back to article California to get 'space age' three-wheel EV

Another day, another odd looking 'leccy car from a start up. Today, it's the turn of Californian car maker Aptera to foist its vision of the future of the automobile upon us, and it's shaped like this: Aptera 2e The first three pre-production examples of the 'leccy three-wheeler, dubbed the 2e, rolled out of Aptera's Vista, …


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  1. Eddie

    Erm, not so much Sir Clive

    It reminds me more of the Old Messcherschmidt (sp?), Heinkels and Isettas from the 50s.

    Also, more people probably know about them than the C5 (incidentally which was a delta trike, not a tadpole...)

    Mines the padded flying jacket with goggles in the pocket...

    Tally ho!

  2. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    It'll never sell to normal people.

    From both the front and rear it reminds me of the always-immature mega-newt-tadpole known as the Axolotl.

    Perhaps Red 'Newtophile' Ken Livingstone would buy one? Normal people won't.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Space age.

    Yes, it does hark back to the '50s and '60s.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    looks very aircrafty

    Rather a wide track between the front wheels... Stable at speed, probably, but I can imagine it not being too great when two of them try to pass on a narrow road.

  5. Richard
    Thumb Down


    Sorry, James May has already shown us the future of the car. It looks exactly like a normal car, performs like a normal car, costs about the same as a normal car, fills up like a normal car (albeit with hydrogen), and is made by Honda. It's going to be the next best thing, because it's just as good as the old best thing. Nuff said.

  6. Jacqui

    EV trotter wagon

    I am just trying to get my hands on a decent condition trotter wagon, add an EV and battery pack to the put-put and he presto a eco van big enough for two of use and our dogs :-)

  7. Len Goddard


    TBH, I think the styling is fun. But the price is silly. It needs to be brought down to less than $10000 because with that range/performance it can never be more than a backup runabout.

  8. Neil Hoskins
    Thumb Down

    go ahead, ignore all previous experience

    Consumers will reject any vehicle that low. Remember the C5? That's why the Smart is actually quite high.

    And another thing: HOW MUCH!?

  9. Ian Rogers
    Thumb Down

    Front wheel drive?

    What's the point of carrying around a diff (or two motors) and CV joints when you've got a single wheel at the back to save all that hassle?


  10. Mark Gibson

    Safety rating?

    Something tells me they'll be no safety rating published either, looks like it'd fall to bits under normal atmospheric pressure.

  11. Jason Harvey
    Thumb Up

    I'd buy one...

    if I had a garage to charge it in. I like quirky stuff like this. I like the flying saucer tail lights and jetsons front end look. Room for 15 bags... sounds like plenty of space for a pair of 10" subs (100 mile range reduced to about 80 with a light sound system - still plenty for my usual 25 mile daily jaunts). And it would be great to thumb my nose at the gas station every day.

    I'll keep the land yacht for trips though. Let's not be stupid now.

    Having to get a motorcycle license for this car may be the wrench in the works for it though.

  12. Anton Ivanov

    Finally, this looks like my wife's next commuter car

    Finally, something that I can give the significant other and get my damn Daihatsu back. When are they going to sell it in the UK?

  13. Peyton
    Thumb Up


    Can't wait to see one of these in an LA police chase!

  14. Ed

    Power Output

    As they have specified the drag coefficient and the max speed, then if someone of known height wouldn't mind just standing next to it, so as I can calculate the frontal area, I can calculate the power.

  15. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    Please get your facts straight

    The Aptera is rear wheel drive and always has been, with a toothed belt transmission. This is a no-brainer: it's simple since no universal joints are needed, light and cheap.

    The shopping bags would not be plastic - Americans were using paper bags almost exclusively last time I looked. Paper is better: it makes bags that actually stand up and stay open while they're being filled at the checkout counter.

  16. Fluffykins Silver badge

    You owe me one keyboard and a fresh cuppa

    "a more-slippery-than-a-wet-fart-in-a-thunderstorm coefficient of drag of just 0.15"

    Loved it

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very pretty

    Just not sure I'd want to be sat in it when it gets struck by your average US pickup.

    Gu-huh Bubba.

  18. Eugene Goodrich
    Paris Hilton

    No bumpers

    How much damage does a gentle rush-hour rear-ending cause, then?

    Paris because... :)

  19. Mike Powers

    It's funny to see the "car" sites talk about this

    They're uniformly negative; little more than "HARR DAR IT LOOKS SO SILLY, I MEAN LOOK AT THAT IT LOOKS SOOOOO SILLY DARRRRR!"

    It's like they can't conceive of a vehicle that isn't a square box with four wheels and a V-8 RWD powertrain.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Ok front-on it looks quite aerodynamic...

    ...but side on I reckon you'll see more than one of these tipping over in high winds. The pics suggest its got quite a tall wheel base and lacking the second rear wheel which will compromise stability. This is a serious consideration since we're seeing more and more high winds thanks the global warming.

    Oh, that and why the f**k are manufacturers insisting on designing these vehicles around battery packs when fuel cell technology has long ago been demonstrated to work well and be reasonably safe?? Battery manufacture is a dirty and environmentally unfriendly process - and thats not even counting the process of generating the leccy to charge them.

    My sincere congratulations to Honda who have so far been the only ones forward thinking enough to leapfrog the battery craze and go straight to fuel cells.

  21. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    @Martin Gregorie

    The 2e *is* a front-wheel drive vehicle. Rear-wheel drive is an old idea now ditched.

    From Aptera: "A belt-driven rear wheel was one of those early concepts, but lots of testing proved to our engineers that front wheel drive is far superior for our application."

  22. Robert E A Harvey


    It reminds me of a smaller version of the Bushwacker car-yacht-helicopter-submarine that I used to read about in the Eagle when I was a lad.

  23. kain preacher Silver badge

    @Martin Gregorie

    PSSssssssssssst Its either plastic or clothe here in the states . Paper is fading, and reusable clothe bags are be toted as more Eco friendly . Well Actually the big chains found that it saves them a ton of money. Sell the cloth bags @ $1 which is loss but if you get enough people to use them it saves a lot more money,

  24. Anonymous Coward

    I see the Luddites are out in force.

    Sure is easy to be critical when you don't know WTF you are talking about.

    They have pledged to meet or exceed ALL Federal crash standards regardless that they don't have to comply. They let a reporter from AutoWeek stand atop the shell and pound the crap out of it with a sledge hammer. Didn't hurt it at all.

    They went to FWD from RWD because the packaging and power delivery were more efficient. They have hired some top-flight people out of Detroit (let's all make fun of Detroit now, you smug, supercilious a**es) to take this product from the conceptual design/prototype phase to production. Gosh, and they're even well funded!!! Unlike Moller's SkyCar, this isn't just some jokemobile put forth to separate investors from they dollars for the benefit of the huckster promoting it.

    Why can't a vehicle look different? Why can't a vehicle be light, efficient AND safe? Why can't somebody with a brain leverage emerging technology to leapfrog the current design paradigm?

    This "I don't understand it, so I'm going to make fun of it!" is sophomoric and does little or nothing to persuade readers that The Register is any more than a joke rag instead of a genuine attempt at journalism. You guys would've posted some real knee-slappers about flight if you'd been publishing back around the Wright brothers' day, I'm quite certain of that.

    I'd buy a Aptera in a heartbeat and look forward to the day that they expand their sales territory outside of California. I'm no granola-munching tree hugger, either. I've owned some of the most revered, fastest production cars ever produced by Detroit in the 60s and raced competitively as well.

    What I AM, apparently, is smarter and more foresighted than the majority of the sneering ignoramuses that seem to enjoy posting to this sort of thread. Get over yourselves.

    (Note: taking potshots at me does nothing more than demonstrate you don't have a valid argument to your name.)

  25. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    It needs something

    Now what could it be?

    "... technically a motor bike as far as US Federal safety authorities are concerned..."

    Oh that's it, a fourth wheel! Why limit your target market to bikers who are far more interested in either the thumping of a Hardley Ableson V-twin or the high pitched w.o.t. whine of a plastic over buzzsaw crotch rocket? Every time I get to thinking the CEOs of the Big 3 have a fatal case of rectal craniumitis it's something like this makes me realize that daft knows no bounds.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Nope still wrong

    Fugly styling, looks iffy from a crash safety standpoint, and still way to damned expensive. Especially given it's kinda paltry range of 100 miles per charge and 0-60 time. As anyone who drives in and around major cities in California (especially in southern california) will know a vehicle that slow to get up to freeway speed and maybe being able to get to and from work on a single charge is a non starter. However for those with the disposable income who can afford more than one car and want something to poke around the city in, then I suspect they may like something like this. As for the rest of us... Well it just isn't gonna fly (no pun intended).

  27. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    @Robert E A Harvey

    Sort of thing Lex O'Malley would drive, you mean?

  28. kain preacher Silver badge


    Am I the only one that hates that word .

  29. JT2008
    Paris Hilton

    @Martin Gregorie

    "Please get your facts straight "

    "Americans were using paper bags almost exclusively last time I looked."

    Wrong-o factboy. Even in the green state of Caifornia, we have TONS of plastic bags at each and every supermarket. How do I know? I was just at Safeway last night.

    So ...please get -your- facts straight prior to flaming others.

    Paris, because she's mostly plastic, too.

  30. Steven Raith

    @Iam Me

    Anyone with a IQ that reaches triple figures can tell you that 0-60 means jack shit in the real world - it's 40-70 that makes the difference [and 60-100 for overtaking] - if it has enough grunt to put in decent times for these, then it's fine. Look at TurboDiseasals that have 10sec 0-60 times but Impreza/Lancer-baiting 40-70 times. Torque is king when you are off the drag strip.

    @AC1912 - they tried taking 60s muscle cars into european/british GT racing - they were hammered into the dust by cortinas and minis Also "Why can't a vehicle look different? Why can't a vehicle be light, efficient AND safe?"

    Lotus Elise anyone? I'd rather an Exige mind...Series 1 though, not the S2. Toyota engine? Pah. Snortinng throttlebodied K-series with an Emerald ECU for the win.

    But that's just a snarky aside, I agree with your sentiments.

    I hope this thing is RWD, and popular - I wouldn't mind picking one up in ten years as an excuse to do DirectAccess and have one of these and a Fireblade for the weekends...

    Steven R

  31. vincent himpe

    last thing i heard

    this thing is goign to be controlled by a neimann-marcus kitchen computer ..... it'll probably go the same way too. Must have been designed by that bloke from IBM that proclaimed he saw a total world market for about 50 computers or so ...

    come on.. they have to be joking. 35 grand for a plastic toy like this. Even a Prius at base price and converted to full electric is cheaper than that ...

  32. Anonymous Coward


    "...two cup holders and cargo space for up to 15 paper grocery bags..."

    Yeah - but the bags have to be empty...

  33. vincent himpe

    @AC 'i see the luddites'

    Sledgehammer yes ... Hummer , Cadillac escalade , Toyota Tundra , err.. that would be a no

    yes a sledgehammer can deliver some serious punch, but the place of impact is small. apply the same amount per square inch over the total surface and this thing is flatter than a french crepe that was run over repeatedly by a big steamroller...

  34. Stevie Silver badge


    Who would spend *more* money on this novelty kit-car thing than on a conventional-looking car with the same-ish tech?

    If you want to sell something like this you've got to make it make sense to the wallet as well as to the children of 2250 AD.

    I'd love one, but at that price I'd expect to be able to get a matching set of three.

  35. Kev K
    Thumb Up

    My Mrs would like this

    And as I am genuinly intrerested in this I did some reading up and found these specs - which made me even more interested

    Aptera 2e Specifications:


    53in high x 91.0in wide x 173in long

    111in wheelbase

    80.5in front track.

    Other key specifications:

    0.15 coefficient of drag

    5in ground clearance

    1500lb (680kg) curb weight

    Electric motor torque: 60lb-ft (81Nm)

    Standard outlet power (110v 15A) charge time: 8 hrs.

    Battery output: 10-13 KWh

    Battery voltage: 336V DC Nominal Traction Voltage

    Transmission: Gear box 10:1 ratio

    Battery Type: Lithium Ion Phosphate Chassis:

    Front Suspension: Independent unequal length A-arm

    Rear Suspension: Swing Arm

    Steering: Manual Steering, tilt steering column

    Brakes: Manual Brakes, dual circuit brake hydraulics, mechanical brake proportioning, 3-wheel disc

    Wheels: 14in High Strength Stamped Steel wheels

    Size: P165/65R14


    Range: Up to 100mi (160km) per charge


    Basic: 4 years / 50,000mi (80,000km)

    Powertrain: 4 years / 50,000mi (80,000km)

    Corrosion: 12 / unlimited mileage

    Roadside: 4 years / 50,000mi (80,000km)

    Features: (S=standard, O=optional)


    Push Button Start: S

    Electronic shift PRNDL (shift controller): S

    AM/FM/MP3/WMA with 5 speakers and MP3/Smart Phone Connectivity: S

    DVD Navigation System: O

    Power up/down windows with Driver side one-touch and anti-pinch: S

    Power automatic door locks with anti-lockout feature: S

    Center console armrest with two cup holders: S

    Overhead mounted LED Dome Lights: S

    Recycled Fabric-trimmed seats and door panels: S

    Leatherette (recycled materials) trimmed steering wheel: S

    Defroster-linked CFC-free automatic climate control with electric inverter compressor air conditioning: S

    One 12V auxiliary power outlets and one 12V USB Outlet: S

    Retractable passenger-assist grips at all doors: S


    Dual color-keyed power outside mirrors: S

    Aerodynamic multi-reflector halogen headlamps: S

    Washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wipers: S

    Rear window defogger with timer: S

    Rear Electronic rear hatch locking system (sic): S

    Solar Energy-Reflecting glass: S

    Smart Key System (Proximity locking/starting) Maintenance key & cylinder to prevent accidental lock out: S


    Remote keyless entry system with 2-stage unlocking, panic function and remote illuminated entry: S

    Backup camera: O

    Driver and front passenger Airbag System: S

    Front and rear crumple zones and side-impact door beams: S

    Engine immobilizer: S

    Center high-mount stop lamp: S

    Emergency Tire inflation system: S

    3-point front outboard seatbelts with adjustable shoulder anchors and driver-side Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR), front passenger Automatic/Emergency Locking Retractor (ALR/ELR): S

    Driver and front passenger seatbelt with seat belt starter interlock: S

    Direct Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS): S

    Anti-theft system: O

  36. Geoff Mackenzie

    Actually ...

    I love it. The motorcycle license requirement could actually be a plus for it - it's one of the reasons Reliant 3-wheelers* did OK for a while (although it wasn't actually a requirement for those of course - either license was acceptable**). Compared to a car it's very small, low, and minimal - but compared to a bike it's enclosed, comfy and electric, so maybe that's a better way to look at it. I do wish it was cheaper though.

    * actually, small 4-wheelers (e.g. Kitten, Fox) also, it was a weight thing, not a wheel count thing

    ** note past tense; relatively recent bike licenses are unfortunately no good

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Kev K

    Where did you get those specs?

    1x 12v USB socket? Wouldn't that fry most kit with the extra 7V over standard?

    And I thought the batteries were Lithium Iron Phosphate (like the LiFeBat ones) rather than Lithium Ion Phosphate?

    @Guy who mentioned the James May Honda FCX

    The platinum in a fuel cell costs about £3k at current prices. And this will only go up as it's a PITA to mine and get a hold of- not to mention it being a severly limted resource. If we only used oil products to fuel cars, it'd last a helluvalot longer than if we only used platinum for cars. If we use oil as we are using it now there'd only be a decade or so between them (assuming no-one's lying about their fuel reserves, anyway).

    Plus you've got to generate vast amounts of power to compress the hydrogen and transport it to the filling station- not to mention carrying around a 5000PSI tank of explosive gas- this will weight a bloody tonne if it's got any crash resistance.

    Plus what will you get the hydrogen from? Sea water? Where does all the salt go- back into the water? That would raise the salinity hugely over time, killing anything that lived there. Fresh water? What would we drink- and where would you get the extra power required?

    With electric cars there are no compression costs, there are a huge number of places that you could charge from- albeit slowly- and if this eestor thing turns out to work it'll be cheap and quick to charge.

    Effects on the national grid could be mitigated by publishing usage statistics and charging another battery / eestor array over a couple of hours when use it at a minimum, keeping infrastructure costs to a minimum.

    I'm glad to see a "totally new" style of car. Though I'd have agreed with other commenters that RWD may have been better- check out the Blackjack Avion, the Grinall Scorpion, Malone Skunk and pretty much any other 3-wheeler except the Trotter's abysmally designed van.

  38. Alan Edwards

    From the spec. list

    > Electronic shift PRNDL (shift controller):

    How do you get "low" out of a single-speed gearbox? Maybe it's got the transfer case out of a Land Rover too.

    > One 12V auxiliary power outlets and one 12V USB Outlet

    USB is 5 volt not 12. There's going to be a few cooked iPods if it's 12v.

    > electric inverter compressor air conditioning / Rear window defogger with timer

    What does it do to the range if you use them.

    > Solar Energy-Reflecting glass

    So your GPS won't work without an external antenna, which won't stick because the body's plastic.


  39. Pete James

    A better attempt than some, but......

    Something I do find curious is the reaction to it looking 'futuristic'. I would say it just shows that this word is interpreted differently between individuals. To me, it's far from being futuristic; the rear wheel shroud for example was being touted round by RCA students as far back as the mid-Eighties, while the styling gives the game away about the materials used for the body/structure.

    The configuration is good; a reverse three wheeler has a lot going for it dynamically, and it's pretty evident that safety has been given some decent thought. The styling badly compromises the design however, and that's a big black mark. It could be a lot more efficient in using the space it takes up and be far more versatile in the process.

  40. Matt
    Thumb Down

    Too wide

    Mr Kev quotes the width as 91" (2.3 m).

    Most cars in the UK measure in the region of 1.7 m wide, being 1.9 - 2 m with wingmirrors. Even a BMW X5 is only ~1.9 m + wingmirrors.

    Picture the proximity of driver and passenger and the size of the seats in relation to the vehicle.

    Look at the pictures of the Aptera 2e from the front.

    If the vehicle is 2.3 m wide, then those seats are on the small side. I reckon that with ~1.6 m cabin (the seats do appear pretty close together) that the overall vehicle in those pictures is more like 2.5 - 2.6m wide.

    Either way it's far wider than the roads are built for. It'd be like everyone driving bus-wide cars.(Routemaster double-deckers were ~2.45 m)

  41. Dave


    "5in ground clearance"

    Not much good around town then - not many speed bumps that this can get over.

  42. Alan Jenney


    Even on the conituously variable transmission of the Pruis, there is something like PRNDL - PRNDB, "B" meaning braked - it offers the same kind of downhill engine braking as engaging "L" (or any lower gear) on a conventional auto.

  43. Alan Jenney

    Three versus four

    Wheels - is it not the case that the crash requirements for four wheels are more demanding than three or less, just like the requirements for neighborhood vehicles (such as NEVs) are a lot less stringent?

  44. Fred

    Some options NOT mentioned

    the 2h (extended range electric) carries a small petrol generator - claimed at 300 miles (about 480 km)/gal

    2h is to go into production a year or 3 after the 2e.

    base price is 25k, 45k probably includes the 2h option - as the original pricing structure was set at 26k (full electric) and 30k (extended range) -all prices USD

    As for safety - F1, indy car both have vehicles that are capable of travel in excess of 200 mph, weigh in at or under 1500 lbs, and *most* crashes drivers walk away.

    Since the vehicle has 3 vs 4 wheels (in the US anyway) this classifies it as motorcycle rather than a car - the safety standards *are* different. OF COURSE. hard to get a (2 wheeled) motorbike with side impact air bags, or front crumple zones (duh!).

    However, as stated - and there are many standard safety features - including airbags.

    for those still curious or interested in seeing exactly what you are deriding :


    (flash warning)

    this is a short test drive video, and a discussion about the construction of the Aptera ( by one of the designers/founders.

    Finally - funding - google

    Go - because this is the way to go

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