08 May 2012

Flightless Aptera not extinct; will be made in China

Words by Niky Tamayo | Photos courtesy of Aptera 
 
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A welcome surprise greeted showgoers at the recent Beijing International Automotive Exhibition. The Aptera 2e, that flightless bird of fancy that once promised to revolutionize motoring, is apparently not dead. ZAP, champion of cheap and cheesy Chinese electric three wheelers, has teamed up with Jonway Automotive to produce the futuristic Aptera.
 
The Aptera 2e has had a colorful history. First announced in 2006, it promised to be a revolution in motoring, with its aircraft inspired design, lightweight body, and hybrid drivetrain. But after its official launch in 2008, it's been a roller-coaster ride for Aptera and its fantastic-looking car. 
 
In other words, it's been mostly downhill.
 
Featured widely in the press and touted as one of the most innovative cars of the 21st Century, the Aptera 2e initially promised 300 mpg, thanks to a diesel hybrid drivetrain and an ultralight composite body. The company started taking orders in 2008, but faced numerous problems from there on in. 
 
In 2009, the US Government denied much-needed loans to Aptera, citing wording in the law covering advanced vehicles that required funded projects to be four-wheeled vehicles. Even after successfully lobbying to have the wording changed, Aptera struggled to secure government loans and outside financing, and ultimately folded.
 
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Now, Zap and Jonway have bought the rights to the car, as well as all the existing molds and prototypes, and are promising to produce the 2e (presumably under a different name) in China. And despite the 2e's checkered history, it's still a promising design. With a curb weight of under 400 kilograms and a tested fuel efficiency of 200 MPGe, it's a much more convincing effort than Zap's Alias or their woeful Xebra. 
 
Unfortunately, neither Zap nor Jonway are in the most stable of financial conditions themselves, so chances of production are still... questionable. But at the very least, this keeps the Aptera dream afloat for a little while longer.