The car for the consumer from a faraway galaxy is being pushed into next year.
Aptera, which has developed an electric three-wheeled car called the Aptera 2e, says it won't release cars this year as planned. Instead, they will hopefully hit in 2010. The culprit: financing. The company is currently trying to close a round of financing as well as obtain loans under the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle program. Although the application to the government is in, Aptera also faces a different environment than earlier applicants: 85 percent of the stimulus funds granted to the Department of Energy were already taken and accounted for in October.
Many other manufacturers have delayed their electrics and hybrids as well, including General Motors, Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors. All of those companies, however, have far larger stockpiles of cash and more conventional cars.
The 2e goes zero to 60 in 10 seconds and can hit a top speed of 90 miles per hour. The all-electric version gets an equivalent of 200 miles per gallon and the company has discussed developing hybrid too.
Just as important, the car gets noticed (see test-drive video). Wherever you drive the egg-shaped car with the gullwing doors, cameras pop out. If you wore a tight-fitting silver body suit when behind the wheel, no one would blink. Over 4,000 customers have placed refundable deposits on the car. Skeptics, though, note that three-wheelers have rarely been popular with consumers.
Like Bright Automotive, Aptera's secret sauce comes in weight, which can be regarded as a third fuel. Batteries cost quite a bit and a light car requires less energy to propel it down the road than a heavy one. At 15 miles an hour, half of a car's energy is really dedicated to shoving wind out of the way. Thus, by using advanced materials and aerodynamics, the car can reduce weight and wind resistance, lessen the need for large battery packs and come out at a lower price. (Bright, spun out of the Rocky Mountain Institute, also seeks stimulus funds.)
The Aptera 2e has three wheels, but not because Aptera wanted something that looked like George Jetson's car. Having three wheels allowed Aptera to reduce drag far more than a four-wheeled prototype. The design takes elements from aerodynamic forms found in nature, CEO Paul Wilbur told us earlier this year.
"Our aerodynamics are twice as slippery as any car on the road. The car was designed by putting two people in a wind tunnel and putting wind over them. It's the shape of the wind. That's why all the airplane jets look the same," he said."The three wheels are all about aerodynamics. It's not about styling. It's just the most efficient shape."
The body is crafted from a composite with a honeycombed interior six times stronger than steel, but weighs far less. But, on the aesthetics side of things, it allows Aptera to build a curvy, swoopy car that is difficult to dent.
"We'll give anybody 100 dollars if you could hit this car and get a dent," said Wilbur.
Darry Siry of Wired.com recently pointed out that two of the founders were recently ousted.