Aptera claims to have raised enough money in a recent crowdfunding campaign to start production of its solar-assisted three-wheeled EV, but the company is still far from assured of success.
The company on Friday announced the completion of its Accelerator Program, which allowed those investors contributing $10,000 or more to secure one of the first 2,000 build slots for the vehicle. The yearlong program, which ended January 31, raised $33 million—enough to "fund the initial phases of production," Aptera claimed in a press release.
Aptera is no stranger to crowdfunding. In the same release, the company claimed to have raised over $100 million during the past two years with this unconventional funding method, which bypasses traditional investors by soliciting smaller contributions from individuals.
Aptera investment perks
The company also claims to have made meaningful progress. In November 2022 it announced a supply agreement Italy's C.P.C. Group for carbon-fiber bodywork. It then showed the initial Launch Edition version of the EV in January 2023. The following October Aptera said the EV was getting closer to production, and that some manufacturing equipment had been procured.
Yet Aptera has at several points pushed back its estimated production dates, and it appears to have done so again recently.
Over the past year, Aptera has said that it plans to start production in summer 2024. In Aptera's July 2023 SEC filing, it anticipated first deliveries in Q2 2024, with 7,000 cars per year in 2025. But by the time of an update in November, it targeted production by the end of 2024.
Aptera with pop-up tent
Aptera's financials at least appear much more positive than those of Elio Motors, another startup seeking to make a three-wheel car and relying mostly on crowdfunding. In a 2017 filing, Elio reported having raised nearly $28 million from "persons desiring to reserve an Elio," while it reported total cash investment of more than $36 million—although by then loans added up to more than $38 million.
Just after that, in 2018, Elio sold $2.5 million of its stock to Overstock.com and revealed a cryptocurrency named ElioCoin. By 2020 Elio's deficit had ballooned to $215.8 million. Through 2022, Aptera listed total liabilities of just $10.2 million, although it's possible—and likely—that they've grown since then.
Elio was once valued at $1 billion, but never got its original gasoline three-wheeler into production. In 2021, Elio pivoted to the Elio-E, an EV with a claimed 150-mile range and $14,900 starting price that also hasn't reached production. Now that automaker's once funding-focused site loads as, literally, a blank page.
Aptera currently claims more than 46,000 vehicle reservations, representing $1.6 billion in potential revenue. Will it succeed where Elio failed?