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Door Opens for Aptera, 3-Wheelers to Grab DOE Green Car Funds

It’s a new world for Aptera in its quest for federal funds today. The startup, which is developing a futuristic-looking, ultra aerodynamic three-wheeled vehicle called the 2e, can now be considered for funding under a highly competitive Department of Energy loan program for green cars.


That’s thanks to an 80-17 vote in the Senate yesterday in favor of an amendment to expand the scope of qualifying vehicles. It now includes not only four-wheeled “automobiles,” but also an “ultra efficient vehicle,” defined as “a fully closed compartment vehicle designed to carry at least 2 adult passengers” and get at least 75 MPG (or equivalent, for plug-in models). In other words, while Aptera is hardly a shoe-in for funding, three-wheelers like the 2e will be fair game for consideration, at least, once President Obama signs the bill into law.

The loan program in question, called the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program, was created as part of the 2007 Energy Bill and provides low-interest direct loans to help companies set up or expand manufacturing for plug-in, hybrid and high-efficiency vehicles (it’s separate from the stimulus package). The amendment, which has been the focus of a lobbying effort by some of Aptera’s deep-pocketed backers, cleared the Senate yesterday as part of an energy and water development spending bill (you can read the full text here).

ATVM has proven to be one of the biggest sources of government funds for auto startups since Secretary Steven Chu took office and made it a priority to disburse funds from the long-delayed program ASAP. Electric car maker Tesla Motors scored $465 million in loans under the program in June, and last month plug-in hybrid car developer Fisker Automotive snagged nearly $528.7 million in ATVM loans.

Aptera has requested $75 million to help accelerate its expansion. Given the limited potential for mass market adoption of the 2e, I’m not convinced those would be tax dollars well spent if they went toward Aptera’s inaugural vehicle. But if the company follows through with plans for “more mainstream” products, then maybe, Idealab, David Gelbaum’s Quercus Trust and the rest of Aptera’s backers could justifiably be joined by Uncle Sam.

21 Responses to “Door Opens for Aptera, 3-Wheelers to Grab DOE Green Car Funds”

  1. What EVs are going to be “mainstream” products? They’re small, incredibly expensive, even with huge government subsidies in both the R&D and sales cycles, need major infrastructure changes and are inconvenient.
    Hybrids meanwhile have proven technology and with a change over to LiIon from NiMH could probably have a smaller carbon footprint than a pure EV.
    You can’t force consumer preferences, but you can waste a lot of money trying.

  2. This is great news for all those people who are sick of 3-wheel vehicles getting mocked. Cars like the Xebra et al are all perfectly fine alternative energy types if you know what you need and know your budget. It’s nice that the government is finally catching the hint on that matter.

  3. sorry to misread you bob wallace. Would you please tell me where you found the number “put to” the idea of…puting elec back into the grid.

    Of course there are issues with the time of day etc, and if they expect (a lot of us) us to be hooked up 22 hours (!!!) a day, then it means these batteries are saving the grid system a great deal of costs from cycling its load at the generators and doing so for free with the addeded battery life problems…I’ll take mine “in the hood”, off grid, thank you. It seems more under my control

    3 wheels aceptable? Well, it must be there for the zap too, if thats been announced. Politicians never make mistakes as they read the fine print and go over it with all those fine tooth combs…The Zap, imho, is a rather much flimsier proposition that Aptera, which it seems to be I am one of the very few admirers of. Sure its a little bigger than my ideas, but why is Everyone so tradition bound on form?

    • Bob Wallace

      Link – up above in my 10/17 post in which I posted the quote from Wellinghoff, Chairman of the FERC.

      Twenty two hours a day is not unreasonable if we are talking about vehicles used to commute to job/school and outlets are available in both places. Drive to, plug in.

      $1,500 per year would make it worthwhile for most, I would imagine. Average US driver at 12,000 miles per year, 0.25 kWh per mile, $0.105 kWh average US electricity price would spend about $315 to fuel their car. I would think most of us would take a moment to plug in at work if someone paid us $100 or so a month and bought our “gas” do do so.

      Wear and tear on the batteries are left out of this equation. That could swing things toward the negative perhaps. Shallow discharges may not put much strain on battery life, just don’t know.

      When it comes to large dollar purchases such as a new vehicle I think most people are a little conservative. Not many of us have a few tens of thousands of dollars for an impulse buy.

      The Aptera is weird looking. (Sure some will like its weirdness, but I suspect them a small minority.) It’s electric, which is a huge departure from what we’ve driven for the last 100 years. And it’s got three wheels, not four.

      It might be the very best car offered in terms of cost to drive. But I’ll bet that something that looks more normal while ‘not quite as good’ will sell better. Look at the people turned off by the looks of the Prius.

  4. Jason M. Hendler

    I read through the final version of the bill to pass both the House and Senate and could not find any reference to three wheeled vehicles nor hydrogen fuel cell vehicle funding. Could someone please point them out to me?

  5. the link to the “full text” lead to a select from these 6 versions, so I am still in the dark about how much this opened the door for alternate formated vehicles.

    I am very pleased to see that the 3 wheel motorcycle for two is now considered a worthy alternative vehicle. Esp Aptera, who I understand went the extra mile and passed some auto crashtest certifications.

    And I am very angered by the articles authors position, to wit: “I’m not convinced those would be tax dollars well spent if they went toward Aptera’s inaugural vehicle. But if the company follows through with plans for “more mainstream” products,”

    Jossie, do you want another electromusscle sexcar like the tesla and those Frarri types? Oh, you probably don’t consider the smart car stubies worthy either as that is a very non-traditional format. Sorry to get personal, but it smacks more of personal taste than of ” it might be a marketing dead end and the gov’t should be warry.” I know there are a lot of knuckle draggers out there pronouncing aptera the ugliest thing on wheels ever….would you care to explain yourself?

    Bob: funny you have not heard this rentback of electricity idea before. Some of us have had this in mind since before it got traction. A sort of extension of the home two way meter and cross it with alternate currency where you could join a “cloud” of folks offgrid and share…use the )KillowattHours are good as cash” concept. There are many ways to decentralize and get smart with the battery electricity as “capital.”

    • Bob Wallace

      Didn’t say I hadn’t heard of the idea before.

      Said that this was the first time I’ve seen someone put a number to the idea. Of course it’s not a complete number as it doesn’t figure in how much ones battery life might be shortened by the daily ups and downs.

      It also doesn’t include what might be made by storing cheaper power (late night off-peak and morning solar before high demand kicks in) and selling it back to the grid during high peak time.

      But the idea itself, it goes back to when people were talking about using PHEVs as auxiliary generators for the grid. An idea that didn’t go too far once people starting figuring out ICE efficiencies and retail fuel prices.

      As for the Aptera, I think its uniqueness is going to make it a difficult sale. Most people don’t like bringing that much attention to themselves and would prefer something more “standard” in appearance.

      I’m thinking that these guys got too far out in front of the curve to be widely adopted at this time…

    • Josie Garthwaite

      Sure, part of this is a matter of personal taste. My preference is to see the environmental impact of our transportation system (including personal vehicles) significantly reduced, sooner rather than later. And I’m skeptical that a car that looks this unusual (or that has the price tag of a plug-in luxury sports car) will be able to accomplish that in the near future.

      This link should take you to a page with the section on “ultra efficient vehicles”:

      • Bob Wallace

        The two seater Aptera will supposedly have a range of 120 miles on battery power. And sell for $25k – $40k. I’m betting the $25k is for the hybrid model and the EV version will be closer to $40k.

        The four seater Nissan Leaf will supposedly have a range of 100 miles on battery power. And sell for something around $25k. (No official price yet.)

        I’d put my money on the Leaf as being the more commonly accepted EV by the general public.

  6. Bob Wallace

    Not specific to the Aptera, but it’s the first time I’ve seen anyone put a number to the idea of renting ones EV batteries to grid managers…

    U.S. power-grid chief Jon Wellinghoff is touting the long-term cost savings of electric cars, saying the vehicles could net their owners $1,500 a year in paybacks when their batteries are connected to the power grid.


    Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said that on top of saving $3 or $4 a gallon on gasoline in future years, car owners could be reimbursed by grid operators and power companies for the battery storage offered by the roughly 22 hours a day that electric cars would be connected to the nation’s power system.

    “Plug-in hybrids could help stabilize the grid and make money for their owners,” said Wellinghoff, who spoke at Knight Capital Group’s Electrifying Transportation conference for institutional investors.,0,5786755.story

  7. There might be no doubt Aptera 2e & EVII’s WAVE boasting an Impressive 211 Miles on a Single Charge and more are reflections of American Pioneer Spirit implicitly.