This was reported by USA Today and is followed by a report on a test “Ride Along” From the LA Times.
By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
CARLSBAD, Calif. — Bored working as an engineer for a biotech company,
Steve Fambro began to dream of a better way to get to work.
Why not design a fuel-efficient car that would allow a single drive
r onto California’s car-pool lanes?
YOUR OPINION: Would you buy one of these? Why or why not?
“Most people thought I was crazy,” Fambro recalls.
Some might still wonder when they see what emerged: a futuristic
commuter car powered by electricity with a skin of epoxy resin,
not sheet metal. And perhaps oddest, it has three wheels, not four.
The Aptera, with a range of 190 miles between charges,
is intended to sell for around $30,000.
It’s an example of how high gas prices are encouraging
entrepreneurs to give the car business a try. From electric
high-performance roadsters to low-speed runabouts,
start-ups are trying to take advantage of interest in
Aptera is being developed in a tidy industrial park here,
a few miles north of San Diego. CEO Fambro, 41, and COO
Chris Anthony, 31, a former stockbroker who also runs a
boat-making shop, have about 15 employees so far,
mostly fabricators and engineers.
At present, Aptera has one working prototype of its electric car.
A hybrid gas-electric version is being built. Production is
scheduled for later this year.
Fambro says about 400 potential buyers have slapped d
own a $500 refundable reservation to get in line. Having
received its start with an investment from company start-up
incubator Idealab, Aptera is currently looking for another
round of financing. Anthony, who spends most of his time on
investment matters, says he has attracted interest.
They are drawn by the unique design.
The prototype features high-tech touches such as rear and
side cameras instead of rear-view side mirrors to further r
educe wind drag. There’s a solar panel on the roof to
provide a bit of extra power.
Making the car out of laminates slashes its weight to about
1,500 pounds, making it potentially one of the lightest cars
on the road. Less weight means longer range. The company
also hopes to use off-the-shelf lithium phosphate batteries
that are proven and safe, Fambro says.
Even though there is a lot of work left to be done, Aptera
has an advantage when it comes to development time. The
three-wheel design — two in front, one in back — means the
resulting vehicle will be classed as a motorcycle in many states,
including California. The testing and red tape required to market
a motorcycle is less rigorous than for a four-wheel car. “It allows
us to leapfrog into the market,” Fambro says.
What Follows is a drive along by LA Times Susan Carpenter
The result is a future-is-now vehicle that’s spacious, stylish, comfortable, eco-conscious, high-tech and so unusual looking that at one point during my time with the Typ-1, all the cars and pedestrians within a one-block radius were staring and/or snapping pictures.
Because the Typ-1 is a prototype, I wasn’t able to drive it myself, but I did take a ride in the passenger seat. I just opened the DeLorean-type door, slid into the mod, green-and-white interior, closed the door behind me and strapped on my seat belt. Aptera Chief Executive and co-founder Steve Fambro turned the key to fire up the electric motor, pressed the pedal with the plus sign on the floor to accelerate, and we were off.
According to Fambro, the Typ-1 is capable of 80 mph and could travel up to 70 miles on a single charge while sustaining that speed, but he never took it up that fast and we didn’t travel anywhere near that far as we cruised SoCal suburbia. The fastest we went was probably 45 mph, at which it felt stable. Taking corners, we went even slower, so I couldn’t tell how it handled, but Fambro says the Typ-1 has been “designed for natural stability” and incorporates a traction control system that, in theory, can handle a 1G circle on par with a Honda Civic.
Riding in the Typ-1 is sort of like being in a high-tech fishbowl. There’s incredible visibility from all sides except the back, which is equipped with a rear-view camera that displays whatever’s happening behind the vehicle on a trio of computer screens.
The center of each of those three screens also displays the vehicle’s speed, voltage and power, while a touch screen at the center of the dash controls the navigation system, stereo and other gauges, such as the odometer and temperature reading.
The Typ-1 is unusual for any number of reasons, the most notable being the body. Its water-worthy shape is formed from high-tech fiberglass that isn’t just lighter than steel but 10 times stronger, according to Fambro. The Typ-1 has yet to be crash tested, but Fambro says the crumple zone on the Typ-1 is longer than that of a typical car, and the crush strength of the roof and side doors is stronger than what’s been mandated for a regular passenger vehicle.