Electric-car startup Aptera Motors has raised $24 million to build its first car, a futuristic three-wheeled ride priced at $27,000.
The Carlsbad, Calif. Company plans to roll out its first Typ-1 from the factory in December. More than 3,300 customers have paid the $500 deposit to get the car, which the company is only selling in California for now.
The new funding also will enable the five-year-old company to build a manufacturing center in Vista, just east of the company’s headquarters in Southern California.
Aptera raised the new money from Idealab, Esenjay Investments, the Simons family, the Beall family trust and Google.org, the investment arm of the search giant.
It’s one of a number of startup automakers that have jumped into the market for hybrid and electric vehicles after the runaway success of the fuel-efficient Toyota Prius (see Electric Vehicle Derby Still On).
One of the best-known examples is Tesla Motors, which started in 2004 and rolled out its first electric model, a $100,000 sports car called the Roadster, this year (see Tesla Begins ‘Regular Production’ of Roadsters). The San Carlos, Calif. Company is developing its second model, a $60,000 four-door sedan called Model S, for market launch in late 2010 (see We Will Build Electric Sedans in California).
Even though Aptera’s Typ-1 is a three-wheeled car and technically falls into the motorcycle category, the startup is betting that a growing demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles will attract car buyers. The two-seater comes with airbags for the driver and passenger and a trunk space the company said is large enough to fit 15 bags of groceries or a couple of seven-foot-long surf boards.
Typ-1 owners would recharge the batteries by plugging the vehicle into a standard 110-volt outlet for a few hours, getting up to 120 miles per charge.
In March, Aptera said it was planning to build the first showroom in Southern California and eventually build other stores in Menlo Park and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area (see Sci-fi Inspired Vehicels to Hit California Roads).
Aside from the all-electric Typ-1, Aptera plans to launch a plug-in hybrid version in late 2009.
Although major carmakers such as General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Honda have introduced gasoline-electric hybrids, none of them have brought out a plug-in version yet.
Unlike traditional hybrids that use the engine to generate the electricity needed to propel the electric motor, plug-in hybrids can recharge their batteries at standard electrical outlets. A plug-in hybrid can get more than 100 miles per gallon by replacing some fuel with electricity.
Aptera’s hybrid would come with an electric motor that can go 40 miles to 60 miles before the gasoline engine kicks in.
Consumers will have more choices for plug-in cars in the next few years. Major automakers, such as Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen, plan to introduce plug-in hybrids by 2010.
The automakers also are devoting more resources to make smaller gasoline-powered vehicles. Ford Motor just reported an $8.7 billion loss for the second quarter and said it would modify three truck-manufacturing plants in North America and produce small cars there.
Toyota also plans to turn its new Mississippi factory into a shop for the Prius. The factory was originally constructed to make the Highlander SUV. The company also plans to stop making the Tundra pickup trucks and Sequoia SUVs for three months starting in August.
Honda Motor Co., which has decried plug-in hybrids as offering few economic benefits, is focused on fuel-cell cars. The company's American branch announced Friday it has delivered the first FCX Clarity for its fuel-cell car-leasing program. Honda plans to lease approximately 200 of the cars to customers in the United States and Japan.