Chris Anthony was one of the founders of the original Aptera. He is also one of the executives that want to finally deliver what promises to be the most energy-efficient car in the world. “We never stopped thinking Aptera since 2011 so really our production planning has been going on since then,” told us Anthony in an exclusive interview about the future of the company and also about its past. Have a look at our chat with him below:
InsideEVs - Does the new Aptera Motor product already have a name?
Chris Anthony - It does not. We are just calling everything the “Aptera” for now. Once we chose – with the help of deposit holders – our pack sizes and performance options, we will figure out if each variant needs a name or a number.
IEVs - Things now seem to be very much in place regarding plans of production. Almost like it happened with Rivian, which revealed its plans with most everything already settled. IEVs - For how long have you conceived this new Aptera?
Anthony - We never stopped thinking Aptera since 2011 so really our production planning has been going on since then. But it was only 9 months ago now that Steve, Michael, and I started to reformulate what a new Aptera could be. Once we did some basic CFD and realized that a more-than-1,000-miles goal was easily accomplished with the new battery tech of today, we started the real engineering of the new vehicle. We still have substantial integration work to do but the aerodynamics, body topology, build methods, and vendor strategy have all been settled.
IEVs - My impression is that you are missing only the $2.5 million to get things started. Is it a correct assumption? More than that, will that be enough?
Anthony - We are raising the $2.5 million to build out and test three validation prototypes, which we will show to the public as well. This covers the remaining engineering to get vehicle rolling, crash-tested, and performance tested. The data from that work will be rolled into production designs and planning and we will need to raise another $20 million or more to launch into limited production with true volume production and the design of other variants possibly requiring more capital. Our construction methods and tooling costs are dramatically lower than anyone building a steel or aluminum car so the money it will take us to scale is impressively lower.
IEVs - According to the presentation, you expect to operate in the first two years with a loss of $7.2 million. Will you need another round of funding to handle that or are there investors already planning to back you up while you gain speed?
Anthony - Yes, please note the above numbers which include accounting for contingencies and the purchase of property and capital equipment.
IEVs - The new Aptera will be a car for two people, right? That said, you expect it to have a starting price of $34,000. The Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus costs $32,815. With building costs of $21,000. Don't you think you will have to price the new car more aggressively?
Anthony - We feel we have something to offer people that want the best in efficient technology. And because we use so much 'less fuel' versus other EVs and have such great range and other benefits, we believe that consumers will like our offerings at our current pricing strategy. Though we aspire to have as great an impact on increasing transportation efficiency as possible and may introduce lower-cost options in the future to meet further low-cost demand. We just don’t want to over-promise on price at this early stage.
IEVs - Direct sales will demand a robust structure to work well. How much do you estimate you will have to invest to support this sales format?
Anthony - Our path to building 10,000 Apterae a year is paced well to be able to build out the support infrastructure we need. This will be one of our biggest challenges, but we think we have the perfect vehicle for direct sales and service. Or vehicles are simple to construct, which also makes them simple to service. 99 percent of all our service needs will be able to be handled out of the back of a mobile service van. This dramatically changes the way we will be able to roll out service and to what areas. As long as we can find passionate and caring service reps in an area we will be able to grow there.
IEVs - With no dealers, you will also have to handle repairs. How Aptera plans to deal with this?
Anthony - I think my previous answer addresses this.
IEVs - Some of our readers say that in-wheel motors are a ship that has already sailed. And not very well. Probably due to unsprung mass. What do you have to tell them about this?
Anthony - Remember the in-wheel motor replaces the upright, the spindle, bearings, rotor and brake caliper. These are all integrated into the motor and lighter weight in nature for many reasons. So our motor weight delta versus a traditional upright is not that much more. And the performance benefits are simply amazing. We have yet to announce a lot of great features that are just not possible with a motor and transaxle setup. This makes our vehicles more dynamically controllable, more fun to drive, and most importantly more efficient.
IEVs - Your autopilot-system hardware comes from which Japanese OEM?
Anthony - Our Co-Pilot doesn’t come from an OEM per se, but it was developed in conjunction with large Japanese OEMs via a company called Andromeda Interfaces that one of our founding team members leads here in San Diego.
IEVs - Is this Japanese OEM partnering with you in any other thing apart from the autopilot-system hardware?
Anthony - No. And my previous answer is not an endorsement from these OEMs in any way.
IEVs - Aptera was a company with huge expectations that did not make it back in the day. What has made it fail?
Anthony - This is a long discussion really, but I would say there was too much ambition for the difficult economic times of 2009. And the technologies were so new at the time that everything was a big and costly development endeavor for us. Now there is a supply chain that is much more EV friendly and we can buy much of what we need to make these vehicles possible. Leaving us developing only our suspension assemblies, body structure, battery pack assemblies, and software. Furthermore, the DOE loan program was a monster just to apply to and the timing just didn’t work for our nimble start-up pressed by an economic downturn of unprecedented scale. Moving forward, we recognize what our business model is capable of and how much funding it will take to get there.
IEVs - Above anything else, what will you do to ensure this will not happen this time?
Anthony - We’ll start by only raising the amount of money we need, at valuations that work for us. This will help us keep control of the vision that makes this idea so compelling. Then it’s just executing on our plan as all the founders have done over the past decade with other companies.