Aptera Pushing Electric Vehicle Production To End of 2009

apteraheadshotsmallElectric vehicle startup Aptera and its novel three-wheeled vehicle, the 2e, missed its deadline to show off its first production vehicle, and now the company says in a letter to its customers that the vehicles won’t be delivered in volume until closer to October 2009. Aptera, which is backed by over $24 million from Google.org, Idealab, Esenjay Investments, The Simons Family and The Beall Family Trust, had previously been shooting to show off its first vehicle before the end of 2008, followed by volume production shortly thereafter.

The letter says:

Our most recent corporate commitment was that we would deliver the first production Typ-1, now known as the 2e, by the close of 2008. Despite our well-intentioned efforts, we were unable to complete that vehicle before the close of the year, so it’s now slated for January 16. However, unlike prior plans, this vehicle will not be delivered to a retail customer. We will continue our builds but at a much slower rate starting with a small test fleet of the enhanced vehicles, then moving to our volume production launch on October 1, 2009.

Like most vehicles, Aptera’s 2e has undergone significant design changes, which the company has detailed throughout the year with series of images and photos. But Aptera also says in the letter to customers that it will be doing even more changes to the design to accommodate feedback from customers, and the company says it has “come to realize there were flaws in our initial product assumptions — specifically as it pertains to satisfying the needs of real-world consumers.”

Aptera notes as an example changing the design to sacrifice a couple of tenths of a point on the drag coefficient so that the vehicle can go through a drive through and rolldown the windows. Basically, it sounds like the original design was just too blue-sky and not realistic enough — even for the early-adopters that will be plunking down deposits to purchase the 2e.

Aptera says it will also be offering customers who put down deposits the ability to “lock-in” their deposits (i.e., not get them back) in exchange for a bigger credit towards purchase. We’re not sure how many people put down deposits, but the company appears to be trying to see how many of its deposits will actually turn into firm customer orders.

While Aptera seems to be hitting a few significant hurdles, the company is actually doing all this pre-production on a pretty small budget — at some point we’re guessing the startup will have to raise a good deal more to even get its vehicles to market. And, alas, 2009 doesn’t look like its going to be the easiest year to raise funding.