Aptera, developer of a futuristic, 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-wheeled, two-passenger vehicle will have a range of 400 miles, can hit 60 mph in four seconds, and have a top speed of 101 mph.

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

The company reported in a news release that in a place with lots of sun exposure, such as Southern California, the average American driver would never have to plug in, based on a daily average of 29 miles.

In moderately sunny places like New York or Chicago, drivers may need to plug in about three times a year. At 13 mph, an overnight charge should last 150 miles.

Meanwhile, Lightyear, developer of a more traditional-looking passenger car, announced on Monday that it is suspending production of its US$250,000 Lightyear 0 solar-powered vehicle and redirecting its resources on its Lightyear 2 product , which is expected to start selling. $40,000 and has a range of 500 miles.

“Recently, we launched a waiting list for the Lightyear 2, which resulted in over 40,000 subscriptions from individual customers, and we already have a fleet of 100,000 units,” Lightyear CEO and co-founder Lex Hofsloot said in a statement. There were about 20,000 pre-orders from owners.”

“We look forward to completing some significant investments in the coming weeks to make Lightyear 2, an affordable solar electric vehicle, available to a wider audience,” he added.

‘Ambitious’ target

Chris Jones, principal analyst at Canalys, a global market research company, explained that the Lightyear 0 was always just a showcase for what’s possible with solar and hopes to deliver that to a few hundred customers.

“It was expected that these influential, wealthy, early adopter customers would become evangelists to help build awareness for a new vehicle category,” Jones told TechNewsWorld.

“Lightair’s second model will be priced favorably for an EV planned for launch in 2025,” he added. “We’ll have the full reveal this year, but importantly it’s a five-seat car – and it looks like a car.”

light years 2

Lightyear has opened a waitlist for its second production model, the Lightyear 2. As of now, the company is slowly pulling back the curtains to reveal what the vehicle will look like. (Image credit: Lightyear)

“Aptera, on the other hand, has gone for a less-traditional, more radical look,” he continued. “It’s a design that will attract less customers.”

He called Aptera’s announcement that it would produce cars this year “ambitious”, especially because it will need to get funding very quickly if it wants to meet that goal.

lack of capital

“2023 is a terrible time to be raising capital,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for e-mobility at Guidehouse Insights, a Detroit-based market intelligence company that has covered Aptera since 2007.

“Companies that are much better established are having a tough time right now, so I don’t have much confidence that Aptera will be in a position to deliver any significant number of vehicles this year,” Abulsamid told TechNewsWorld. Will reach.”

If Aptera can start delivering SPEVs this year, it might want to deliver them outside North America as well.

“Some European markets and Southeast Asia are better prepared for such cars,” said Roger C Lancto, director of automotive connected mobility at Strategy Analytics, a global research, advisory and analytics firm.

For example, France has a program called Vehicles San Permis, which is designed to allow unlicensed drivers to operate vehicles with reduced safety standards.

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

Aptera will likely leverage car sharing to introduce consumers to the concept of solar-powered transportation, he added.

many angles

Once Aptera’s vehicles hit the market, they may face more problems.

“Their technology is pretty much baked in, but the disparity in weight and the relative instability of their design will cause problems for them in the marketplace,” said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Ore.

“The Aptera offers better protection than a motorcycle, but I expect interest in the car will wane after the first crash,” he told TechNewsworld.

Enderle said the solar technology needs further development before it can be used to power a vehicle that looks like a conventional automobile.

“You need to reduce the weight and size of the vehicle to even have a remote chance of getting solar power to work,” he explained.

“Given how light the vehicle is, the Aptiva’s design doesn’t look like it would fare well in a multiple-car collision,” he added.

Abuelsamid pointed out that photovoltaic cells have peak production efficiencies with a fairly narrow angle of the sun. At more extreme angles, they generate much less energy. Since a vehicle usually doesn’t have a very flat surface, the cells are at all kinds of angles, and the vehicle itself could be relative to the Sun an infinite number of times.

“Solar cells are likely to be most useful for auxiliary power, such as powering climate control and other systems to reduce the load on the battery,” he said. “For a small vehicle like Aptera, it also has limited surface area useful for cells.”

forced to compromise

Lanctot said, however, that 70% of all vehicle trips are between six and 12 miles. “So solar can be a very practical solution, which is why companies like Sono Motors and Squad Mobility are getting into the business,” he said.

Sono Motors, based in Germany, manufactures a vehicle that charges via the sun, an electrical socket, or both. The car’s solar range is 70 miles a week, although its battery has a range of 190 miles. Its top speed is 86 mph.

The squad builds two solar-powered vehicles – a two-seater with a top speed of 27 mph and a four-seater with a top speed of 44 mph. The vehicles have a range of 12 miles a day.

“With solar, one way or another, you are forced to make compromises,” Lancto said.

“Sono and Squad compromised on security to deliver a low price,” he continued. “Lightyear compromised on price — super expensive — to provide performance equivalent to an ICE/EV. Aptera compromised on cosmetics — three wheels — while also sacrificing interior space to get a low price and acceptable performance.” .

“There is a niche in the market for these vehicles – for each and every one of them – but it is a niche with limitations that have meaning,” he said.

Lancto explained, “The Nissan Leaf was greeted with some skepticism due to its limited range, but it found a strong niche in the market and remains popular.”

“There is certainly a home for solar vehicles, but this represents tens of thousands of vehicles, not millions, for Aptera, Sono and Squad.”

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