Aptera wants a piece of the $25 billion Department of Energy Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program loan pie. Unfortunately for the California startup they can't have any because the program is companies making high efficiency "cars." That means vehicles that pass all federal motor vehicle safety standards. The tear drop shaped Aptera may have very low drag and be very light weight, but, as we mentioned yesterday, it only has three wheels and does not meet all the safety requirements put on a car and is thus classified as a motorcycle (albeit a full bodied one) just like the Zap Xebra and other startups.
Aptera protests that they followed this three-wheeled route to optimize the efficiency of its vehicle. That may well be true, but a big piece of that has to do with keeping weight and cost down by not meeting all the FMVSS requirements. There is, of course, no technological reason that a three-wheeled vehicle could not meet the safety rules, but that would add a lot of weight, thus negating much of the benefit of the current vehicle. Should an exception be made for vehicles like the Aptera to be eligible for the loans? If so then perhaps we should just abandon all the safety rules, since they are a major part of why modern cars are so heavy.
Consumers have come to expect a certain level of protection in modern cars. They need to understand that just because a vehicle may have a full body, it may not be made to the same standards. If people are good with that, then grant Aptera's request and amend the rules for the loan program. If people are not prepared to accept a lower standard of safety, you know the answer.
Update: Since posting this story I've interviewed Aptera's Marques McCammon who tells us that even though the 2e is not required to meet motor vehicle safety standards, it is designed too and will be crash tested.