Aptera Postpones Launch of Three-Wheel Electric Car

Aptera postpones launch and asks buyers how serious they are.

Aptera, which had planned to deliver its three-wheeled electric car to customers last month, has now postponed the production launch for almost a year.

Production models of the Aptera 2e (formerly known as Type-1), an all-electric vehicle with a range of 100 miles, were to have been delivered by the end of 2008. The company now says the first production 2e will be completed January 16, but won’t go to a retail customer. Instead, Aptera will build “a small test fleet of…enhanced vehicles,” and now expects to launch volume production in October 2009.

In a recent letter to “Aptera Family Members,” the company cited “a notable disconnect between our product plan and realistic expectations” by its customers. To resolve these issues, it “recruited a team of seasoned professionals from the automotive industry and the California tech sector.”

“We are prudently trying to plan our volume and capacity to assure we do not introduce waste … that could lead us down the unenviable path of some of our industry predecessors.”

Letter from Aptera to potential customers.

The buyer expectations came to light in a survey done a few months earlier, when the company asked its depositors how they actually expected to use the car. One of several issues: Drivers wanted to be able to use drive-through windows at fast-food outlets, which may require adding a window or hatch that opens—even at the cost of a slightly higher drag coefficient. Imagine!

Equally important, Aptera needs to know whether its fans will actually pony up the cash for the ultra-aerodynamic three-wheeler. It has offered pre-launch customers a (voluntary) “Lock-In” proposition: They agree to convert their refundable $500 deposits to firm, non-refundable commitments, in exchange for a new $250 discount. Aptera explains that it needs to forecast first year production volumes accurately—especially “in the face of this challenged economy.”

Guided tour of the Aptera 2e, formerly the Type-1. The video was produced by Aptera.

Funded by Google and IdeaLab, Aptera and the 2e have attracted favorable press and a strong online fan base. But the size of the market for an all-electric three-wheeled car with a 100-mile range—let alone one that looks like a Cessna cabin on wheels—was always debatable.

Like any car company, Aptera is now listening to its customers, and working to project actual paying demand so it knows what to order and what kind of assembly plant it needs. As the letter says, “We are prudently trying to plan our volume and capacity to assure we do not introduce waste … that could lead us down the unenviable path of some of our industry predecessors.”

Given the global economic meltdown, that seems like a smart strategy—if not the only strategy.

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  • mark baker

    Knowing how hard it is to develop a new car – and then go through type approval and all that crap – understandable that the global meltdown has slowed you guys. Ironic though – the old-school auto giants getting bailouts and you guys having to just go it alone.
    Have subscribed to your newsletter though, and I do hope to live long enough to own one of these great looking cars…will they be made available for export markets? Right hand drive options built into the design?
    Whehn it goes to production you guys SERIOUSLY need to look at a whole new way of marketing them.
    Link with someone like IKEA – design-driven but aimed at the better-off masses. Sell through high end megastores like the big IKEA in Malaysia. Service through your own network, because most of your tech isn;t old-school car tech from what I can see.
    Keep the faith people.

  • Dom

    Here’s a monumental idea – how about PARKING your Aptera 2e and WALKING into the fast food joint. If you eat that crap you need the exercise anyway.

  • Paul Beerkens

    I agree with the walking comment but there are still toll boots to consider.

  • Ron Newman

    I signed up for a car that is defining a new way of life and now it’s pandering to the fast food crowd. Sorry guys, but you are going in the wrong direction.

  • sasha

    Everyone finds out it so tough to move into real production. Tesla has been really delayed, and has only now delivered a few.. now Aptera. Although some criticized ZAP, for their delays, I bought one over 2 years ago, and I still love it. It seems they still do have one of the only production electric cars.

  • Shines

    It looks cool. How wide is that? Will it fit in one lane? I don’t know about the rear bumper… I’d hate to rear end it – poke a hole through my grill and radiator… 😉

  • stealth

    I’ve been in love with the concept of this car, its looks and function. I would have ponied up the deposit already…if it was available for sale to non-CA residents.

    When my boss found out I was interested, he mentioned he had a relative that worked there and my boss drove the prototype itself. He said it was very neat and quiet.

    GM posted an article that said the bank bailout included clauses for tax encentives to individuals who purchase electric cars so that may well be worth researching as well.

    Well, need to find a good wind turbine or solar cell to power my 2e when I get one. 🙂

    Certainly classier than any luxury car I can imagine and I could care less about drive throughs. I wouldn’t want to make a mess in the car.

  • Ross Nicholson

    Tollbooths are being replaced with tag cameras and electronic passes.

  • donemkd

    According to their email money is not at risk:

    “As always, your deposit money will remain in escrow until you move to transact the purchase of your vehicle, which is when any and all credits will be applied. Aptera is not, and has no intention of using your deposit money to fund the company.”

  • Anonymous

    I have backed this ‘car’ since its inception. I am committed to ownership. I will wait but would prefer earlier release over perfection. there will be things ‘wrong’ no matter how much research and time they devote to pre-production. However in order to justify a full on production facility they must meet the needs/desires of a large enough population to be semi profitable even in the first years of production and we are not privy to the costs this will entail. I sincerely hope they are successful because we need an all electric alternative.

  • AP

    Since this “car” has 3 wheels, it’s classified as a motorcycle, and doesn’t have to meet all the safety standards that others do; no wipers, etc. If you’re looking for a safe car (which everyone seems to be obsessed with), this isn’t it.

    This also points out that it isn’t even easy to make an electric pseudo-car work. You can’t afford to open the windows because of drag (hurting range), but the occupants must roast in that greenhouse. They’d better have lots of ventilation (oops – hurts range on electric cars) or A/C (absolutely kills range).

  • GR

    Is it just me or has hybrid news lately been a little depressing? 🙂 Hopefully this economy picks up soon because the next four years are hybrid cars’ best chance for broad success.

  • KarenRei

    AP: FYI, it has wipers (they’re recessed — it’s all about drag), and they’re *voluntarily* meeting safety standards, including airbags, crash and crush testing. And in terms of composites versus steel when it comes to safety, composites generally win easily. Also there’s full climate control inside, even a solar-powered vent fan that keeps the inside cool when you’re not in the car.

    Hmm, is there anything you wrote in your post that’s actually *correct*?

  • AP

    KarenRei: There’s a lot more to safety than materials. There needs to be crush space (which seems lacking) and room for occupants to be flung around without knocking heads. Their statement on safety (on their vague, but stylish, website) is that it is “designed to meet or exceed current commuter vehicle safety standards.” It doesn’t clarify whether that means motorcycle or car standards. The fact that they don’t say makes it appear that they mean motorcycles. If not, shame on them for not giving themselves full credit. Personally, I’d be OK with it: it’s better than being thrown off a motorcycle.

    My main point was that when you carry as little energy as a battery can store, you need to conserve every precious kW-hr of it. Running your AC in a gasoline powered car is not a big factor for range (since the engine runs more efficiently at the increased load), and the heat is free (it’s waste otherwise). In an electric car, the waste heat goes out the cooling tower at the electric power plant. I didn’t say they didn’t have AC or ventilation, which WILL significantly hurt range (range isn’t listed on their “we don’t know yet” website anyway). Having been in airplane cockpits with little ventilation on the ground, I believe I can say the passengers will roast in sunny California without moving LOTS of air, which will significantly hurt the (currently unknown) range. That is a good greenhouse effect.

    The composite materials you mention also point out the difficulties in EV’s: a very narrow vehicle with 3 wheels, little or no luggage space and room for two, made out of expensive composites, still weighs 1500+ pounds (per their incomplete website) when loaded down with all the electrical components.

    It’s going to be a while before a real car is made electric and affordable.

  • George Bolster

    I love this car! I am very interested in purchaseing one, I am an avid collector of cars and i would love to have this car to use around town untill i wear it out some and then add it to my collection of cars. I would like to know the aproximate production time frame and cost?

  • brewski

    I’m for keeping the current design. If you make all the changes potential customers want – like roll down windows for the lazy drive-thru crowd – the Aptera will soon look like every other car.

  • hsr0601

    The idea looks interesting and creative

  • TJ

    Twenty years ago Popular Science had a contest to design an efficient car around the time we had long gas lines at the gas station.
    My design was based on using a Honda Aspen (a three wheeled motor cycle with a flexing frame) and incorporating a fiberglass three wheeled design that was introduced in the magazine. I was thinking of a hybrid gas/electric with a continuos transmission. When I found the Aptera I was thrilled to see this come to reality.
    The only thing that dissappoints me is that financially I can not purchase one.

  • Byron

    I love the Aptera and have been eagerly awaiting its release for months. However, I agree with the need to make the car practical and usable.

    Fast food is not the only reason to open your windows. How about drive-up ATMs or toll booths? Although I am disapointed by the delay, I would not say that Aptera is catering to the fast food crowd, but to the real driver. I want an Aptera, but I want to be able to use it as a real car, too.

  • Anonymous

    Becoming vaporware in 3… 2…

    Really, I’m tired of car companies that do the following…

    “We’re a small car company that’s going to make an awesome car & it’ll be out by 2005… Oh, we meant Summer 2006… You know, can you hold on until late Winter 2006?… Actually, we need to work out the bugs so why not just come back in Fall 2007… Winter 2007… By Winter 2007, we really meant Summer 2008… We’re re-positioning our strategic assets to maximize our core efficiencies which means Fall 2009…”

    This is why I haven’t bothered even looking for a new car within the past decade. Wake me when a tangible product can actually be purchased.

  • alibaba

    Idealab is a company that has been very poor at turning ideas into salable hardware. They have been very poor at treating investors fairly. Frankly, I would be very surprised if they ever produce any electric car, ever.


  • Eric

    Or if you get pulled over by a cop; what do you do? Open the door?

  • graham07

    good point…I’ve heard enough horror stories about crooks imitating cops, no way I’m opening my door for anybody. and you know, drag aside, I like to open the windows now and then for a little fresh air and sunshine on a slow drive =)

  • Bill G.

    With the wide stance at the front, the distance from the curb to the driver’s window appears to be a foot or more. Even if the side wndow opened, how would the driver ever reach the drive-thru window, the ATM, or the toll booth? Plus it sits so low, making the reach even worse.

  • TimmyBim

    You should all be reading the latest news. If you haven’t already, listen to the EVcast (Episode #136) interview with Steve Fambro and his associate. He gives a much clearer perspective on where Aptera lies in the EV market, as well as production deadlines & etc.

    Oh, and btw, just a quick message to the editor of this article:

    You’re obviously not an EV enthusiast. Lemme guess: You like the Tesla Roadster over the Aptera 2e? Here’s a wake-up call: The Roadster costs more than 100,000 clams, and for that price, you don’t even OWN the batteries (which are inferior to Apteras, btw) you LEASE them. But you get to drive fast and trash the planet. woopie! As for there NOT being much appeal for a ‘cessna’ car, have you even READ the forums, or subscribed to Aptera’s newsletter?

    If you had, you’d already know that the Aptera 2e has more safety features than a formula 1 racecar. And since it’s built out of composites, it’s MUCH stronger than your precious Tesla Roadster. There are also HUGE rumors that Aptera’s 2e model is a shoe-in to win the Automotive X prize.

    Sooo… what you’re saying, as an educated writer, is that although the Aptera 2e combines affordability with high efficiency and superior design, you don’t think it’ll sell because you think it should look like most other box-type cars that waste half their energy pushing air out of the way, am I right? Wow. You should be fired to make way for more innovative, forward thinking minds.

    GREAT job, Aptera! Keep up the good work!

  • Rebuttle

    It’s a good thing it’s not called ‘Idealab motors, Inc’ then, isn’t it? HELLO McFLY!!!

  • TimmyBim post #2

    I think it’s unfortunate that many of the posts in response to this article are basing their comments on the article itself. Actually, this is one of the LEAST-informed articles I’ve ever read on the Aptera 2e. Check out the RSS feeds on Aptera’s website. you’ll find dozens of more informative articles with less personal bias. Join an Aptera forum as well. Definitely listen to the latest EVcast episode of the Aptera 2e (episode #136). You can subscribe to this podcast through iTunes, or just listen to it on EVcast’s website. Better to get your news straight from the source, rather than an obviously biased article such as this.

  • TimmyBim post #3

    AP: It’s obvious from your previous posts/rebuttals, that: a) You have a somewhat-working knowledge of EV components and are proud of it, and b) You haven’t been studying Aptera Motors, Inc for very long. Unfortunately, this places you in the category of mildly-educated skeptic. You have just enough information to get it wrong. Please, please, please stop touting your “knowledge” and study Aptera’s business model, product, investment partners, production schedule, materials & etc before making another post!! I’m no expert on EV’s but I can safely say that out of the 20+ EV’s I’ve studied (at great length), Aptera’s 2e has far surpassed all of them in affordability, usability, efficiency, safety and design.

  • AP

    TimmyBim: Your saying that the Aptera is the best EV is damning it with faint praise. It’s like being the best player on the Detroit Lions. Even consulting companies who are in favor of electric cars project that they won’t be viable any time soon.

    Aptera may have the best business plan in the world, but that won’t change the fact that battery technology has a long way to go. You can only push the car as far as you have energy to do it with. You don’t even need a “mild” or “somewhat working level” understanding of electric motors to figure this out: all you need is a knowledge of physics!

    If I’m proven wrong, and someone suddenly comes out with a breakthrough in batteries that makes it unnecessary to have a narrow cockpit with no room for luggage or passengers, fine, but after hearing of one “breakthrough” after another for the last 30 years, one becomes a bit skeptical.

    Ask yourself one question: if the Aptera were gasoline powered, and therefore much lighter, wouldn’t it get awesome mileage? But most people would say, “yeah, but it’s not a real car.” So I’m waiting for the day when a practical EV can compete in overall cost, room, and features with a “dinosaur” with an ICE. I’m afraid it will be a long time.

  • Bill Talbot

    You’ve been stalling for months which turns into years, with one excuse after another, get with the program and start production!

  • mohammed mostafizur rahman

    pless send your 3-wheeler marketing plan report

  • Bob in Fairfax

    I’ve been following this company and it’s development process for 2 years or so and while I am very interested in the products they are still “Vaporware” in my book. They look great, the efficiency sounds like it’s awesome and the price is even supposed to be within range of the average buyer. BUT you still can’t buy one and they are not releasing any hard or soft dates for availability on the east coast. So while all the talk is nice and they have demonstrated great prowess in pumping and riding the hype delivery is illusive.

    Sure you can put down $500 for a reservation (when the sire is working correctly) but that still won’t get you a car you can drive or even a promise of when you will. So continue to hold out and hope they actually make it to market OR go with another manufacturer? I’ve been waiting over 2 years just to hear when they will be selling on the east coast and so far ZIPPO.

    I used to own a Prius and I’m seriously giving them another look but I’d rather buy an Aptera. Patience is a good thing, but too much of it goes NOWHERE.
    Bob in Fairfax, Va