Aptera’s new hyper-futuristic three wheeled pod is a “no charge” solar car

The US start-up’s advanced solar-cum-electric vehicle that boasts up to a 1,000-mile range on a full charge, is now available for pre-order following a Wefunder campaign.

by Anmol Ahuja Published on : Jan 06, 2021

While our buildings seem to leap further with gusto to establish a new generation of technologically advanced architecture that isn’t nearly as detrimental to the environment as the previous generation was, I have to admit that the strides taken by the automobile industry are at least twice as large, even if on the drawing board. The shared nascence of a number of these developments in the automobile world allude to us being on the precipice of an oncoming new generation of smarter vehicles that consume less, and deliver more. In the same vein, Aptera leverages breakthroughs in lightweight structures, low-drag aerodynamics and cooling, material science, and manufacturing processes, claiming to deliver the most efficient vehicle ever made available to consumers. This serves as an apt primer for the auto company’s other impressive claims, a series of firsts. On the other hand, purely from the way it looks, I am affirmative that had I been asked to draw what a car from 2020 would look like in my yesteryears, between this and Tesla’s Cybertruck, two of this future’s beacons, it would have probably leaned toward the former. That too, by a big imaginative margin.

  • Conceptual rendering of the Aptera solar car: its oversized fender skirts are particularly notable | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    Conceptual rendering of the Aptera solar car: its oversized fender skirts are particularly notable Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.
  • Top view showcasing the placement of solar panels incorporated in the car’s body on the hood and roof | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    Top view showcasing the placement of solar panels incorporated in the car’s body on the hood and roof Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.

Measuring roughly 14 feet by 7.5 feet with an overall height of nearly five feet from the ground, the dynamic looking vehicle offers a 25 cu. ft. volume of cargo capacity within, providing comfortable seating for two adults, and a pet if you fancy. Its all-wheel drive variant clocks in a 0-60 mph in a quick 3.5 second bout at 150 kW, while the front wheel drive version does the same in 5.5 seconds at 100 kW. Aptera has been extensively tested for “highway speeds” and for actual, on-road conditions, racing up to a top speed of 100+ mph with a maximum RPM of 110 mph on the tachometer. The Aptera vehicle is made of lightweight composites that are many times stronger than steel, allowing its unique body shape and form, narrowing toward its “tail” by design to reduce aerodynamic drag, to slip through with an impressive drag coefficient of 13. Weighing in at 1800 to 2200 lbs depending upon the variant, Aptera is lined up for all applicable FMVSS and NHTSA safety tests before its wide market launch, while being priced between USD 25,900- USD 46,000+ depending on range and other options.

  • The car’s side view: the peculiar hyper futuristic shape is designed to reduce aerodynamic drag | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    The car’s side view: the peculiar hyper futuristic shape is designed to reduce aerodynamic drag Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.
  • Aptera has enough seating space for two adults and a pet | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    Aptera has enough seating space for two adults and a pet Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.

The interior features of the car, apart from the exterior ones, are quite the line-up too. Aptera comes in a range of customisable exterior shades and custom interiors to go with them, in an effort to create a vehicle that is unique for the customer. Enhanced in-built audio comes with an extra three channels for improved sound depth and deeper bass. Aside the driver display, Aptera comes with a 15 inch touchscreen interface that allows for navigational facilities while keeping the driver updated on ways they can conserve energy and extend range in real time to make the most of its solar charge. The integrated 'Safetypilot' imbues the car with level 2 autonomy capabilities, also spelling enhanced protection in addition to the built of the car and physical safety features built into it. Additional features also include a tent and rear awning extension for camping adventures, and a retro-fit-able off-roading kit of parts providing more ground clearance and tougher wheel covers.

  • Aptera’s “tail” houses solar panels while offering sufficient boot space for 2-3 bags | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    Aptera’s “tail” houses solar panels while offering sufficient boot space for 2-3 bags Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.
  • Close-up showing integration of solar panels on the car’s body | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    Close-up showing integration of solar panels on the car’s body Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.

Following a rather tumultuous journey of development, Aptera, now reformed in 2019 under the original leadership of Chris Anthony and Steve Fambro, has its newest innovation all set to arrive in markets by Spring 2021, boasting of some lofty feats. However, the top billing among them is the “no charging” claim of this solar electric vehicle (sEV) for most drivers. The latent and implied asterisk over that is especially intriguing, and this is what it means. Aptera promises to deliver a range of up to 1,000 miles per full charge, which could be a hybrid of both solar and direct DC charging as in any EV, and that is the catch. A total of 180 solar cells make up its integrated array over the structure of the car body, lined up in diamond shaped panels on its hood and top. Eponymously dubbed the “Never Charge” solar array, it spreads out to about three square meters, its power equivalent being 700 W. Said assembly and its self-charging feature while parked boast a range of up to 40 miles per day, entirely solar, proving a boon for the “regular” urban commuter. Simply spelt, as long as the commute per day lies somewhere within that range, the car can run at virtually none or minimal external electric charge.

  • The orange “Vida” variant of the car’s interiors | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    The orange “Vida” variant of the car’s interiors Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.
  • Aptera also features a 15” touchscreen interface for improved driver experience | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    Aptera also features a 15” touchscreen interface for improved driver experience Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.
  • The founders of Aptera Motor Corp. Chris Anthony and Steve Fambro | Aptera Solar Car | Aptera Motors Corp. | STIRworld
    The founders of Aptera Motor Corp. Chris Anthony and Steve Fambro Image: Courtesy of Aptera Motors Corp.

However, in case of larger distances within the same day, the “free” 40 miles come as an added benefit, while the rest would have to be electrically met. Impressively so, within the generous limits of 40 miles per day, the Aptera solar vehicle is capable of traversing nearly 11,000 miles annually, essentially only through solar charge. A hugely beneficial proposition by all means, as long as the figures add up on the road as well. It is also worth noting that Aptera would be launched in four range options concurrent with the power the automobile would be able to deliver, ranging from a starter 25 kWh over a 250 mile range, to the highest of 1000 kWh over a 1000 mile range. The claims above are, of course, conferred to the latter upper limit.

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