Republican assemblyman Pete Lopez, a confirmed alternative-energy enthusiast who drives Jeep Liberty diesel converted to run on vegetable oil, invited local press and government officials to view a prototype of the vehicle at Cantine Field on Saturday, October 2. The car is scheduled to go on sale in California in about nine or ten months with an MSRP of $25-40,000, and Lopez hopes the company decides to set up dealerships in New York soon after. (With this sort of car, you really need to go to the dealer for service.)
Lopez deals frequently with energy policy, but Saturday’s event wasn’t based around any particular state initiative. It was more an impromptu showcase of a particular model created by a company the assemblyman believes in.
The company says the car’s gas mileage is comparable to 200 miles per gallon, but since it’s entirely electric that number is useful only for comparison’s sake. Aptera calculated it by comparing electrical energy to fuel consumption to determine an equivalent figure for machinery powered by electricity. While the first models will be all-electric, the company is working on a hybrid model that should be available in a few years.
Some in assembled crowd seemed skeptical that the strange-looking vehicle could be so efficient and so modestly priced, while being able to stand up the rigors of the road without falling apart (and costing a fortune to fix). Marques McCammon, the company’s chief marketing officer, gave assurances that the prototype exceeds automotive safety standards and would not require service on the battery or electric motor for 10 years. The body is constructed of a composite material designed to bounce back rather than crumple the way steel does when hit. This makes the vehicle both safer and more durable than conventional cars, said McCammon. The vehicle’s battery can be charged from a standard household outlet and the car can travel 100 miles. McCammon says the car can do 90 miles per hour.
Others in the audience said the Aptera, which they compared to a bird or spaceship in appearance, doesn’t seem to meet the needs of people in the northeast, despite McCammon’s assurances that its heater is up to the task of keeping passengers comfortable in winter temperatures.
In response to questions about the stability of a three-wheeled vehicle, McCammon said the car performs as well as a four-wheeled vehicle; the two wheels in the front provide stability in cornering and the rear wheel actually improves performance on curves.
Other amenities standard on the Aptera are tinted solar glass, which blocks ultraviolet rays and reduces the heat from the sun in summer, AM-FM radio with five speakers, connection for smart phones and MP3 players and an emergency tire-inflation system, among others.
Because it has three wheels the vehicle will be classified as a motorcycle by the DMV, though in its features and substance, the vehicle feels much more like an automobile than a trike.
Saugerties supervisor Greg Helsmoortel welcomed, “one of the coolest cars to one of the coolest towns in America.”
“I want one,” said Saugerties councilwoman Leeanne Thornton.