• Oct 2, 2007

If you read our previous update regarding the Aptera, you already know that the company is now taking deposits on their futuristic three-wheeled machine. I was able to get in contact with Steve Fambro, the man behind the Aptera, and I'll share some design and technical details in this post. With production of the Aptera expected to start in October, there are still some details that must remain confidential. But, the good news is that you are likely to get more information here than you've gotten anywhere else up to this point. Steve believes that aerodynamics will start to shape our vehicles in the future much more than they do now. Many who see the Aptera believe it looks much like an airplane, and this is no coincidence -- it's because the shape has been honed by the wind. So, in a way, Steve believes that the introduction of the Aptera marks a jump into the future of automotive design in more ways than just the alternative powertrain.

For the details on this exciting alternative to your mainstream automotive market, click past the break!

Regarding the powertrain, expect to see a hybrid model sporting a diesel engine to go along with the electric motor. When considering the fuel mileage of this particular vehicle, consumers will need to change their assumptions on what a car is capable of. When the machine is first underway, all power will be provided by the batteries which received their charge from a standard home outlet. Therefore, for many, no gasoline will be used at all on an average day's drive. If your travel plans require a longer trip, that's OK too because the diesel engine will kick in to charge the batteries and give you the power you need to keep traveling.

Moving on to the design of the vehicle, both the interior and exterior were not just shaped for aerodynamics, although that was of paramount importance. The Aptera team brought on Jason Hill with eleven design ELEVEN, LLC, and Nathan Armstrong, an engineer, to work with Aptera's team of aerodynamicists and engineers. Together, their goal was to make the vehicle a good place to spend time in, not a "penalty box" that you felt forced to drive. Take a look at all of the pictures of the interior and exterior and let us know if you think they met their goal (Hint: they did).

Safety was going to take priority over all else in the design, according to Fambro. In order to achieve the level of safety that consumers expect and deserve, the Aptera features crumple zones of 45 inches, quite large for a vehicle this size. Also in use inside the vehicle is airbag-in-seatbelt technology. The doors and roof exceed all specifications required by law. In addition, all of the glass used in the vehicle is automotive-grade safety glass.

Getting into some of the more technical bits and pieces of the design, the solar panels on the roof are tied in with the on-board batteries, so when the vehicle is parked in the sun, you are slowly charging your car. Even better is the air-conditioning system, which is powered by the solar cells and keeps the vehicle a reasonable temperature even when nobody is inside. The suspension systems were all designed using computer assistance to make them strong enough while maintaining the light weight necessary for the vehicle. Those suspension systems are similar in design to those used by Formula 1 cars, featuring pushrod operated on-board coil-over shocks. This centralizes and reduces unsprung weight. The structure of the vehicle is mostly of composites, with selected components made from metals such as aluminum. The rear swingarm is single sided and is currently made from metal. Each of the three wheels are 14" and are regularly available off-the-shelf components, as are the tires. The motor is a three-phase AC unit, and it drives the rear wheel via a low-resistance belt. On-board video screens show the driver an eye-level 360 degree view of the world behind you, using lens-free cameras integrated into the rear of the vehicle.

From a design standpoint, the Aptera team seems to have all their bases covered. We hope that production starts up in October as planned and will be sure to keep you updated whenever any additional news is ready to be released. Until then, if any of our readers have any specific questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and, if possible, we'll get you the answers.

Here is a look at a potential storefront. Is this the place you'll purchase your next vehicle?



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