On Friday, Aptera held its first online Town Hall Meeting--a chat among eager followers and some of the Aptera marketing team.
Their intent, according to the opening spiel, was to "reduce some of the mystery around the company and open our supporters and depositors up to some of the great things that are happening here at Aptera, as well as talking about some of the challenges."
Aptera 2e development prototype at company offices in Vista, California
Aptera 2e leak
Aptera 2e, photo by Jason H. Harper
Aptera 2e, photo by Jason H. Harper
aptera 2e preproduction 002 1
Sadly though, most of the specifics will remain a little hazy for three or four more weeks.
The upcoming 2011 Aptera 2e electric (and Aptera 2h plug-in hybrid) are three-wheeled, Space Age, plane-without-wings, hyperefficient, two-seater cars...err.... motorcycles.
The electric 2e, the first one planned for production claims a 100-mile range; the 2h plug-in hybrid boasts well over 100 miles per gallon in mixed use.
Many attendees had hoped the Town Hall meeting would offer hard information about the vehicle--such as final price, ordering information, perhaps even the production schedule.
But, alas, all this will have to wait until an Aptera press event scheduled for mid-April. The company line at the moment appears to be "More, but not until next month."
Let's look at what Aptera DID disclose, broken down into a list:
- If Aptera doesn't get low-interest Department of Energy loans, it plans to source capital investment from the private sector. The company has fought for some time now to get the Aptera 2e and 2h eligible for DOE loans, and was able to get Congress to pass a bill to classify three-wheeled vehicles as cars for the funding purposes, though the DoT still considers them motorcycles. The bottom line? Aptera won't give up if the DoE says "No".
- The 2e and 2h models will be made somewhere in San Diego County. Aptera reported that they "have a site selected and under conditional contract," though the precise site remains unspecified.
- The base 2e will cost somewhere between $25,000 and $40,000, which Aptera has now said for more than a year. This may put the Aptera in a very "specialized" class; it seems unlikely many buyers will opt for a $40,000 bubble on wheels when the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevrolet Volt will weigh in at a similar price (with twice as many seats).
- Up to 88 vehicles will be produced per day at the San Diego facility, based on a two-shift cycle and a maximum of 500 employees. Since the car's plastic shell is laid up by hand, that seems quite labor-intensive, perhaps hinting at the reason for the high price tag.
- Level 2 charging (240 Volts) will be an option on both vehicles, but Aptera did not mention higher-rate J-1772 charging.
- Aptera plans to open stores within 12 months of launch in Texas, Oregon, Florida, Colorado, and the Virginia/Maryland/Washington, DC area. A flagship California store will open four months before the vehicles become available to the public.
- Aptera hopes to sell vehicle number 500 within nine months of launch, with "roughly 3,100" deposits so far for the vehicle. By comparison, Tesla has sold between 900 and 1,200 Roasters in just over two years, making Aptera's figures seem optimistic.
- Aptera will offers a fully electric (2e) car, and later a plug-in hybrid (2h) model. If someone pre-orders one drivetrain, and then switches to the other, they go to the bottom of the list. As Aptera said, "If you change from h to e, you do move to the end of the e line. It is done this way to be fair to those who had reservations prior."
- The public won't be able to attend the press event. It will be strictly doors closed. This may not prevent journalists from asking questions about Aptera's problems over the past few years, including why the car is nearly 14 months behind its initial schedule, or why the company didn't meet its subsequent start date of October 2009.
So while Aptera plan to announce big things next month, the general sense of the event was that the company isn't ready or willing to nail down specifics--of price, production, ordering or even specifications--just yet.
Aptera are keeping their trump cards hidden. At least for three or four more weeks. Apparently.
Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield is an electric-car driver and enthusiast who covers the industry weekly as one of the hosts of EVcast. She lives in Bristol, England.