1,000-mile Aptera “never charge” solar-supplemented EV: Jay Leno gets a preview

While not quite ready for production, the Aptera electric three-wheeler recently appeared on “Jay Leno’s Garage,” where Jay Leno got a comprehensive preview of the solar-supplemented EV from Aptera co-CEOs Chris Anthony and Steve Fambro.

The vehicle seen here is an evolution and revival of what Aptera hoped to build under the company’s original existence from 2006 to 2011. The first incarnation of Aptera collapsed into liquidation after it failed to receive low-interest loans from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program.

Production plans were revived in 2019, and the three-wheeler is now pitched as a “never charge” vehicle that can get power primarily through built-in solar panels (it still has a conventional plug, however). This allows for a lower price through the use of fewer batteries, the company claims, rather than using more batteries and aiming for economies of scale, as many automakers are attempting to do.


Aptera EV on Jay Leno's Garage

Aptera EV on Jay Leno’s Garage

The three-wheeler boasts 700 watts of solar capacity, which can harvest 4.4 kwh of energy per day on a sunny day in California. Optional solar panels covering the rear hatch enable up to 40 miles of range per day in those conditions, Aptera claims. Even in the decidedly less sunny climate of Ireland, 20 miles of range per day from solar charging is still possible, Anthony said.

Aptera claims it will offer versions with up to 1,000 miles of range, but so far a 400-mile version has been the most popular among reservation holders, Fambro said. The company claims to have more than 10,000 orders for the three-wheeler, which starts at $25,900. A final development vehicle is scheduled to launch before the end in 2021, and Aptera is targeting 2022 for production, he said.

The three-wheeled configuration was chosen for efficiency, and yields a 0.13 drag coefficient. It also means the Aptera looks like nothing else on the road, which can be both a help and a hindrance, Leno noted.


Aptera EV on Jay Leno's Garage

Aptera EV on Jay Leno’s Garage

Aptera used axial-flux in-wheel motors, which help simplify packaging and provide 30% more regenerative braking than an induction motor, Anthony said. That’s due to the placement of the magnets further away from the point of rotation, which provides greater leverage, he explained.

The version shown here has two motors and front-wheel drive, but Aptera plans to offer a three-motor all-wheel drive version as well. The company has also teased a 0-60 mph time of as little as 3.5 seconds.

Aptera isn’t the only company developing a solar-supplemented EV. The Sono Sion and Lightyear One aim to harness solar power as well, but with somewhat more conventional four-wheeled packaging.