Are there two sadder words in the world of car design than “design intent”? Translated, the term actually means “the inevitable letdown after months (or years) of hype based on a buffed-and-polished prototype.” And for upstart California EV outfit Aptera, a slick, otherworldly prototype was a key to being taken even remotely seriously. Unfortunately, yesterday’s unveiling of the “design intent” Aptera 2e revealed a cheaper, droopier version of the vehicle Aptera had been collecting deposits on the strength of. Don’t believe us? Check out a gallery of prototypes after the jump, and compare for yourself. Besides, the vehicle wasn’t the only ugly part of Aptera’s presentation…
CEO Paul Wilbur told Autoblog‘s Jonny Liebermann that Aptera is still not, “fully funded,” but hinted that the $184m in federal loans it has applied for would fix that for about five years. Bummer about the financial viability requirements for ATVM loans. “One more financing hurdle remains” Wilbur reportedly said. “Aptera can only compete thanks to federal loans.” Accordingly, the vehicle is 90 percent content-sourced in the US (a point Wilbur was apparently quick to make after recent nasty rumors of a Chinese production strategy). So, what’s the holdup?
For one thing, Wilbur had to get the car from the striking but likely ruinously expensive prototype to the more pedestrian production-ready version. He tells Autoblog that the last year has been spent doing a lot of engineering, saying “We have to get it right the first time,” and even mentioning Yugo, DeLorean and Tucker as examples to avoid. Which, at least in the cases of DeLorean and Tucker, is an interesting way of justifying the booting of Aptera’s founders.
Ultimately, Aptera has a long road to whir over before get a chance to drive one of their freaky motorcycles. Even if the federal loans come through, they are now guaranteed to be beat to the coveted early-adopter market by Nissan’s Leaf, Chevy’s Volt and even, possibly, Coda’s EV. And then there’s the price issue. And the after-sale support issue. To say nothing of the fact that selling a motorcycle as a car based on its record-shattering .15 drag coefficient probably limits the market to wealthy nerds in the first place. But then, if Aptera knew its market, it probably wouldn’t be trying to sell this homogenized version of the founders’ freaky vision.
[UPDATE: A rep from marketing/communications firm PCGCampbell clarifies that this was a "design intent" model, and that "a 'production intent' version will be produced after the vehicle development is complete."]