Nov. 3, 2010 at 4:03pmGREEN: First Drive: Aptera 2E

The rest of this article can be viewed on the Automobile blog:

Every now and then something weird and wonderful comes our way. The Aptera 2E scores over the top in weirdness and, assuming a number of ifs can be fulfilled, it has the potential to be a wonderful alternative to humdrum automobiles.


The five-year-old enterprise attempting to raise funds to put this concoction in production began with a brainstorm. While stuck in southern California traffic, founder Steve Fambro dreamed of a car that could whisk around the normal clog in the high-efficiency lane. Collaborating with veteran boat builder Chris Anthony, Fambro set Aptera's wheels -- only three of them -- in motion with an emphasis on building and eventually selling something very out of the ordinary.

Over the years, this Oceanside, California, firm has matured and had the good sense to summon help from Detroit. Engineers, marketing brains, and management experts who joined the company have helped drum up exposure and interest from investors. One prototype scored well in the Progressive Insurance X-Prize efficiency competition which ended this summer.

The show car that appeared one sunny afternoon for a quick visit at Automobile has most of the latest engineering advancements and control system algorithms. The point of the three wheels is to save weight and to enable an ultra-low-aerodynamic-drag body. With a claimed drag coefficient of 0.15, modest frontal area, a target weight of 2225 pounds, and roughly 25-percent less friction than a 4-wheel car, efficiency in the hundreds of equivalent mpg is within reach. Note the word equivalent here. That's because the e in the Aptera's 2e name stands for electric. In other words, this is another soldier in the growing platoon of future cars that draws its energy from the electrical power grid.

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