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Plugging a gap
A small US firm hopes its electric car will succeed
three-wheeled design, Aptera was
excluded from participation in a
where many automotive manufacturers have failed
Department of Energy programme
that extends low-interest loans to
manufacturers of fuel efficient cars.
housands of kilometres west of Like Tesla Motors, Fisker Auto- Aptera will begin shipping its all- Disappointed company officials
Detroit, a California start-up motive and ZAP, Aptera is one of a electric vehicles to customers in said they were producing exactly
hopes to find a market for a handful of young, West Coast- the fourth quarter of this year. the kind of car President Barack
three-wheeled, ultra-efficient, based companies making cars The electric version has a 160km Obama advocated.
downright odd-looking car among that, unlike the sport utility range per charge and can be “This is Obama’s poster car for
consumers sick of spending their vehicles that have been integral to recharged by plugging into a everything he is talking about,”
hard-earned cash at the petrol pump. the US auto market in recent regular electric outlet. Wilbur said. “We are the most
The Aptera is an egg-shaped two- years, save gasoline and global The company plans to make about efficient vehicle in the world.
seater often likened to a space-age warming emissions. 10,000 cars a year initially, Sometimes it’s good to be
car from the futuristic 1960s Automakers, however, have a track increasing to 100,000 in the next innovative but in this case it’s bad
cartoon ‘The Jetsons’. record of overpromising and few years. Ultimately, it will employ to be innovative.”
Looking more like an aircraft than a underdelivering when it comes to several thousand people at its Aptera aims to have fulfiled its first
road vehicle, it is a far cry from the new technology. facility just north of San Diego, 4,000 orders by the middle of next
hybrid sedans and electric sports Tesla, for instance, ran into a series Wilbur said. year, Wilbur said. Its first customers
cars being produced by of cost overruns and delays rolling Consumer research Aptera are mainly tech-savvy, educated,
conventional automakers. out its electric Roadster. General performed at the end of last year affluent men who will use the
Riding in the all-electric version of Motors Corp, meanwhile has said led the company to believe it will be Aptera as a second or third vehicle.
the Aptera feels similar to a regular that its highly-anticipated Volt plug- able to sell many more cars than it
car, although its roof-attached in will be a low-volume money- originally thought.
doors make getting in and out a loser when it comes to market in “We walked in with one mentality
challenge. Its long shape provides late 2010. about our what our volume
extra leg room and the car runs Fuel efficiency is harder to sell than estimates might be, and quite
with a tinny, high-pitched hum. it was last summer when fuel prices frankly were very happy and
To the executives behind the hit records. surprised and even a little
vehicle, its aerodynamic design and As petrol prices have fallen, so have overwhelmed by how positive the
42 kilometre-per-litre range points sales of premium-priced fuel reaction was,” Wilbur said.
the way to the future. And, with efficient cars such as Toyota Motor To fund the production rampup,
4,000 customer orders already, they Corp’s Prius hybrid. Aptera is actively seeking new
believe they have the early following Aptera’s makers are still shopping investors. The company’s early
to back up that confidence. the car as a money saver despite an investors include company
“We have a breakthrough level of initial price tag of between $25,000 incubator Idealab, Google Inc’s
energy efficiency which really and $40,000, depending on whether philanthropic arm and Esenjay
means you are going to save so buyers want an electric, hybrid or Petroleum, and Wilbur said the
much money on operating costs,” traditional powertrain. company has more than enough
said Aptera chief executive Paul “It doesn’t matter if gasoline is $2 or money to meet its fourth-quarter
Wilbur at the company’s $4 a gallon, you are still going to be production target.
headquarters and vehicle assembly buying a lot less when you buy our But the US federal government
facility in Vista, California. vehicle,” Wilbur said. declined to invest. Because of its PIT STOP: Thousands of Apteras could be on the roads by next year
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