Aptera Unveils "Design Intent" 2e, Financial Woes

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
aptera unveils design intent 2e financial woes

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, w hat’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.”]

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  • Highway27 Highway27 on Apr 16, 2010

    I think it's less that they 'mainstreamed' it and more that they realized the things they had to put in it. Like the 'droopy' part under the cabin was for battery space, the longer nose probably because they've switched from single rear wheel drive to both front wheels driven. The side mirrors were added for driver visibility, and according to one of their newsletters didn't have a significant impact on Cd. The narrower stance was in response to many concerns with the 8' wide stance of the prototype being very difficult to fit in many parking spaces. I think them's just the things that happen when you move from a prototype that doesn't have to do anything but look good to something that actually would have to function for many people.

  • JMII JMII on Apr 16, 2010

    The change that jumps out the most to me is the front wheel wells. They are like TWICE the width now but shorter. Not very areo friendly, its like a jet fighter with two bricks sitting on the wings. Maybe the original front bicycle tires (thin/tall) provided almost no grip in turns so they went with golf cart wheels (short/fat)?

    • Porschespeed Porschespeed on Apr 17, 2010

      Sadly, the Aptera is not a TTW (tilting three wheeler). One needs look no farther than MB's F300 LifeJet proto to realize that you don't need 275s up front to out corner (and skidpad) a C6. Look up some TTWs (just stick to 2F1R, they're the only ones that matter) and be amazed at what 1 less wheel can accomplish.

  • MaintenanceCosts They can't keep selling through the current hodgepodge mess of desperate or disreputable dealers. Somehow the sales model has to change. Whether they become the Don Quixote that tilts at the franchise-law windmill to sell direct, or they cut a deal to get into another OEM's dealer network, something has to change.They've always been able to engineer competitive cars when they want to, but they haven't had a reasonable way to sell them since the Chrysler tie-up ended.
  • Sgeffe There’s a guy on YouTube who owns several Oldsmobile Diesel-equipped vehicles, including an A-Body with the 4.3 V6. Might be the Chevy.IIRC, Adam Wade on the “Rare Classic Cars” channel stated that this engine was also available in 1985 only in the redesigned C-Bodies (98 Regency, Electra, DeVille/Fleetwood).
  • Tassos It's a GREAT value, but what, if any, profit will GM make from this vehicle? When it prices it at only $30k, while the much smaller and much CRAPPIER FIAT 500E goes for OVER $40k????
  • Tassos The consumers (not the "market") DO trust EVs, but those that are superior and well-priced,THey buy millions of TESLAS and very few copies of all the other dozens and dozens of LEGACY BEVs.Makes sense to me. None of these experienced makers have YET succeeded to design and build a better Tesla, that is ALSO PRICED COMPETITIVELY.
  • Tassos NOBODY really HAS to buy a new or even used car in this insane 2022 market, and those who do are damned fools.THIS IS the way to discourage dealer markup. FIX your damn car and DO NOT GO BEGGING THEM TO GIVE YOU A NEW ONE, in this BIGGEST SELLER's MARKET EVER.DO NOT BE AN ECON ILLITERATE. WAIT A YEAR OR TWO, THEN BUY.