Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Aptera: Quirky Toy or Real Car?

Here is a short list of reasons why I think that the Aptera will be a low volume toy for the rich or idealistic, and not a mass market transportation appliance.

  • It's a tricycle--less stable handling than a car of similar wheelbase. A blown tire at speed could be very tricky to handle, especially if it is the pusher wheel that blows. (Update: a reader states that the Aptera is now FWD, however the previous design was definitely a pusher not a puller. The sketch shown in the new brochure clearly shows a rear-mounted powertrain.)
  • Very little clearance between wheel fairings and pavement. How will it handle potholes? Dirt roads?
  • No spare tire. You get a inflation kit instead.
  • No front or rear bumpers, minor scrapes may do severe damage.
  • Sectioned windows may not let a Biggie soda and fries into the cabin
  • You can have any color as long as it is white.
  • May not meet tough side and front impact standards, probably won't interface well with conventional cars. High rear end may result in rear impacts flipping the Aptera forward.
  • In a crash, deceleration will be vicious becuase the Aptera is so light. Multiple airbags will have to cushion the occupants, similar to how Smart does it.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It's a tricycle--less stable handling than a car of similar wheelbase."

It has the braking distance of a Mustang GT and the cornering ability of a Porsche Boxter. So, no. You should read more Road and Track; they've compared the stability of tadpole trikes, delta trikes, and four-wheelers before. Tadpoles, like the Aptera, are extremely stable, esp. if they carry their weight low (the Aptera's batteries are under the seats). It's deltas that are highly prone to understeer and rollover.

"A blown tire at speed could be very tricky to handle, especially if it is the pusher wheel that blows."

There is no "pusher wheel"; it's FWD.

"No windshield wipers."

Yes, it has windshield wipers. One big one, actually, recessed in the front.

"Very little clearance between wheel fairings and pavement."

About three inches, and they're transitioning it to a material that can flex.

"How will it handle potholes? Dirt roads?"

It has more clearance than a Prius.

"Since power comes through the single rear wheel"

No, it doesn't.

"how will it handle in snow or other slippery conditions?"

The same way any other FWD car does. And the weight is right over the drive wheels, and EVs have tons of low-end torque.

"No front or rear bumpers, minor scrapes may do severe damage."

Nobody has been able to damage the thing by wailing at it with a sledgehammer so far. Aptera has a prize for anyone able to do so. One reporter nearly knocked his teeth out trying.

"Sectioned windows may not let a Biggie soda and fries into the cabin"

They're transitioning to full roll-down windows.

"You can have any color as long as it is white."

They're discussing offering custom vinyl graphics.

"May not meet tough side and front impact standards"

It already has over double the NTSB's requirements for roof and door crush strength, so I seriously doubt that.

"probably won't interface well with conventional cars."

You mean like Semis and Smart Fortwos? It's smaller than the former and bigger than the latter.

"High rear end may result in rear impacts flipping the Aptera forward."

In the world of cartoon physics, perhaps. In the real world, the tail is only a couple feet up, and unlike SUVs, the Aptera has a very low CG. And even if it somehow were to flip, that's where roof crush strength comes into play, where it beats almost every car on the road.

"In a crash, deceleration will be vicious becuase the Aptera is so light."

It's 1700lbs, which isn't *that* light. And it has double the crumple zone of the 5-star rated Smart Fortwo, plus a clever fold-up deflection system that encourages the front end to ride up in an accident, thus lengthening the deceleration time even further.

"Multiple airbags will have to cushion the occupants"

It has multiple airbags *also*.

Perhaps you should learn more about a topic before you post on it.

The Auto Prophet said...

@Anonymous (Aptera fanboy)

I doubt it will corner as hard as a Boxster, but as soon as they are able, I am sure the car mags will try it. Generally, 4 tires beat 3, since the outboard tire is there to handle the weight transfer. Trikes tend to spin out sooner than cars.

I guess I stand corrected on the RWD, but the previous prototypes, and the design sketch on Aptera's web site were rear driven with chain.

NTSB doesn't set roof crush standards, NHTSA does through FMVSS. And the current standard is static load, and not a very big one that that. How will the Aptera react when a traditional car with a low bumper under-rides its door beams or tail?

Kevin Smith said...

Well you know what they say, you can't make an omelet without cracking some eggs. A vehicle which is purpose built for aerodynamics will never be more safe then a vehicle which is purpose built for safety.

Regardless of what the other guy said there is no way 3 wheels will handle better then 4. Let's not forget how slim the tires are.

I guess what it comes down to ultimately is the question: "Is it all worth it?" Things like gas prices and environmental concern will ultimately be what determines weather the general population will be interested in buying this car. If they can get a version out for $25k like they say, I can see it being well received.