The Aptera solar car is ready for circulation in 2023


Aptera, the maker of a futuristic-looking solar-powered passenger car, has unveiled its first production vehicle, which it says will roll off the assembly line this year.

According to the company, the all-wheel drive, three-wheel drive, two-passenger vehicle has a range of 400 miles, can sprint to 100 mph in four seconds and has a top speed of 101 mph.

Although designed to draw most of its power from the sun, the Aptera can be charged from a standard 120-volt outlet.

In a sunny place like Southern California, the average American driver never plugs in, averaging 29 miles per day, the company explained in a press release.

In places with average sunlight, like New York or Chicago, drivers may need to plug in three times a year. An overnight charge at 13 mph should get you 150 miles.

Meanwhile, Lightyear, the maker of the modest-looking passenger car, announced Monday that it will stop production of its $250,000 Lightyear 0 solar car and focus resources on the Lightyear 2 product. , it should start selling for just under $40,000 and has a range of 500 miles.

“We recently launched a waiting list for Lightyear 2, which has resulted in over 40,000 subscriptions from individual customers and we’ve had nearly 20,000 pre-orders from fleet owners,” said Lex Hofslot, CEO and founder of Lightyear. statement.

“We hope to close key investments in the coming weeks to transition to Lightyear 2, a solar electric vehicle available to a wider audience,” he added.

an “ambitious” goal

Chris Jones, principal analyst at Canalys, a global market research firm, explained that Lightyear 0 was always just a demonstration of what was possible with solar power, and would be delivered to a few hundred customers.

Jones told TechNewsWorld, “The hope was that these influential, wealthy, early adopters would become evangelists who would help spread the word about a new class of vehicles.”

“Lightyear’s second model, due to launch in 2025, will be very affordable for electric vehicles,” he said. “We’ll have a full introduction this year, but the main thing is that it’s a five-seater and it looks like a car.”

Lightyear has opened a waiting list for its second production model, the Lightyear 2. For now, the company is slowly pulling back the curtain on what the car will look like. (Image credit: Lightyear)

“Aptera, on the other hand, opted for a less traditional and more radical look,” he continued. “It’s a design that attracts less customers.”

He called Aptera’s announcement that it will launch the cars this year “ambitious,” especially since it will need financing quickly to achieve that goal.

Shortage of capital

“2023 is a scary time to raise capital,” said Sam Abuelsamid, chief e-mobility analyst at Guidehouse Insights, a Detroit-based market research firm that has covered Aptera since 2007.

“More established companies are going through a tough time right now, so I’m not sure if Aptera will deliver a significant number of vehicles this year,” Abuelsamid told TechNewsWorld.

If Aptera starts shipping SPEVs this year, it may want to bring them outside of North America.

“Some European and Southeast Asian markets are better prepared for these types of vehicles,” said Roger K. Lanktot, Director of Automotive Connected Mobility at Strategy Analytics, a global research, consulting and analytics firm. .

For example, France has a program called unlicensed driving that allows unlicensed drivers to drive vehicles with low safety standards.

“There is a market for solar vehicles, but it may not be a mass market yet,” Lancto told TechNewsWorld.

He added that Aptera should use car sharing to introduce consumers to the concept of a solar-powered vehicle.

too many angles

Once the Aptera vehicles hit the market, they may face other issues.

“Their technology is very well built, but their weight difference and the relative fragility of their design makes them difficult to market,” said Rob Enderle, president and chief analyst at Enderle Group, a Bend, Ore.-based consulting firm.

“The Aptera offers better protection than a motorcycle, but I think interest in the car will wane when the first crash happens,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Enderl argued that solar technology still needs to be developed before it can be used to power a car-like vehicle.

“We need to reduce the weight and size of the vehicle in order to use less solar energy,” he explained.

“The Aptiva’s design does not seem to be conducive to multiple vehicle collisions given the lightness of the vehicle,” he added.

Abuelsamid noted that photovoltaic cells have the highest generation efficiency with a significantly narrower angle than the sun. At the extreme corners, they emit very little energy. Since the vehicle usually does not have many flat surfaces, the cells are at different angles, and the vehicle itself can be in an infinite number of positions relative to the sun.

“Solar cells may be most useful for auxiliary power, such as powering air conditioning and other systems, to reduce the load on the battery,” he said. “For a small vehicle like the Aptera, floor space for its cells is also limited.”

He is forced to compromise

However, Lancto noted that 70% of all car trips are between 10 and 20 km. “So solar can be a very practical solution, which is why companies like Sono Motors and Squad Mobility are getting into business,” he said.

Sono Motors, based in Germany, makes a vehicle that can be charged by the sun, electrical outlets, or both at the same time. The car’s solar range is 70 miles per week, but its battery is 190 miles. Its top speed is 86 mph.

Squad makes two solar-powered cars – a two-seater with a top speed of 27 mph and a four-seater with a top speed of 44 mph. Autonomy of vehicles is 12 miles per day.

Lanctot noted: “With the sun, in any case, you have to make a compromise.”

“Sono and Squad compromise safety to offer lower prices,” he continued. “Lightyear has made a compromise on price – very expensive – to provide ICE/EV equivalent performance. To achieve a low price and acceptable performance, the Aptera compromised on cosmetics – three wheels – and also sacrificed interior space.

“There’s a niche in the market for these vehicles — for every one of them — but it’s a niche with limitations,” he said.

“The Nissan Leaf was met with some skepticism when it was launched due to its limited range, but it has found a solid foothold in the market and remains popular,” explained Lancto.

“There’s definitely a home for solar vehicles, but it’s probably tens of thousands for Aptera, Sono and Squad, not millions.”

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