New Yorkers would have been impressed if we’d told them that the makers of the Aptera 2e, the two-seat, three-wheeled oddity we were driving around Soho, promised the equivalent of more than 200 mpg and a 100-mile range between charges of its battery pack. But we never got that far. The mind of every single New Yorker who saw us was blown at first sight. We could have told them anything.
The fact that the Aptera looks like a futuristic Piper Cub minus wings makes the name – Greek for “wingless flight” – apt. Except, we were hardly flying. More like sitting in traffic in downtown Manhattan at rush hour, in an early development mule, barely even driving. And, boy, were people digging our scene.
Because it has three wheels, the 2e is classified as a motorcycle, although its super strong and not uncomfortable composite cockpit is claimed to meet passenger-car crash-safety standards. Numerous details remain to be finalized before deliveries begin this fall, but this much we know: It is not slow. A claimed sub-10-second 0-to-60-mph time and a top speed of 90 mph are plausible. It cornered flat, rode a little rough, and looked mighty cool, although after the shock of its shape wears off, its substantial width and not insubstantial length (almost fifteen feet) became apparent. Breadth – necessary to ensure stability with the aerodynamically beneficial (enabling the incredibly slippery 0.15 Cd) but tricky third wheel – will be trimmed in the production model. The big footprint and limited ground clearance makes the lightweight 2e – just 1500 pounds, including its 400-pound battery pack – seem more suited to a suburban commute than to combat on the cobbled streets of the old town.
Founded in 2006 by a bored biotech engineer and an entrepreneurial pal, Aptera has recruited a roster of veteran auto industry executives from Ford, Chrysler, ASC, and other old-guard Detroit companies, as well as Silicon Valley alumni, to its suburban San Diego headquarters while attracting several rounds of investment. The privately held company has come a long way in a short time but has more ambitious plans, including building 100,000 cars a year by 2014. To reach that goal, it will add a gasoline version with a 660-cc engine plucked from the warehouses of one of Japan’s microcar makers. A hybrid version is also promised. Aptera says it has received $500 deposits from 4000 early adopters already, but it will sell only in California to start, with all service undertaken at the company’s HQ. If it’s successful in the Golden State, a national rollout will follow, and New Yorkers may have another opportunity to gawk at Aptera’s three-wheeled driving machine.