Consumer Reports covered the Automotive X Prize competition
Aptera e1
Team name: Aptera
Location: Carlsbad, Calif.
Car name: e1

Who are they? Inventor Steve Fambro and entrepreneur Chris Anthony started Aptera after Fambro had an epiphany while stuck in traffic: He wanted to make a functional, small electric car that could use California's carpool lanes. Anthony is a finance guy who also patented a fiberglass process at his previous startup, Epic wakeboats. The two reportedly hired dozens of former auto-industry engineers to bring the car to fruition, but had to lay off almost half the staff earlier this year when money started running out.

What they say will set them apart: The Aptera is designed around aircraft aerodynamic and light weight principles. In other words, it tries to succeed by making do with less--and trying to make it cool. Maybe that's why it looks like a wingless airplane. Aptera has applied for a $168-million government loan for advanced vehicle development. In addition, it is working to secure additional venture capital to supplement the $9.8 million it raised in March.

Field notes: Aptera struggled through the accident avoidance test at the Shakedown phases, requiring 38 runs to pass this test. Since then, the prototype vehicle has received some suspension refinements, moving it closer to a production specification. At the Knockout phase, Aptera successfully negotiated the challenge within the 10-pass limit. In the video above, you can see the door opened during the Shakedown testing. The doors use an electric actuator, much like that in a Chevrolet Corvette or Dodge Viper, whereby you push the button and the door opens. That button had been put on the door trim facing the driver's left knee. In normal driving, it would likely be a non-issue, but when threading through the cones at the performance limits, the driver's knee tapped the button. It has since been moved.

Class: Alternative
No. of wheels: Three
Passengers: Two
Drive type: Front-wheel-drive
Power source(s): 110-hp electric motor
Fuel type: Electricity, 20 kwh li-ion nano phosphate
Charging: 110v-overnight
Range: 100 miles

For more information, see the Aptera team page on the X Prize website.

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