Aptera closes its doors

Would-be American electric and extended-range electric vehicle manufacturer, Aptera, ended the week saying it has ceased operations and will liquidate after failing to raise sufficient capital.

Company CEO Paul Wilbur said Aptera had gotten so far as to receive conditional approval for a U.S. Energy Department loan for $150 million, but additional attempts to gain more fell through.

Wilbur, a former Chrysler brand manager and CEO of ASC Inc., said plans wavered for its first vehicle, a mid-sized electric sedan, because in his view the EV investment market is wavering.

“A couple years ago, there were a lot of people who thought the automotive industry is easy,” Wilbur said. “It isn’t.”

Wilbur said venture capital firms had initially led Aptera to believe they’d be willing to ante up funds if the federal government did first.

Although the government did what they asked, investors balked when it became apparent launching EVs can be more difficult than first anticipated, he said.

An American company

Like Fisker and Tesla, Aptera had positioned itself in California and aimed to build in the states – and the company intended to source 90 percent from domestic suppliers.

The Carlsbad-based startup was also discussing an agreement with GM that would allow it to use a former GM assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, Wilbur said.

The first model – the aerodynamic and lightweight electric sedan – was to have an all-composite body, deliver 130 miles range, return as high as 190 miles per gallon equivalent, and its airplane-without-wings look definitely caught people’s attention.

An Aptera model had been a finalist in the competition for the Progressive Insurance X-Prize, and the company had attracted a fair amount of press, including a 2007 feature by Popular Mechanics, and a less optimistic portrayal by this publication.

The company had initially hoped to have vehicles in production in 2009, but those dreams were tempered by delays. Even back then HybridCars.com noted Wilbur’s earlier takeover after ousting company founders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony over disputes about the company’s direction, and observed Aptera’s future looked rocky indeed.

According to the company’s far more bright-sounding marketing copy on its Web site, other vehicles to follow, would cost from the high-$20,000s to mid-$40,000s.Planned powertrain options included extended-range electric and the company said it was pleased to design, engineer and manufacture in the U.S.A.

“Aptera embraces this American spirit through our Efficient Vehicle Design Formula,” Aptera wrote on its Web site. “It brings the practical notion of low energy consumption inline with the passion to drive and the freedom to go when and where we want. The result is a full complement of ultra-efficient passenger vehicles.”

Aptera had about 30 employees, and Wilbur said they have been let go. On the company’s Web site home page is a note thanking suppliers and supporters of the company’s efforts over the past five years.

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  • Chris Denny

    Betting reviews weren’t too hot, looks like the car that the man with the Golden Gun had in the James Bond film, and that was way back in the 1970’s. Hard times for the automobile industry in dubious economic climate.

    Shame the VC firms pulled the plug also.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    It’s a decent 2nd car for enthusiasts who live in warm weather climates and have money to spend. Jay Leno…I’m talking about you.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    It’s best moment was being in the last Star Trek movie for a few seconds….


  • Joe

    Thank God, it did not turn into another Solandra!

  • curious

    what happens to the people that put the small deposit down on it over these past 3 or 4 years? Do they get it back, or are they out of luck?

  • Jon Randall

    I weep for our nation. There was a time that ‘America’ meant innovation and vision. America’s big three automakers have enjoyed decades of government support in the form of tax incentives, favorable legislation, and more recently, bailouts. Though the bailouts netted a multi-billion $ profit for our nation’s treasury, clearly it’s not the sort of business America should favor. Modest tax derived investment in advanced auto technology can only make America more competitive and stronger in the coming decades. Small companies are critical to R&D efforts in this nation. Large companies are not as culturally nimble. The DOD’s SBIR/Technology Transfer program is one of the most profitable and successful government funded R&D programs ever conceived. Over 20,000 U.S. companies participate in the program. I work for an SBIR company that is over 20 years old and employs over 100 R&D professionals. Recently the government increased the SBIR ‘set-aside’ funding to strengthen technology R&D. We were excited to learn that $35 billion had been set aside from the government revenues to grow advanced auto technology. We were thrilled that the US government was trying to reverse decades of favoritism (picking the three winners, so to speak), but Congress is weak and folded under lobbyist pressure. Too bad for America. It seems our brighter future has been pushed back a few decades, again. Sigh.

  • tapra2

    The Carlsbad-based startup was also discussing an agreement with GM that would allow it to use a former GM assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, Wilbur said.Top Windows Hosting