April 2008


Here is some good news. Neil Hannemann has just joined Aptera. Find the article as to why this is important here: LINK

Now for my spin: Ahem… Neil Hannemann is described as, “niche automotive industry veteran”. The word “niche” can be taken one of two ways. The first connotation is very positive considering his track record which you will read about in the article found at the above URL. The other connotation is one of I find to be handicapping and belittling of the project this blog is focused on. By referring to the Aptera as a niche automobile, the writer of the article is unintentionally throwing up a mental roadblock to anyone reading about the Aptera for the first time. It’s bad enough that Steve Fambro must deal with hack blog jockeys like me delegitimizing how great his invention is just by my mentioning its existence in a (gulp!) BLOG. Steve now must fight the battle of the car being considered a niche vehicle because someone at a more established news site called it that. Albeit, $30K is not a small price for the average person to pay for a vehicle and its shape may be too different at first for many of the unwashed masses but in the end it is a great start toward the ultimate end which would be a car that anyone could afford to buy and fuel. NICHE implys it is intended only for a select group of outsiders. A niche car to me would be something like the car that can be driven under water or the one wheel Segway like vehicle by Bombardier called the Embrio. Wrapping my head and wallet around those concepts is even harder to deal with than the Aptera. Those vehicles don’t address many of the fundamental needs of the AVERAGE auto buyer like the Aptera does. The Embrio may be a fine machine, but you have the one drawback of it being a vehicle that does not enclose the rider; so everone who already doesn’t like motorcycles will probably hate this vehicle even more by virtue of the fact that it ONLY HAS ONE WHEEL! And as for the under water car, my job at SEALAB 2021 didn’t work out so I won’t be needing that car either.

I like the photo on the Aptera website of the tall guy with the bags of groceries because that photo to me says it all about the car. Just an average guy using this car for average purposes without needing a fireproof Spandex bodysuit and crash helmet. If I can ever get an Aptera I may get the bodysuit and crash helmet anyway just to live out my sad science fiction fantasies.

Scaring the neighborhood aside, Aptera needs to continue on with this sort of image building and even go a step further by taking a page out of the Smart Car playbook and take the Aptera on a U.S. tour. Build enough of them to go from city to city and allow the people to drive the car themselves. Aptera should want to do this because this was the smartest thing Smart Car could have ever done for their product. As a result they can’t even keep up with the orders comming in and it isn’t even as fuel efficient a car it should be for its size.

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REAL news about the Aptera is becoming very hard to come by. Bloggers like myself seem to be keeping it alive on the web more so than the mainstream press. Problem is that bloggers like myself depend on the mainstream press to get information about the subjects we love. I will do my best to cover this subject in the time to come but the links below are the only findings today that seem to be worth reading about. One blog and one news paper article about the Aptera. For good measure I threw in a blog entry about the Chevy VOLT which may be a contender if GM can keep the batteries from overheating.

This year will mark my 45th spin around our Sun. I have for the most part done my best to ‘Give a hoot and not pollute’, but I want MORE out of giving back. The problem with going GREEN for me is that the up front costs of doing so is burdensome on the wallet. If I do too much too soon my green world will put me further in red before I am back in the black. The Prius I purchased is going to help, but in the long run I need more GREEN EVERYTHING! I want solar panels and high efficiency home heating and cooling. I want ‘gray-water’ lawn sprinkling and a geodesic dome of glass to cover my house. And I want a solar powered robotic maid to walk my electric dog. To paraphrase Tim Allen, ‘ I want LESS POWER! ARG! ARG! ARG!’ But how can I do all that on a salary that is about $36K/year? That will be the challenge for me and that will be the co-subject of my future blog entries.

Ciao for now.

http://truthwalker.wordpress.com/2008/04/18/one-bazillion-miles-per-gallon/

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/16/HOP1103V8S.DTL

http://www.ecoworld.com/blog/2008/04/14/gms-volt-on-track-for-2010/

 

I realized today that I had not kept up this blog the way I had intended. Truth be told it is because I am not so sure that I can really look at the Aptera with the same wide eyed wonder as I did when I first saw the car. Sure I still think it is a wonderful achievement, and I would give your eye teeth for it; But the economy has beaten me down. The Aptera has taken forever (in my own personal time frame) to be released and it looks like it is going to be an up hill battle on a state by state basis to get it approved. I still have the highest hopes that Aptera and our hero Steve will manage to make this wingless bird fly, but I could not wait any longer. The last couple of months have been more depressing for me than when I had the vertigo. The price of gas was eating me alive as I am sure it has been all of you. Desperate times require desperate measures so they say and I have been desperate looking for a solution to my own personal gas crunch. I don’t make a lot of money, so I was attracted to the Smart Car when I first caught sight of one. I actually drove to the national headquarters for Smart in Bloomfield, Michigan where I got to test drive one. It was fun, cute, and fit my 300 pound butt easily. It drove alright for a car with a 3 cylinder engine. I was all set to purchase one when the final word I was waiting for came out on the American crash tests. Too many 3 star ratings for my taste. My wife said she would never ride with me if I got one after she heard the results from me, but I had already decided I was not going to get one when I announced the results to her.

Depressed and Hell-bent on getting a different car other than the Saturn VUE I had been driving, I started going to different auto lots to see what was out there. On one of these trips, my wife said, “Let’s go test drive a Prius.” Being a fairly flexible person, I said, “Sure. Why not?” I didn’t think we would find any around because I was sure that the fuel costs had caused them to disappear off the lots. I was right for the most part. We found one still not purchased at a local Toyota dealer. All the others had sold signs on them. We walked in and found a salesman who let us test drive the last un-sold Prius right away. As we stood there without even test driving it, I jokingly asked my wife, “So, you wanna buy it?” and she said, “YES!” I was not prepared for that answer. I had been tricked by her! But how? I was almost sure that this was just a fact finding mission and that she just wanted to see what the car was like. Little did I realize her true agenda. I knew I had been suckered, but I didn’t know how to get out of the trap without chewing my own foot off. However, I had never got to test drive a Prius before so I thought it may be fun anyway. Besides, how could I finance a Prius with two other cars in my garage.

Side Note: my wife drives a 2006 diesel VW Beetle. If she could keep from pushing her foot to the floor she would get 45 MPG., but as it is she is only getting about 39 MPG. Still not bad. We met the salesman outside and got in the car to drive it.

I took it out on the Highway and put the car though its paces. This was a superior machine! I loved the way it handled. It was smooth and quite. Not powerful, but it can still go fast enough to get you into trouble. Just ask former V.P. Al Gore and Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak. Both of these guys got pulled over for speeding at around 104 MPH! To be honest, I never looked at a Prius until I found out that Steve Wozniak drove one. Steve is a mad genius with an I.Q. that is somewhere round 200. I figured if the car was good enough for my favorite geek, it had to be good enough for me. Hero worship aside, I did fall in love with the Prius on my first drive. But how could I get this car? I was sure that my credit score was too low for such an expensive car. After filling out the paper work and submitting it to Toyota finance, I got an answer. “Congratulations! You have an excellent score!. That is all I remember now. The whirlwind of papers to be signed sucked the oxygen out my lungs removing all the boundaries between reality and insanity. The more I signed the worse it got. I saw numerous dead presidents flying out of my wallet laughing at me. I saw a shaman in a business suit hand me a talisman that had a blinky red light that lit when I squeezed it. I saw him wish me well as I used the talisman to… To start the Prius! Oh God! it wasn’t a dream! Damn you! Damn you witch woman and all your tricks! Where is my money! How did this shiny white car get into my garage!

After the shock wore off I took the car out for a series of test drives that took almost 2 weeks to finish. I must now admit that love it. I finally had to fill up the tank when the fuel alarm went off telling me that it was low. I read in my manual later though that I still had 3 gallons in the 11.9 gallon tank when the alarm went off so I could have gone on for a long time. But the best news was that I am getting 52.3 MPG! Compaired to the VUE with it’s 17 MPG it is even better for me.

As soon as I can find someone to take over the lease on the VUE I will be much better. I am paying $265.45 a month on the VUE lease and I can’t eat that forever while paying for the $313.00 on the Prius. This part of my plan stinks as you may have noticed, but it was necessary. The Prius I was test driving had 3 other families waiting for it and the other Prius’s were gone without any word as to when a new shippment may be in. More frightening yet, the  dealer had over 70 Prius’s on his lot at one point two months earlier and this was indeed the last one as I could see for myself going through the lot. Again I say, desperate times. But what about my hope for the Aptera? I still have it. I want Aptera out there breathing down the necks of all the automakers. I want to see them stew the way we do every time we have to go to the gas station. With a car like the Aptera waiting to eat their collective lunch, it should make them work a little harder at making a hyper-mileage car on a large scale. There is no reason why in 2008 we don’t already have cars that get 300 MPG. If they had started working on this problem in the 1970’s during the first oil crisis, we would have been driving such a car by now.