david’s aptera car story for 10-12-10
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david’s aptera car story for 10-12-10

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by david clouston salina journal

gary neuschafer is ready to drive an electric car if its makers promise him it can carry him safely, round-trip, to salina from his lindsborg home on a single charge.

“the performance of it is impressive to me,” neuschafer said monday morning after taking a spin in the two-seater aptera 2e electric vehicle on the streets around the bicentennial center. “it’ll run (speed-wise) with traffic. but we live at lindsborg and it’s 40 miles round-trip. some of these electric vehicles will run 50, 60 miles and that’s it.”

the aptera — a greek word for “wingless flight” — delivers more than 100 miles on a charge at a speed of up to 90 miles per hour.

some area residents got to take the aptera for a drive monday as part of the stop by aptera motors in salina. paul wilbur, who grew up in salina, is aptera’s president and chief executive officer. although wilbur has spoken in salina before about the aptera, monday marked the first opportunity for those curious about the vehicle to take a test drive.

“seeing it on the website is one thing, but riding in that thing is something else,” said salinan craig king, one of a group of salina noon rotary members who got a ride. “it’s an absolute blast. it’s got great acceleration. it feels very stable, very smooth.”

jeff veraldi, a technician for aptera, showed off the aptera’s interior as each rider climbed inside. on the dash, a bar graph gauge displayed the remaining electrical charge, much like the gas gauge in a traditional vehicle. there’s a rear view camera enabling the driver to watch for hazards when traveling in reverse. the cruise control, headlights, windshield wipers and heat/air conditioning controls are identical to a standard automobile. the car’s batteries are expected to last for eight to 10 years.

veraldi, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, says he has plenty of headroom in the aptera’s cabin.

“we actually have plenty of room in the rear that you can fit four full sets of golf clubs in the back,” veraldi said. “you’ve got plenty of room for groceries. it’s very practical.”

3,000 preordered

the company already has 3,000 of the two-seater models preordered by california customers. aptera plans to start selling its cars first in california, where the company just moved into a 200,000-square-foot design and production facility in oceanside. the first models could be rolling off the production line during the fourth quarter of 2011, said wilbur, speaking by phone monday from his office.

aptera’s two-seater resembles a three-wheel propeller plane cockpit — without the propeller and wings. a mixture of composite materials, three to six times stronger than steel, make up the 2,000-pound vehicle.

the company plans to produce 24,000 of the vehicles a year. a separate production facility will open later to build a four-door sedan. the plan is to produce up to 135,000 sedans a year, wilbur said.

apteras will be available initially in all-electric configurations, with a hybrid model to follow, for $25,000 to $40,000, depending on options and power train. eventually the cars will be sold through a network of up to 150 dealers nationwide.

wilbur said an initial plan to sell apteras through electronics retailer best buy ran into trouble partly because of the way automobiles are regulated by the government.

“there are a lot of things that we like about other alternative channels, but when it comes down to it, we were forced to go back to independent dealers,” he said.

2 cents a mile

between outings monday morning, the aptera 2e took refuge from the rain under a tent next to a customized semitrailer. the truck is hauling the vehicle on a multistate promotional tour.

part of the tour’s purpose is to thank the sponsors who helped aptera prepare for the automotive x-prize competition. competition winners, which were announced in mid-september, shared a $10 million prize for creating a car that gets the equivalent of 100 miles a gallon, can be mass-produced and can be sold for a reasonable price.

the aptera was bested in its division for two-seater cars featuring side-by-side seating by li-ion motors, based in mooresville, n.c. the li-ion wave ii vehicle was built on an aluminum chassis and a battery package that enabled it to achieve the equivalent of 187 miles a gallon in on-track testing.

part of the competition’s testing, however, was racing the cars as fast as they could go for 100 miles. what that does is favor the car with the biggest battery, and the aptera has the smallest, wilbur said.

the aptera achieved slightly more than 178 miles per gallon equivalent in that test. but other tests, using a combination of in-town and highway driving used by the environmental protection agency in its fuel economy calculations, showed that the aptera achieved an equivalent of 206 miles a gallon, wilbur said.

aptera estimates its two-seat model can be driven in city traffic for the equivalent of 2 cents a mile or less, he said.

n reporter david clouston can be reached at 822-1403 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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