 06:41 pm PST

Wow, they kept on changing specs until they ran out of runway.

The switch from the diesel to gas hybrid? OK.

Going to FWD? That's pretty major.

Dropping the entire design and building something that looks like a Camery?

Truly a WTF moment.

It's sad, I live nearby and I used to see one of the prototypes on the roads on a regular basis.

William Volk
9th December, 2011 @ 09:32 am PST

I still want the car is there one for sale ??? pleas comtact me future.e @hotmail.com

futuree
19th February, 2012 @ 10:33 am PST

Hey, where's my $500 bucks!? If they had just went ahead and built a three-wheeled motorcycle, and not kept up with all of the hype, I would be driving mine right now! They spent more energy marketing and hyping the product, re-engineering, chasing money, hiring more useless non value-added employees, and wasting time, than actually producing anything. They could have put ALL of their energy into the one original design. Then, they easily could have outsourced all of the sub-component manufacturing to existing companies in the U.S.A., and performed final assembly and inspection domestically. Ultimately, they simply were only good at hype, spin, and spending money.

Beach Dude
22nd March, 2013 @ 03:44 pm PDT
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 28,967 articles