VIDEO: Pop Mec Test Drives Electric Car

PM hits the streets and gets looked at more than ever before, then heads to the shop for first-look details on a futuristic car so efficient it’ll make your jaw drop. The good news? It’s coming next year.


Three hundred miles per gallon and a Jetsons-style look are enough to get anyone excited. But ever since the word got out on it last month, Aptera’s innovative Typ-1 three-wheeler has been the target of relentless theorizing and conjecture across the Web. Is it real? Does it have what it takes to be a practical vehicle for daily transport? Is it stable enough to drive? Does it even actually drive? Well we wondered some of those things, too, so we scouted out if a drivable prototype really exists.

It does.

This week we visited Aptera’s headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., and became the very first outside of the company to hit the street in the Typ-1 e. And, as you can see from the video of our 20-mile test drive above, we’re impressed.

Aptera has two innovative models that are almost production-ready at $30,000 and below: for next year, the all-electric, 120-mile-range Typ-1 e that we drove; and, by 2009, the range-extended series gasoline Typ-1 h, which Aptera says will hit 300 mpg. A more conventional third model, called “Project X” or perhaps Typ-2, is now in the design phase, with plans for a four-wheeled chassis and seating up for to five passengers.

For now, though, the Typ-1 will certainly do. Check out a full gallery for the inside scoop on all the specs from the shop and the street …

The Typ-1’s exposed chassis shows how the company has taken inspiration from aircraft, boats and high-performance cars. For durability as well as weight and cost savings, the majority of the Typ-1 is constructed from a top and bottom advanced composite structures bonded together along the midsection. With the top and bottom weighing in at a mere 160 and 180 pounds, respectively, the entire vehicle sits at approximately 1480 pounds today.

The chassis has steel reinforcements in key areas: at the roll hoop, along the bottom of the windshield, in the doors (for side impact protection) and, of course, in the front subframe (for the suspension system as well as the engine and battery cradle).

On the all-electric model, the battery pack lives in the center space of the subframe. A tiny gasoline internal combustion engine in the hybrid models shares that space. In fact, this chassis has part of the hybrid’s exhaust, which you can see just below and to the left of the subframe.

The rear-drive wheel is mounted to a steel swing arm similar to that of motorcycle–but with a design optimized to handle the Aptera’s loads. The rear wheel has 3 in. of up travel and 2 in. of droop.

A belt drive system connects to an electric motor that has regenerative braking to help charge the battery pack. The tires on the prototype are the same 165/65R14 tires from the Honda Insight.

The Typ-1 e is expected to have a target range of 120 miles per charge. A ful1 recharge of the pack will take about 4 to 6 hours with a standard 110-volt outlet. Aptera’s team is still evaluating lithium phosphate battery packs from a few suppliers, so the final specs of the 10-kWh batteries remain confidential. (The hybrid model will use a smaller battery pack.)

This wall of equipment is part of the battery test station. Twin super capacitors augment the battery pack for when you neeed quick boosts of power (think passing stupefied fellow drivers on the highway).