Aptera's new car is incredibly efficient, but the solar panel on it is convenient, not green


Aptera, which has been trying for many years to make a successful efficient electric car, is now taking orders for a vehicle which uses only 100 watt-hours/mile to travel, compared with 250 for a Tesla Model 3 and more for others. That's a big deal.

They also have put solar panels on it, and have made a marketing pitch of calling it "Never Charge" since in theory the panels can generate enough electricity for around 10,000 miles of driving a year, which is just a bit below average usage. This can add a lot of convenience if you can't charge at home or the office, though it won't quite be "never." On the other hand, many people think that makes the car green, but it doesn't. If you are paying for solar panels, it's much greener to put them on your roof or in a solar farm than to put them on a car.

I outline all the reasons in my new Forbes site story at:

Aptera Electric Car Is Incredibly Efficient And Green, But “Never-Charge” Solar Panels Are Not


It seems to me the compromises to achieve high efficiency are most likely to be felt on the highway. 3 wheels, skinny tyres?, limited load carrying ability, safety in high speed collisions.
Given that city travelling is more common, would it make sense to make it a dedicated city car. That would allow the designers to concentrate on light weight, maneuverability, accessibility, and less on aerodynamics and high speed handling.
Of course this would be more attractive if the purchase came with a subscription to hire a highway version for longer trips.
I guess this sort of specialization and Transport as a Service really requires a robocar fleet to be truly practical though.

I might have something for you at some point. A city car doesn't need a 1000 mile battery, though it does mean that with the panel you would only need to charge it every couple of months which could be of value if you can't charge at home or work.

Brad, you missed the point. The solar panels, regardless of how many miles they put in per day is like getting FREE GAS every day that you can park the car in the sun.
Sure, I might rarely use 1000 miles of range, "But I could!" It might take two or three months, but it's there if I need it. NO vehicle has a 1000 mile range, but I have driven KC to Seattle enough times that it would have been handy.
Even if I get 10-15 miles a day of free juice, that's still energy I don't have to pay for.

Perhaps people are tricked into thinking it's like free gas. Or rather free electricity. But it's not free. It costs $1,500. In fact it's double the cost of the electricity coming from panels on your roof, not free. Double the price -- and conversely, offsetting only half the fossil fuel emissions that you presumably want to stop if you are doing it for green reasons.

$1500 in rooftop solar should generate around 150,000 miles of range for the Aptera at 100 wh/mile. $1500 in a solar farm would produce 300,000 miles of range if you didn't have grid costs.

To get the full power out of the panels on your car it must always be parked in a clear sunny location and must never be full. If you ever charge it up full, you either throw away the panel power, or reduce battery lifetime by overcharging the battery.

Of course you had to pay for it. You just paid for it, overpaid for it, up front. Similar to panels on your roof which you pay for up front, but not as good. (You can also get panels on your roof and rent them, so you don't have to pay up front, but you are really paying up front it's just better hidden.)

You do realize that there are times when the grid is "full" and has to throw away generated power too, right?

Where do you get "offsetting only half of the fossil fuel emissions"? Are you talking about fossil fuels from manufacturing the panels? There are no fossil fuels emitted from operations.

If you can mostly charge your car during the day, it's probably greener to use the grid. If you can only charge at night, it's probably greener to use these solar panels.

If you could plug this car in to a solar power farm during the day, and suck juice out of it to power your house at night, you'd reduce CO2 emissions even more, but unless you occasionally need the incredible range of a large battery, you'd probably be better off buying a powerwall for your house and solar panels for your roof.

Using power from the grid at night is generally not very green. It's usually cheap, but not green.

Certainly there are occasional times when there is excess power on the grid, do you have a figure on the percentage? My understanding is it's not giant. Mostly with wind farms who get a bit more surprised by their output, but who also factor that into their costs.

I mean that if you pump your solar energy into the grid, then that causes fossil plants to dial back (as well as hydro but that remains stored.)

Being able to power your home from the vehicle would help but v2g is expensive at present. And unreliable. You must have your car plugged into v2g any time there is excess power, and know you don't need the power to back to the grid from batteries.

The percentage depends on the area, but as renewable energy goes up, so will the percentage.

It's much more complicated than "if you pump your solar energy into the grid, then that causes fossil plants to dial back." Sometimes this is true, sometimes it isn't. During the peak generation times for solar, it probably isn't, especially in places where subsidies for solar are enough to have caused buildouts sufficient to meet demand or even to exceed it. When green power is sufficiently subsidized by governments, there's no benefit to individuals providing their own. If you don't do it, some investor will.

Being green is expensive. If you use energy from the grid at a time when fossil fuels are making up the excess demand, then you are causing fossil fuels to be burned. If you're okay with that, fine. If not, batteries are probably the least expensive of a host of expensive options. But as I said above, "unless you occasionally need the incredible range of a large battery, you'd probably be better off buying a powerwall for your house and solar panels for your roof."

Unless and until renewable energy credits vary based on time of day, they'll only hide the difficulties we're going to having eliminating fossil fuels for electricity generation. Sucking up energy from the grid during times when green energy generation is at its peak, storing it, and releasing it to the grid when green energy generation is at its ebb, benefits the environment a lot. Giving green energy to the grid when green energy generation is at its peak and taking energy from the grid when green energy generation is at its ebb, hurts the environment more than it helps it.

Interesting, I didn't know that this vehicle was still around. I think it's a decade too late though, this type of hyper efficient design would have made more sense back when batteries were much more expensive. I'm also curious how it handles cold weather, the range hit from using cabin heating should be much greater than for regular electric cars.

Well, the old company went bankrupt but the design and team are similar to the old.

Efficiency is always good, though, if the compromises are not too many. The main compromise here is the back seat not existing. May not be great in snow.

More efficient means less battery needed and lower cost, and it means it charges faster (in miles gained) from the same charger. For most EVs, level 2 charging stations are useless for a short stop. For this one, you could pick up probably 70 mph from a level 2 station, and if they wanted to they could make it pick up 150mph from a high current level 2 station which is not much below fast charging on a Model X. (80 amp charging stations are quite rare, only cars like the model S and X can use them.)

It all sounds good. Hopefully this isn't another Elio Motors story.

Everyone bare in mind this is considered a motorcycle platform and comparing it to ANY 4 wheel vehcile (regardless of practical use) isn't a fair comparison.
They did this intentionally after previous/new management wanted to push for a 4 wheel variant. They ended up pushing forward and canning it, they maintained the 3 wheel design specifically to trend in a niche market and that they knew back then wasn't the best time to release their vehcile.
I do agree however that the solar panels are gimmicky and not necessary if the range is as high as it is. But, I see the practical use for many who can take advantage of that depending on climate. Here in Canada, might not be as useful but whatever.
I love Tesla, what they do and who they provide to with their vehciles and advanced autonomy. But cmon these comparisons are dry and so unbelievably tiresome its been almost a decade can we move on already.

Most likely they kept the 3-wheel design to avoid a lot of onerous government regulations.

Looks like a motorcycle

An average car is a 2-tonne chunk of metal carrying a single 80kg person 99% of the time (4% efficiency). Infortunately, the alternative, a motorcycle, is riding a naked engine exposed to the elements with a helmet the only safety.
In a parking lot, usually not in a shady grove, on a sunny day a car gets hot as an oven and that lasts for hours if you are at work - all that energy being wasted.
That car ticks all the boxes (provided the body gives reasonable crash protection). I want it. Please bring it to New Zealand.

On much heavier vehicles like the Tesla Model 3, the kind that use two and a half times as much energy per mile as the Aptera, having solar panels on the car does make no sense. With Aptera's much greater efficiency, solar panels on the vehicle do make sense, perfect sense. Yes, solar panels and batteries are much cheaper nowadays. You can get to the trailhead with an Aptera and have a "full tank" by the time you finish your hike. That's golden.
Most of us can't afford houses much less solar houses, and Aptera's solar supply is not only affordable, when it saves you miles of driving to find a charge, that's fewer miles on your vehicle.
It's a cheap car, too. With Biden administration incentives it will be cheaper still. With maintenance and fueling costs minimal, it will earn more in net present costs unspent than the vehicle itself costs over its lifetime. If you could have a beautiful new car for free and you just had to buy gas, grease jobs, and oil changes, you'd take that deal, right?

Certainly the Aptera makes the panels more useful. But for convenience, not for being green, that's the point. And no, you won't fill up your "tank" on a day hike. Even on the best day with an all day hike in a sunny spot don't expect more than about 30 miles gained range, and on a shorter hike, quite a bit less. If the trailhead parking is not among trees. This is not nothing, of course, though with the range of the Aptera it's almost never going to be "necessary" in terms of needing it to get back home.

Which Biden incentives will apply to the Aptera? As a motorcycle it will not qualify for any car incentives, I believe.

Right? None of the cool kids live south of Kansas or East of coastal California. For the rest of us, with a black car in direct sunlight in the summertime, all the solar power will go to air conditioning, and not add to range at all.

That said, if other colors are available, and if it has enough luggage space for six bags of groceries, and if it can keep up with 80mph turnpike traffic, I could be in the market for one.

They claim the car is insulated to avoid getting hot, but a white car would be better to avoid that. Yes, it apparently has lots of cargo space and should be nimble on the road, or so they claim.

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