Since December, a video about an electric vehicle called the Aptera has racked up over 1.2 million views on YouTube. And no wonder — not only is the EV a three-wheeler straight out of a sci-fi movie, but it promises performance straight out of Elon Musk’s wet dreams: range of 1,000 miles on a single charge and the ability to recharge the battery from solar panels integrated into the body. The Aptera is a bold vision for the future, but it’s also, oddly, 15 years old.
Over at The Verge, Sean O’Kane recounts the history of Aptera, an EV startup that was founded in 2006 while Tesla was still getting its bearings, that has reemerged after previously falling on its face. This time around, the original founders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony think they can convince both investors and the American public to believe in their vision — but is there space in the market for a three-wheeled, ultra-lightweight electric vehicle?
If you consider investment and “pre-orders,” things look promising. The company closed a Series A funding round in February where they raised $4 million, and they’ve also reportedly taken “7,000 reservations,” which has become standard practice for up-and-coming electric vehicles, and here means that 7,000 people have placed $100 refundable deposits. They’re also estimating that they’ll deliver the first production models sometime this year, but considering this is a reboot of a company that flamed out, and all the other false or delayed promises of similar startups, take that with a grain of salt.
What are these people who put down a Benjamin pre-ordering, exactly? As Aptera notes, the current vehicle they’re promoting is classified as a motorcycle or auto-cycle, similar to the Polaris Slingshot. It’s a two-seater with a Tesla-like touchscreen, solar panels for charging (though it charges faster via a traditional plug), in-wheel motors and a price ranging from about $26,000 to $50,000, depending on if you want that coveted 1,000-mile battery range (over double the longest range Tesla available today) or can live with something as low as 250 miles (which, it should be said, is pretty standard for modern electric vehicles).
But as The Verge writes, Aptera is also considering making a more traditional four-wheeled vehicle and seeking out federal funding to do so, which sure seems like they’re already hedging their bets on an esoteric electric car (that’s not actually a car).
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