Aptera: 330 miles per gallon at 65 miles per hour
10 years ago
Diesel-Electric Hypercar | Jamais Cascio Accelerated Composites, a startup in Carlsbad, California, is now assembling a new diesel-electric hybrid of its own design, made of high-end composite materials and using supercapacitors instead of batteries. Like the Honda Insight, it will seat two. Accelerated Composites expects the vehicle, called the Aptera, to cost around $20,000. Estimate mileage: 330 miles per gallon at 65 miles per hour. That's not a typo. The combination of super-streamlined shape, ultra low-weight materials, and high-output supercapacitors gives the design incredible efficiency. And because the composite production process developed by Accelerated Composites is faster and more efficient than previous methods, the overall cost of the vehicle can be startlingly low. A quick glance at the image will reveal another aspect of the Aptera design: it's a three-wheel vehicle, and that means (along with its sub-1500 pound weight) it qualifies as a motorcycle instead of a car. It doesn't have to have the kind of bumpers and such that regulations demand of automobiles; safety isn't an issue, however, because the passenger compartment is built to formula race car crash cage specs. Before we get too excited about this, bear in mind that Accelerated Composites hasn't yet finished a prototype version -- the Aptera currently exists only in computer designs. A variety of factors could reduce the overall fuel efficiency of the vehicle: it may need more weight for wind safety; real world streamlining may not match computer estimates; maybe even passenger weight could reduce efficiency. One of the most popular posts ever on WorldChanging is my "Diesel Hybrid-Electric Cars Now!" essay from early 2004, demanding that automakers produce some of their prototyped but never released high-mileage diesel hybrid designs. A diesel version of the typical gasoline-electric hybrid could get 80 miles per gallon or better, and that sounded pretty good to me. Clearly, I was guilty of thinking too conservatively.