Aptera Motors

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Aptera Motors, Inc.
Private company
FounderSteven P. Fambro
Chris L. Anthony
HeadquartersCarlsbad, California, United States
Area served
California, USA
Key people
Paul Wilbur (CEO)
Marques McCammon (CMO)
Tom Reichenbach, Chief Eng.
ProductsAptera 2e

Aptera Motors was an American startup company seeking to manufacture high-efficiency road vehicles. Formerly known as Accelerated Composites, the company was based in Carlsbad, California. It was founded in 2006 and was liquidated in 2011. In 2012 the company's intellectual property was bought by a Chinese auto manufacturer in mid-2012 which set up two companies: Zaptera USA to build electric cars, and Aptera USA which would build gasoline-powered cars.

Aptera’s intended first product was a three-wheeled two-seater named the Aptera 2 Series.[1] The fuel efficiency of 300 mpg‑US (0.78 L/100 km) when plugged in every 120 miles (190 km) would have made it one of the most fuel-efficient cars in the world. This is without accounting for any fuel used for generating the power that charges the batteries. If that is provided for, the equation could stand significantly altered, depending on the source of the energy.[2][3]


The company was founded by Steve Fambro in 2006 with $100,000 of his own money and was originally called "Applied Composites"; Fambro had formerly worked at Illumina as an electrical engineer. Fambro hired Chris Anthony to be the COO shortly after founding the company.[4]

In 2006, the company said it had a three-wheeled car design that would get an estimated 330 miles per US gallon (0.71 L/100 km) at 65 mph (105 km/h) and in March 2007 it showed a prototype called the typ-1 at the TED Conference.[5] By that time the typ-1 had been classified as a motorcycle.[4] By that time the company had changed its name to Aptera,[5] which is Greek for “wingless,” a nod to their light-aircraft-inspired design and construction techniques,[6] and is correctly pluralized either as 'Apterae' or ‘Apteras.’ However, Aptera Motors maintains that Aptera translates to “wingless flight.”Later that year Aptera signed up to participate in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize.[7] It planned to offer an all-electric vehicle and a hybrid.[4]

In 2008, Aptera hired several industry veterans to oversee engineering and production as well as marketing, and raised $24 million from Google, Idealab, Esenjay, the Simons family and the Beall Family Trust. When the company announced the funding, it said it would start to sell its car by the end of the year.[8] Near the end of year it hired Paul Wilbur as CEO, and Fambro stepped down as CEO and assumed the title of Chief Technical Officer. This led some to speculate that Fambro would be ousted, as had happened to Martin Eberhard of Tesla Motors and Daniel Riegert of Phoenix Motorcars.[9] Shortly after Wilbur joined the company, it announced that the launch of the car would be delayed until 2009.[8] By that time it was calling the "typ-1" the "2e".[8]

In March 2009, the U.S. government denied loans to Aptera Motors under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, due to wording that limited loans to four-wheeled vehicle research and production.[10] After successfully lobbying to change the regulations, in October 2009 the company reapplied for a $184 million loan.[11][12] In November 2009 the company laid off employees and both Fambro and Anthony left the company.[13][8]

The automotive X-prize competition was held in 2010 and Aptera's car entered but didn't finish the 50 lap trial, as its car overheated after 30 laps.[14]

In August 12, 2011, Aptera started to return deposits from customers.[15] and in December 2011 it announced that it was going out of business because it was running out of money; it said that the Department of Energy had offered it a $150 million low interest loan conditioned on the company raising the same amount from the private sector, and the company was not able to raise the matching funds. A New York Times reporter contacted the DoE, which said that it had not committed to loaning the company any money.[16] By that time the company had abandoned the three-wheeled model and was working on a midsized four-wheeled, four door sedan.[16] Also by the time, 60,000 people had expressed interest to the company in buying a 2e, and 2,000 of them had paid a $500 deposit.[17]

In April 2012, the Chinese automaker Zhejiang Jonway Group purchased the intellectual property of Aptera from creditors, and in May it announced that it would start manufacturing the 2e at its factory in Shanghai and intended to ship chassis to a small assembly plant, initially employing 15-20 people, that it would set up in Santa Rosa, with sales commencing in early 2013. Jonway was a major investor in Zap Jonway, which had been working on electric cars in Santa Rose since the mid-1990s. The company originally was going to name the US company "Zaptera USA" and it displayed a prototype 2e next to a Zap Jonway car at the Beijing Motor Show; the close association with Zap was met with protest by electric car enthusiasts and by May the company said it would call the company Aptera USA and would keep it separate from Zap Jonway.[17]

In June 2013, Zaptera USA said it would split into two companies: the existing Jonway-owned Zaptera USA, and an independent Aptera USA; Zaptera would make the all-electric 2e and Aptera would make a gasoline-powered version called the 2g.[18]

Planned production vehicles[edit]

Aptera 2 Series[edit]

Aptera Typ-1

The Aptera 2 Series was a two-seat, three-wheeled passenger vehicle. It was planned to be available in both all-electric (2e) and series hybrid (2h) configurations, at prices ranging from mid-twenty to mid-forty thousand dollars.[19] By mid-2008, aerodynamic optimization using simulations and light-weight composite construction yielded a prototype which allegedly consumed only 80 Wh/mi (watt hours per mile) (50 Wh/km) at 55 mph (89 km/h), less than half the energy needed to propel the EV1 or the Tesla.[20] The April 14, 2010 press release revised the design intent vehicle efficiency estimate to about 200 Wh/mi (125 Wh/km), 100-mile (160 km) range from a full 20 kWh battery pack, or around 200 mpg‑US (1.2 L/100 km) equivalent.[12] On the hybrid vehicle, it led to projections of 130 miles per US gallon (1.8 L/100 km) on gasoline alone, or 300 mpg‑US (0.78 L/100 km) if plugged in every 120 miles (190 km). Since then, the vehicle underwent a series of redesigns, including the addition of side mirrors and expansion of the interior space, however, retaining its three-wheel configuration and its aerodynamic teardrop shape. At the Automotive X-Prize, the entered prototype had a tested efficiency of 200 MPGe.

Aptera Motors emphasized that safety was not traded off for efficiency, citing crash test simulations and component crush testing[21] as indicating excellent survivability–on par with more conventional vehicles. The company folded before real-world crash test results were made.

The Aptera 2 Series featured optional roof-mounted solar panels for running a heat pump, always-on climate control, and keyless ignition and entry. An in-car touch screen computer served as entertainment, navigation, and communication system. Side mirrors replaced rear-view cameras on the final prototypes, though one center-mounted camera remained.[22]

Historic vehicles[edit]

Aptera Motors' vehicle design has undergone several design revisions, summarized here. These vehicles are not intended for production, but are presented for completeness and to avoid confusion with earlier, outdated designs.

Aptera Mk-0
ManufacturerAptera Motors, Inc.
Productionno (technology demonstrator)
AssemblyUnited States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door three-wheeled car
EngineDiesel: 9 kW (12 hp)
Electric: 19 kW (25 hp)
Wheelbase1,625 mm (64 in)
Length4,394 mm (173 in)
Curb weight386 kg (851 lb)
Predecessorunnamed homebuilt prototype
SuccessorAptera 2e

Initial design & rendering[edit]

Aptera’s introductory press release claimed their design would achieve 330 mpg, and included computer renderings of the proposed vehicle. The body shape was initially estimated to have a drag coefficient of Cd=0.055 to 0.06, and would have sported a 12 horsepower (9 kW) diesel engine and a 24 horsepower (18 kW) permanent magnet DC motor. The design also called for a CVT and ultracapacitors, and sell for under US$20,000.[23]

Aptera Mk-0[edit]

The Mk-0 technology demonstration vehicle was built to confirm the effectiveness of the design, and in the words of co-founder Chris Anthony, “just to show people that we weren't full of crap.”[24] Due to its higher than expected drag coefficient of 0.11, it only achieved 230 mpg‑US (1.0 L/100 km) at 55 mph (89 km/h). The target price was unchanged at “around $20,000.”

Aptera Typ-1 / Aptera Mk-1[edit]

In September 2007, the Aptera Motors website was updated with information on the new Aptera design (dubbed the Aptera Typ-1), and the Mk-1 pre-production prototype was unveiled. The Mk-0 prototype was redesigned by Jason Hill, who worked on the Smart Fortwo and Porsche Carrera GT and engineered by Nathan Armstrong,[25] with a finished interior and new body styling. At this time, Aptera Motors started to take reservations from residents of California for its pilot models – then called the Typ-1e and Typ-1h.[26] A gasoline engine was used, due to the way diesel emissions are calculated.[27]

In February 2008, the Mk-1 was featured in an advertisement for Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.[28]

The Aptera Typ-1 design was superseded by the Aptera 2e. Differences included front-wheel drive, the addition of side-view mirrors, a redesigned interior, and consolidating the rear-view cameras into a wide-angle “fin” on the roof.[29][30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baker, Billy (September 1, 2006). "The Race to 100 MPG". Popular Science. Retrieved November 22, 2007.
  2. ^ Palm, Erik (May 1, 2009). "Study: Electric cars not as green as you think". CNET Networks. Retrieved May 4, 2009.
  3. ^ "Wheel to Well Analysis of EVs" (PDF). MIT Electric Vehicle Team. MIT. April 2008. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Bradley, Fikes (September 25, 2007). "Prototype gets 300 mpg, company says, qualifies for car-pool lane". North County Times. Archived from the original on June 8, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Melanson, Donald (March 14, 2007). "Aptera takes wraps off 200 MPG prototype car". Engadget.
  6. ^ "Aptera's 3-wheeler looks as if it could soar". San Francisco Chronicle. April 16, 2008. Retrieved August 2, 2008.
  7. ^ "Automotive X PRIZE Announces First 30+ Teams in Multimillion Dollar Competition for 100 MPGe Vehicles". Automotive X Prize. August 1, 2007. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d Wert, Ray (November 16, 2009). "Aptera Founders Ousted in Boardroom Showdown". Jalopnik.
  9. ^ Bensinger, Ken (September 3, 2008). "Aptera's Management Mystery". LA Times Blog. Archived from the original on September 15, 2008.
  10. ^ Squatriglia, Chuck (March 11, 2009). "Tri, Tri Again for Aptera 3-Wheeler Loan From Feds | Autopia". Wired. Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
  11. ^ Korzeniewski, Jeremy (October 30, 2009). "Aptera officially resubmits application for DOE loan – Autoblog Green". Green.autoblog.com. Retrieved September 6, 2010.
  12. ^ a b "April 14 Press Release". April 14, 2010. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2010.
  13. ^ Siry, Darryl (November 15, 2009). "Aptera Founders Ousted in Boardroom Showdown". Wired.
  14. ^ "Automotive X Prize: Why some teams failed". Consumer Reports News. September 23, 2010.
  15. ^ John Voelcker (August 13, 2011). "Futuristic Electric-Car Dream Dead? Aptera To Refund Deposits". Green Car Reports. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  16. ^ a b Jim Motavalli (December 2, 2011). "Unable to Raise Financing, Aptera Shuts Down". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  17. ^ a b Jeff Quackenbush (May 7, 2012). "Santa Rosa said to be home for reborn Aptera electric roadster". North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  18. ^ Coxworth, Ben (June 10, 2013). "New company set to resurrect the Aptera automobile". New Atlas.
  19. ^ Aptera FAQ's Archived May 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 12/30/2008
  20. ^ Kates, David (March 4, 2008). "YouTube – Aptera CEO Steve Fambro". AlternativeEnergy.com. Retrieved March 31, 2008.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 10, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ Newsletter 11/19/08 Archived January 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "330 MPG! Aptera Hybrid Promises Amazing Mileage for Less Than $20,000". Edmunds.com. January 20, 2006. Archived from the original on October 10, 2006. Retrieved November 22, 2007.
  24. ^ "An Aptera guided tour: the factory". Aptera Motors. April 30, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
  25. ^ Eric, Hagerman (December 20, 2007). "1 Gallon of Gas, 100 Miles – $10 Million: The Race to Build the Supergreen Car". Wired Magazine. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved April 1, 2008.
  26. ^ Ackerman, Evan (September 28, 2007). "OhGizmo! » Archive » Aptera Electric/Hybrid Car On Pre-Order for $500". OhGizmo!. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
  27. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Aptera Motors. Archived from the original on January 11, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2008.
  28. ^ "YouTube – Change Rolls Into Town". Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. March 6, 2008. Retrieved July 4, 2008.
  29. ^ "Aptera Newsletter 11/19/2008". Aptera Motors. November 19, 2008. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
  30. ^ "Aptera Newsletter 1]2/19/2008". Aptera Motors. December 19, 2008. Archived from the original on December 27, 2008. Retrieved December 26, 2008.

External links[edit]