If you're seeking a fast, sleek and eco-friendly car, keep your eyes on Aptera. The Aptera sports triple the efficiency of an electric core with its lightweight body and teardrop shape. With over 7,000 pre-orders, Aptera has amassed a significant investment and customer base.
However, Aptera wasn't always cruising in the fast lane — the car company went bust in 2011. But they didn't give up. Let's learn how Aptera got back on the road to reshape how we approach eco-friendly driving.
- Aptera is set to become the first mass-produced, solar-powered, three-wheeled electric vehicle. (Say that three times fast).
- Aptera's teardrop-shaped body reduces air drag. Its integrated solar panel can enable travel of up to 40+ miles per day.
- The company went bankrupt and had to close down due to financing problems in 2011.
- In February 2021, Aptera announced the closing of a $4 million financing round. The company secured over 7,000 vehicle reservations with a quarter-billion dollars in orders.
- Finally, Aptera moved into its new California-based design facility and aims to begin production and deliveries by early 2022.
How Aptera is Steering Us to a Greener and Cleaner Future
How They Started
In 2005, Aptera's co-CEO Steve Fambro grew frustrated with the horrible gas mileage and pollution all too common in California. These efficiencies were hurting our environment. Furthermore, transportation caused the most greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.
Fambro met up with Chris Anthony in San Diego. Together, they worked on a way to steer the automotive industry in a cleaner and greener direction. They were the right pair for this mission. Both gentlemen have a strong background in design that focuses on eco-friendly solutions.
Chris Anthony founded Flux Power, a lithium battery producer that helped reduce CO2 emissions in industrial markets. He also founded Epic Boats, which designed boats with environmentally friendly technologies.
Steve Fambro founded Famgro, the world's largest automated farm, which saves four million gallons of water per year. Furthermore, he is a Venture Partner of Ocean Holdings, which spearheads global and renewable projects.
Prototype Shows Promise
The pair got to work on their prototype. Comfort, drivability, and safety were among their top priorities.
They decided the interior should seat two passengers (and a pet), and it should operate on three wheels only. This would reduce overall weight, increasing efficiency. Also, the unique teardrop shape would reduce drag. The prototype achieved a whopping 300+ miles per gallon.
These results were exciting. Subsequently, Aptera started attracting interested car enthusiasts. The company began growing its fanbase and then:
- Hired over 50 employees
- Developed multiple prototypes
- Prepared a production-intent and manufacture-ready vehicle
Unfortunately, Aptera's First Round Was a Bust
After 2009, upper management decided the next move was to apply for a $400 million+ loan from the Department of Energy.
However, loan applications — especially of the government variety — can take a while. It may take multiple weeks for the agency to review the application. Then tack on a few more weeks to receive funding after approval.
The company did not anticipate that this wait would extend beyond their lifeline. Piling onto the trouble, Aptera was experiencing engineering changes which caused further delays.
The company couldn't afford to stay open and went bankrupt. Then, they refunded deposits. Finally, in 2011, they ceased operations and liquidated.
Back on the Road
Anthony and Fambro learned from this mistake. The road bumps they faced wouldn't derail the pair from establishing a new and innovative automotive brand. The pair went back to designing a safe and efficient vehicle that focused on:
- Level dynamics
- Lightweight materials
- Efficient power trains
They also relied on the help of Sarah Harwick, chief marketing officer. Hardwick was responsible for Aptera's popularity before its liquidation. This time, Hardwick would help build a loyal fanbase and deliver Aptera to the market.
Aptera Raises Millions in Private Financing
Instead of putting all their eggs in one basket, they focused on gathering early-stage private investments. No more waiting around. Instead, they would use this private financing to finalize and optimize their design. In fact, the next funding rounds would position Aptera for manufacturing.
They closed $2.8 million in seed funding in the second quarter of 2020. Then, the company created a new goal to close $25 million in Series A funding in the second quarter of 2021.
Crowdfunding Makes Investing More Accessible
They also started a Wefunder crowdfunding campaign. Crowdfunding allowed them to connect with their community while raising capital. Anthony was a strong advocate for using crowdfunding, which makes investing accessible to the everyday person.
"Too long, institutional investors, VCs [venture capitalists], and people with lots of money were able to take all the opportunity that there was for the next Googles and the next Teslas and the next Facebooks in the world," Anthony said. "Now, with these new crowdfunding options, you can invest a thousand dollars in something you're passionate about."
So far, crowdfunders had two investment options:
- Invest $1,000+: Coupon for free $100 reservation, a $100 fee goes toward the purchase.
- Invest $10,000: Same as above plus 5% discount on the final purchase price.
In short, Aptera's crowdfunding campaign was able to raise over $400,000.
Aptera Confirms Thousands in Reservations
In December 2020, Aptera Motors announced their solar electric vehicle. "The first round of 330 vehicles — special-edition models called the Paradigm and Paradigm Plus — sold out in under 24 hours," according to Business Insider.
Just one week after this announcement:
- Aptera accepted over $100 million in pre-orders.
- They also confirmed over 3,000 vehicle reservations by U.S-based and international customers.
But it doesn't stop there. In February 2021, Aptera had over 7,000 vehicle reservations totaling a quarter-billion in orders, according to Electrek.
Aptera Closes Series A Funding Round, Raised Millions
In February 2021, Aptera announced it was closing its series A round. They accumulated over $4 million in capital from private investors and crowdfunders. Munro & Associates, Inc., an engineering and manufacturing consulting firm, has been a stark supporter of Aptera and is helping them transition into the production phase.
"I'm betting on a solar future, and I'm betting on Aptera," said Sandy Munro, owner of Munro & Associates, Inc. "The industry needs more creative engineering like this to progress ahead. I'm happy to be assisting Aptera as they move into production and beyond."
They aim to deliver on pre-orders by late 2021 or early 2022.
Aptera Finally Moves Toward Production
The company worked closely with Munro & Associates to design a unique facility. In part, they needed to rethink the assembly line and enable 3D printing capabilities.
"Our manufacturing facility… will look a lot different than any other automotive manufacturing facility," said Anthony in an interview with Munro. "The robots that it takes to position big metal parts and weld them together isn't a thing at Aptera. In every aspect of this vehicle, the four main structural parts of the tub are all human-positionable. They all key together like legos, and you bond them together.
In February 2021, the company finally moved into its new production design facility in San Diego. The facility is a 60,5000 square foot campus and will house a team of development engineers. After establishing a foothold, Aptera plans to expand to production facilities around the world.
More About the Aptera Design
While the Aptera's aesthetic looks worthy of Batman's car collection, there's more to its design. In short, the design focuses on being as efficient and aerodynamic as possible.
It uses aerospace quality composites to make the design lightweight. Also, its teardrop also reduces drag as much as possible while remaining speedy and safe.
"The side-view mirrors on an F-150 pickup truck have more aerodynamic drag than the whole Aptera," said Anthony.
Combine its aerodynamic design with the low weight, and it can reach fast speeds quickly. In fact, all Aptera vehicles are capable of reaching 100 miles per hour (mph). Its speed capabilities can reach zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds with the All-Wheel Drive version.
Skin cooling method
Most vehicles use grills and radiators to suck air in and then dissipate it elsewhere within the vehicle. This is incredibly inefficient, according to Anthony and Fambro.
Aptera discards this entire system and makes the entire vehicle's surface the radiator. As air travels over the vehicle, whether at speed or rest, it also removes the heat. In fact, this skin cooling method makes these vehicles more efficient, lighter, and cheaper than most vehicles.
However, the only way to leverage the skin cool method is to have a lower-energy vehicle — exactly what Aptera delivers.
Never Charge solar package
Aptera will become the first mass-produced solar-powered electric vehicle.
"With Aptera's Never Charge technology, you are driven by the power of the sun. Our built-in solar array keeps your battery pack topped off, and anywhere you want to go, you just go," said Anthony.
Depending on your area, an Aptera can reach 40 miles a day, running on solar energy. Solar makes it fast and convenient to power your car.
"Just park in the parking lot wherever you're shopping or work or what have you. In San Diego, you could get 30 to 40 miles per day of electricity," Anthony added.
However, each area is different. The company website offers a solar calculator for the solar yield in your area.
What does Aptera mean?
Various sources report that Aptera translates into "wingless" in Greek or "guide of the road" in some Egyptian cultures. It's also possible the namers found inspiration in Aptera, one of the greatest trading cities in Crete around the 8th century BC.
How much does an Aptera cost?
The price starts at $25,900. Now, vehicles aren't available for purchase yet. However, the company is accepting pre-orders. Through the company website, you can pay a refundable fee of $100 to reserve yours.
Where is Aptera made?
Aptera established its first design factory in San Diego, California.
Can you invest in Aptera?
Aptera was accepting $1,000 investments through their Wefunder crowdfunding campaign. However, they had to close investments due to exceeding the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's funding cap. At the time, the company posted that they may open another round in April 2021.
The Bottom Line
Anthony and Fambro decided to do something about the dangerous effects energy-inefficient vehicles have on our environment. Therefore, they designed Aptera, the first mass-produced solar-powered car.
"Our brand is about: how does efficiency deliver freedom? Freedom to drive far, freedom to not have to charge every night, freedom to have an affordable vehicle that doesn't require government subsidies to be affordable. All of those things are really delivered via efficiency," said Fambro.
Now, Aptera is moving into the production phase of its operations. They may have encountered some roadblocks along the way, but we're excited to see these innovative cars hit the road.