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Monday, December 05, 2011

Aptera Dead!

I have been watching with morbid fascination the death spiral of Aptera, the designer of the electric trike that looks like a big spermatozoan, which didn't do well in the Progressive Automotive X-prize competition.  To stave off death, Aptera was working on a traditional 4-wheel vehicle concept which they hoped would attract new investors and help them qualify for a DOE AVTM loan.  Aptera stated that they needed $150 million in new money to start work on the new vehicle, but investors did not come to the table.

And that was a wise decision.  Despite an interesting and aerodynamic design, the Aptera 3-wheel concept was not practical for any large market, and would have been very expensive to produce in small volumes.   Like the other X-prize finalists running 3-wheel designs, Aptera was more of a design study than a marketable product.   

To date, there are still no production-ready enclosed 3-wheelers for sale in the U.S. and I doubt there will ever be.  The inherent safety and comfort trade-offs are too great for more than a few novelty-loving customers.

The question in my mind is, who is next to fold?  Up-start auto companies funded by venture capital don't have a shining history (DeLorean, Bricklin...).  Will Tesla and Fisker make it, financially, or will they burn through their cash before catching on?

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