Future Car

Test Driving the Aptera

Apr 23, 2009

Google was running a number of Earth-Day related events this entire week. Today, they had a talk and demonstration by Aptera, a startup car company hoping to break into the car business in about a year. I was even lucky enough to get a short ride in the car.

Aptera is planning on building and starting to sell an all-electric car late this year. The main innovation these guys are bringing to the car space is a car body that is amazingly efficient. They are using composite materials, the same kinds of things Burt Rutan used to build Space Ship One, to build a very strong but very lightweight body. The body is then shaped to absolutely minimize the drag as the car moves through air. It looks something like an advanced aircraft or maybe a spaceship. A common question they get is apparently "Does it fly?".

It sounds flimsy, but the composites are far from it. They said they held a party and had an unpainted car body in the shop. They passed around a sledgehammer and put up a $100 prize to anyone who could dent the body and they have yet to pay out. Riding in felt very responsive, cornered well and accelerated/decelerated quickly without feeling unstable in the least.

The car seats two comfortably, has argo room "to fit several surf boards". The next photo shows the accelerator and brake pedals, with clever '+' and '-' symbols on them as a nod to the electric system.

They say the initial electric-only version will retail between $25,000-$40,000. It has a range of 120 miles, and can recharge in 4 hours from a high-voltage connection (like your washer/dryer) or "overnight" from a standard outlet. The gas version should have 100+ MPG.