Aptera 3-wheeler closer to production thanks to successful crowfunding

Does anyone remember Aptera Motors? The California company showed a three-wheeled electric vehicle for the first time in 2006. In the 18 years up to now, a rollercoaster corporate ride included bankruptcies and changes of ownership that, in 2019, saw co-founders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony take over the company again. Over that time, we’ve been treated to several powertrain variations on the three-wheeler, the latest unveiled as a general concept in 2020, the final product debuting early last year. That was a battery-electric trike with composite bodywork covered in 700 watts worth of solar panels; the panels could power a 40-mile range per day in ideal conditions, the batteries good for an estimated 400-mile range. The three motors in the wheels were said to get the car to 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds and up to 101 mph. The simple cockpit could have come from a very small Tesla, the 32-cubic feet of storage in the hatch from a large Tesla. The problem, however, was the same as in 2011, the year of the company’s first liquidation: Aptera needed money to bring it to market.  

So the founders launched an Accelerator Program that was, effectively, a new Kickstarter campaign seeking from $20 million to $50 million. That turned into a reservation program for 2,000 Launch Edition Apteras with a $10,000 deposit required, complete with perks like a book about the design and production process, and an Aptera Accelerator jacket for those who threw in $15,000. Because this was a new promotion for a new car, previous investments — contributing to more than $100 million raised in the past — wouldn’t count toward this campaign; someone had to invest a new $10,000 to get a reservation. After that, though, all of a contributor’s previous investments were included. One such investor from Maryland put in $10,500 to get to the head of the latest queue for Aptera #1, and has put more than $1 million into the company in total. 

The campaign took a year to complete, Aptera cheering success with 2,040 people investing nearly $34 million. The sum gets the company into pre-production and validation testing, and it unlocks a $21.9 million grant from California’s Solar Mobility Manufacturing Project. The grant is contingent upon Aptera buying $21.9 million in production equipment to build the car in the state, after which the California Energy Commission will reimburse Aptera. The company says it’s 60% of the way on equipment purchases, production expected to be 12 months away.

Of course, with this kind of saga, 12 months away could mean anything, including coming to nothing. The company’s been open about needing more money after pre-production to get to scale manufacturing of retail vehicles, $50 million being the anticipated figure. If Aptera can show a production-intent vehicle that’s can do what’s been claimed, the outfit’s staying power and 46,000 reservations would indicate nothing is out of the question when it comes to raising funds. Until then, for anyone curious about progress, Steve Fambrough uploaded a video update this week with details on the coming app, the batteries, the production process, and hinted at vehicle changes to ease the transition to reality.  

Anyone interested in a non-Launch Edition Aptera is welcome to reserve one at the site or just play with the configurator, prices starting at $25,900.

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