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Aptera News

Discussion in 'Cars and Transportation' started by Skotty, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    Who's got some?

    I haven't heard even a whisper in a very long time.

    Sorry if you thought I had some. Ha! Sucker!
     
  2. daniel

    daniel Active Member

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    I thought they went out of business. Back in the day I'd have bought one in a heartbeat. But now, with all the BEVs to choose from, the Aptera would be near the bottom of the list.

    I think they just didn't have the smarts to design an acceptable car. Item: They thought you would never need to open the windows. What about when a cop stops you, tells you to stay in your car and open the window? "Sorry, officer, this car's windows don't open." "What? I can't hear you your window is closed. Open it now or I'm taking you to jail." Or just those of us who like fresh air.

    They blew it and their time is past.
     
  3. KarenRei

    KarenRei KarenRei KarenRei KarenRei KarenRei KarenRei

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    Aptera went out of business ages ago.

    It had nothing to do with "not having the smarts to design an accepable car" - actually, Tesla snapped up a lot of their designers and engineers. They were literally three months from deliveries (I actually have some of their old internal documents showing what tasks they had completed and what were left to do before delivery) when the board overrode the founders and insisted that they bring in some "Detroit talent", which ended up being Paul Wilbur. Whose previous history had been bankrupting or near bankrupting three separate automakers. Paul took over a company flush with cash and with lots of interest, took a million dollar salary and a golden parachute, brought in all of his friends**, and set about steadily ruining the car in order to suit his personal tastes better. He raised almost no money (literally none for most of his time there) and delivered nothing.

    ** His friends were an amazing bunch. The CFO he brought in, for example (Laura Marion) was previously cited by the SEC for helping plan one of the largest accounting frauds in the US at the time, at Delphi. Or another example, the CMO, Marques McCammon - famed for making all the women in the office uncomfortable by constantly hitting on them, and at one point submitted strip club receipts for reimbursement as business expenses. Of course, I'm not surprised Paul liked him - Paul was known for showing off his "wedding ring trick", designed for if he met a woman he was interested in - he could put his hand in his pocket, and without any obvious motion, when he took it out the ring would be left behind.

    Anyway, eventually it came to a head with the founders, who went to the board and told them that they believe Paul needs to leave. The board sided with Paul, who had been chumming up to them since before he even got the job. Paul immediately set out to purge the company of the founders and anyone they deemed was more loyal to them than to him. And not in a pleasant manner. He fired Trisha Fambro (founder Steve Fambro's wife), for example, via a phone call to her hospital bed where she was being treated for cancer. The chief engineer? He brought in an armed guard to march him out of the building in front of everyone else. Etc.

    Anyway, the company continued its downward spiral for over a year until the money was gone. But there was one nice parting gift: the remaining people hired by Paul took all of the shells (despite requests from reservation holders to buy them) and crushed them with forklifts for fun.

    Aptera was a great story of "what could have been". Back when they started, they had a wide open field. Tesla was working on the very high end with the Roadster, still trying to iron out production issues. The low end was almost unoccupied. And that's because EV components were incredibly expensive back then - batteries and drivetrain components. Aptera's approach to make it cheap was simple: go for *extreme* aerodynamics so that you only need a tiny pack (12kWh) to go a long way, and keep it very light so that you (again) can use a small pack, and also don't need a very powerful drivetrain to get good acceleration. By keeping it efficient, they also worked around the "charging station shortage" problem; it charged at very high mph from low-power sockets. Indeed, their "home charging" setup was just a NEMA 10-20 plug. To achieve great structural strength with light weight and affordable construction, they were building the vehicles like boats (indeed, co-founder Chris Anthony's background was running a boat building company): foam-core fibreglass. They struck the middle ground, using vinyl ester rather than polyester or epoxy - vinyl ester is much cheaper than epoxy, but only mildly more expensive than polyester (which most fiberglass products use) - yet it has material properties and durability roughly midway between the two, and in some regards close to epoxy.

    In the end, they would have had to mainstream more, and that was part of the plan. Build the super-efficient Type-2e, filling the demand for the thousands of reservations they had just from California alone (and more to come as they expanded their market), and by becoming an established automaker, raising more money to expand to new, more "mainstream" vehicles - while still sticking to their key objectives of efficiency and low price. And they might well have succeeded. Seriously, this was a time period when people were paying $70k for used RAV4 EVs because that's all that they could buy. It would have been an interesting alternative-reality where, while Tesla was taking over the market from the high-end, Aptera was working up from the low end.
     
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  4. daniel

    daniel Active Member

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    That's very interesting. Thanks for posting that. I only remembered that the windows were not going to open (which would have been a disaster). I didn't know any of that stuff regarding the board and whatnot.

    I definitely would have bought one. But IIRC they were not even offering reservations outside of CA. Did the people who put down money for reservations ever get their money back?

    In the end I got a Zap Xebra, which was a complete P.O.S. but I loved it, and it was my daily driver for four years until I got the Roadster. Surprisingly, the Xebra was actually pretty reliable. It was a death trap, but it only died in traffic once, when the motor got wet after I drove through a puddle, but after that a friend designed and installed a shield and that never happened again.
     
  5. KarenRei

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    #5 KarenRei, Sep 12, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
    I cheated to get a reservation ; I had a cousin in CA put down my money for me ;) And yes, everyone got it back. Unlike Tesla, Aptera reservations were escrowed; they never spent customer reservation money. The founders were insistent on escrow, which I find to be refreshingly honourable in this era where everyone's business plan seems to be "open a kickstarter, and if things go south, just disappear with the cash". ;)

    BTW, Aptera played around with a number of window designs; one was split windows, for example. But the doors opened so easily and in such small spaces that they really weren't needed. Roll-down windows are not penalty-free; you're creating a hollow in the door, to the detriment of crush strength. Aptera - despite not having to meet car safety regs due to the three wheel design - was determined to exceed them. The roof crush strength was 4,5x that which would have been required for it were it classified as a car. They used to have a game for visitors to try to damage the shell with a sledgehammer - although it was rather dangerous because the hammer bounced back hard ;)

    I strongly suspect that a follow-up "mainstream" car would have had full roll-down windows. But there was no real demand for them among reservation holders.

    BTW, fun fact: because of the shape and how smooth the car was, when it rained, all water dripped off from a single point on the bottom ;)
     
  6. voyager

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    Way too wide. 7.15 feet. On top of that I can remember Aptera oversteering dramatically when high-speed cornering in one of the X Prize Challenge tests. But we're talking 7-9 years ago.
     
  7. KarenRei

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    @voyager: The X-prize Aptera was after Paul's "redesign". Most customers were disgusted by what he had done to it by that point; it was so bloated that it looked like it was "pregnant". The efficiency had been hurt so much by that point that they had to swell the size of the battery pack. And in the process they pushed the CG backward, while it needs to be as far forward as possible for a design like that. By that point, most of the people on the Aptera forum were laughing at, not disappointed by, its bad performance; we pretty much expected it. The people remaining, that is - most people had drifted away by then.

    That said, concerning width, it has always been wide (albeit only for a very small area at the front wheels, and the doors opened within that width). You could also see the front wheel pods while driving, so you could position them exactly.
     
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  8. voyager

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    #8 voyager, Oct 13, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2017
    @KarenRei
    My guess is that they widened the stance to prevent it from toppling over during cornering. The tradeoff is unpredictable, violent oversteer as the three-wheeler tends to shrug off weight displacement.
     
  9. KarenRei

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    Actually, that was most people's assumption, but when you look at the vehicle from directly overhead, you can see that it has to be that far apart to avoid having the wheels hit the nose in tight cornering. :) But having sat in an Aptera, unless you're wanting to get into a space that's *physically* too small, the width is not a problem; you can see the pods perfectly from the driver's seat, so should be able to position them to within centimeters (sadly, I never had a chance to actually *drive* one, the one I sat in didn't have a drive unit ;) ).

    In an ideal "tadpole" trike (like Aptera), the center of gravity is only slightly behind the front wheels, and the vehicle has almost the exact same resistance to overturn as 4-wheeler of the same width; when you brake, your CG is between the front wheels. This is in contrast to delta trikes (one wheel in front, two in back); the more your CG shifts forward (e.g. in braking), the more likely you are to topple, as you become increasingly balanced on the front wheel. Deltas are inherently unstable as a consequence.
     
  10. daniel

    daniel Active Member

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    FWIW, when I took my trike test in the Zap Xebra, I took turns as sharp as I could as fast as the underpowered little thing could go, and though I managed (according to a witness) to slightly lift one wheel off the ground, I never came close to tipping. The thing was effectively untippable due to the weight and low position of the batteries. And the fact that it couldn't go very fast. The thing was a p.o.s., but boy was it ever fun to drive, and it got a lot more notice than the Roadster does.
     
  11. KarenRei

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    Yeah, but "as fast as the underpowered little thing could go" isn't much. ;) Also, PbA. ;) But yes, flipping isn't that much of a concern for EVs in general.

    I can't remember the name of it, but once long ago I saw a homemade EV that some guy had made. He was convinced that it was the ultimate EV ever. It was this big pyramid-shaped tank-like thing with the overwhelming majority of its weight being lead-acid batteries, getting some crazy amount of range (I want to say it was somewhere in the 200-350 mile range), albeit only at low speed because it couldn't go very fast. I can't remember how heavy it was but I want to say something like 3-4 tonnes ;) Good thing that that guy never met the Killdozer guy ;)
     
  12. daniel

    daniel Active Member

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    There was an alternative-fuel fair, back around 2004 IIRC, and there was a guy who had an electric easy-chair-mobile. It was an actual easy chair on which he'd installed wheels and an electric drive train and some way to steer it. He drove the thing around, and it was really nice. Not street-legal, of course.

    It reminded me of the bathtubmobile in an underground comic in the early 1970's. A character named Flaky Foont or Flaky Font or something decided he never wanted to get out of the bath, and he would drive around the city streets, buck naked, in a bathtub full of soapy water. I don't remember if the propulsion system was specified.

    But the Xebra really was a fun little car. It was street legal, and for 4 years, when DIY cars were almost the only EVs you could get, it was my daily driver. With an aftermarket battery pack it had a range of 40 miles to empty, and I killed the first (deep-discharge glass-mat) battery pack, probably by discharging it too deeply on a regular basis. I drove that car until I got the Roadster.
     
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  13. KarenRei

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    #13 KarenRei, Oct 16, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
    Just wanted to followup my earlier comment about Aptera transforming from a sleek, lean vehicle under Steve Fambro to a bloated, "pregnant" thing (with unsurprisingly bad oversteer!) under Paul Wilbur.

    The Typ-1 - the first "full" Aptera:
    [​IMG]

    The 2e - the version that was just a couple months from deliveries:
    [​IMG]
    Note the rear quarter windows and the (legally mandated) side mirrors (as low of a profile as possible, of course ;) ). Also the vehicle was switched from RWD to FWD, the bottom of the skirts lifted slightly and rubberized the undersides to handle scrapes, and a number of other practical usage changes.

    Now, here's what, after a year or so under Paul, was entered into the X-Prize:
    [​IMG]

    Lucky it didn't scrape along the ground ;) Seriously, what the heck did they turn the thing into? It's like someone heard of the car only from a rough description. Basically, they paid no attention to the weight and drag coefficient, just changing whatever Paul felt a car "should" be (note for example the much larger side mirrors), etc - and because they did this, the range plunged, and so they had to increase the battery size. And because the car was designed for the size battery that it previously had, they had to "bloat out" the car to accommodate the new one, which ruined the drag coefficient even further.
     
  14. KarenRei

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    As for this vehicle... it's dead. And I get that. But I hope some day, some forward thinking company (*cough*) will be able to grow up past cars being about "S3X appeal", and manage to pick up Aptera's spirit. Because to me, the early Apteras were truly things of beauty. I adore streamlining, and seeing that "wingless aircraft"** soothes my engineering soul.

    ** Aptera: A + Ptera = Without Wings
     
  15. daniel

    daniel Active Member

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    It's really hard to compare the versions in the pictures above, because the first two are directly from the side, and the last one is angled from the back.
     
  16. KarenRei

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    I was trying to find one from the X-Prize, but didn't see any side shots. Let's try again... Ah, here we go, here's tubby from the side:

    [​IMG]

    Also, totally forgot about this:
    [​IMG]

    What a disaster they turned that thing into...
     
  17. KarenRei

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    I sometimes wonder what a proper four wheeled car that capured its spirit would be like. I kind of wonder how a four wheeled vehicle would play out where the wheels, motors and batteries were built into two streamlined "pontoons", with the car suspended between and above them. The CG would be low, the packs easy to build (not needing to match a complex body curve), you'd have great ground clearance and suspension travel on the body, etc.
     
  18. daniel

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    If you just want to capture the spirit, maybe someone could take a Lotus Elise rolling chassis and put a battery pack behind the seats and an electric motor right at the rear axle. ... Yeah, uh, that's been done.

    Four wheels are inherently more stable, and hit fewer potholes. With a three-wheel car you hit half again more potholes. (A real problem in some parts of Spokane when I was driving the Zap Xebra.) Three wheels gives you the opportunity to have that aerodynamic teardrop shape, but at the cost of inherent stability and interior space. There would probably be a market for the Aptera design, but it would be small. I'd have bought one, but only because there were no other EVs available at the time. I mean, heck, I bought the Zap Xebra and I loved it in spite of its being a complete p.o.s. But if the Aptera came out now, I wouldn't even consider it. The Model 3 will be much safer and more practical. And for me that far outweighs the potential efficiency of the teardrop.

    One of the "advantages" of three wheels for the manufacturer is the exemption from safety regulations, making it cheaper to bring to market. I think Aptera claimed it would be as safe as a regular car, but I never believed that. Aptera missed its chance now that there are affordable 4-wheel EVs available.
     
  19. KarenRei

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    I don't get this post. At all. Lotus Elise has a terrible drag coefficient (0.36). It's nothing at all like Aptera. Nor anything at all like I described as a 4-wheel possibility in the same spirit (two streamlined drive pontoons with the teardrop-shaped car suspended / elevated between them).

    Not in tadpole configuration. If the cg is between the front wheels when braking and cornering then it's just as resistant to rollover as a 4 wheeler of the same width. Deltas are prone to rollover because the CG in braking /cornering is so far from between the wheels.

    Absolutely correct however about potholes (you could have mentioned snow as well ;) )

    It's not essential, although it does help. Also reduces mass.

    You get significantly more interior space with a given CdA as a teardrop than any other form. You could criticize the vehicle for having a larger *wheelbase* for a given amount of interior room, but if your goal isn't a low footprint city car, you get by far the most interior space for a given CdA with a teardrop.

    Comparing a vehicle with nearly a decade of tech advancements and a huge design and engineering budget behind it isn't exactly fair.

    Except that they were. The roof crush strength was 4 1/2x higher than federal car standards, for example. And yes, the car was crash tested (and had been from the ground up designed like a car, with FEM software)
     
  20. daniel

    daniel Active Member

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    I was being silly. The Tesla Roadster is built on a Lotus Elise rolling chassis.

    And really, hardly anybody is going to base their buying decision on the ratio of interior space to coefficient of drag. They're going to look at interior space and overall practicality vs. price. The fact that people buy SUVs shows that the general buying public doesn't care about efficiency. And two-seat cars are a very small market segment. Aptera would have been selling to a niche market, and most of the people who would have bought one will much prefer a Model 3 or even a Nissan Leaf today.

    As I said, I'd have bought an Aptera in a heartbeat at the time. But it handicapped itself by trying to do too many things differently all at once: Electric, at a time when batteries were not even as good as they are now; two seats when few people buy two-seat cars; very unconventional style that would have appealed only to a small segment of the potential two-seat electric car market; and being a new start-up company even a lot of those people would have been hesitant.

    They were stacking everything against themselves. And I still would have bought one and I wish they had succeeded. It's always better to have more EV choices. But today, if Aptera were to suddenly return, I would buy the Model 3 instead. Admitting the superior drag of the Aptera, the Model 3 will be more practical.
     

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