Environment


I was disappointed to find out that the average range per charge of the Aptera is 100 miles. The original design which was more complex allowed for a gasoline engine to keep the car on the road even after the battery ran down. I won’t complain about this until I see real world statistics, but I did like the idea of traveling across the country in an Aptera.

Somewhat related to the subject of the all electric Aptera, is the recent announcement that Toshiba has developed a battery that can recharge in about 90 seconds. If you follow the link you will see among other things that Toshiba is going to target the automotive industry to market it to developers of new hybrid and all electric cars. This battery (if placed into mass production) will be a game changer. To my knowledge, Aptera has not announced that they are even looking at these batteries. But what if they did? What if Steve Fambro discovered that he could easily implement them in his current design. Recharging the Aptera in 8 hours with today’s technology is an achievement in and of itself. But what if you could charge the Aptera in about 5 minutes? All the problems of long distance travel start to go away. Early adopters may find it difficult to find an open outlet on the road, but I can see a future where recharging stations will be as plentiful as today’s gas stations. And what about the solar panel on the roof? Could that recharge such a battery array in a way that would allow the car to go further than 100 miles? Could a cluster of battery arrays be arranged in a fashion where the car could run on one battery while the solar panel charged another battery array? If this could be done, it seems reasonable that an automatic switching system could automatically switch to a freshly charged battery when a low voltage is detected. Then the depleted battery could be switched to the charging circuit to charge up again with the solar panel.

Of course, this is all conjecture on my part. What I just described here is akin to a perpetual motion machine which is impossible according to the laws of physics. But then again… We are talking about solar power being combined with a battery that can be recharged in 90 seconds or 5 minutes depending on how you array the things. The power from the panel has to be the equivalent of a 110 volt power outlet… maybe. Maybe 220 volts… Maybe 1.21 Gigawatts. Oh well, I am not on their design team and I am not getting paid to think about this stuff. And if you have to stop every 100 miles for 5 minutes, so what?  I still think if these batteries take off, that our Aptera may just get them in the future.

Advertisements

I don’t like to think of myself as a quitter. Usually I chip away at something until I finish what I am trying to do unless I find the obstacle is truly too large for my skills. This time however, I find that a year after I started this blog, that I gave up on the Aptera project too soon because I believed that the bureaucracy that exists in government was too large to overcome.

It was about this time last year I became discouraged by an article that appeared in autobloggreen.com. It was brief and to the point. The headline read, “Ohio refuses to license electric 3 wheeled vehicles.” For me that said it all. I was done. I didn’t have the time or resources to fight this battle. I felt that I would get nothing but frustration from the effort when I read the reason behind Ohio’s refusal:

Most states classify three-wheelers as motorcycles, but Ohio adds one more item to their definition of a motorcycle: a saddle. This means that three-wheelers which have a normal “car-like” seat are unregisterable as a car, because they have fewer than four wheels, or a motorcycle. -Source Cleveland Plain Dealer_via, autobbloggreen.com.

The law is an ass! – From Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

Well, I suppose that even an ass can change its stripes… ass? stripes? Never mind the metaphor. Because just like the distance runner that gave up the race just a few feet away from the finish line, I missed the victory. One month later this article appeared at www.wsaz.com with the headline, “3-Wheel car approved in Ohio.” I was elated until I found the law in its new form. Here it is from its source:

http://bmv.ohio.gov/title/title_directives/2008/Title%20Broadcast%2008-0916-53%20Titling%203-wheel%20vehicles.pdf

TO:  ALL CLERKS OF THE COURTS OF COMMON PLEAS TITLE OFFICES

FROM: MIKE RANKIN, REGISTRAR

DATE:  SEPTEMBER 16, 2008

SUBJECT: TITLE BROADCAST 08-0916-53

TITLING 3-WHEEL VEHICLES

House Bill 562 made a change in the definition of “Motorcycle”. ORC 4511.01 ( C )    “Motorcycle” means every motor vehicle, other than a tractor, having a SEAT or saddle for the use of the operator and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, including, but not limited to, motor vehicles known as “motor-driven cycle,” “motor scooter,” or “motorcycle” without regard to weight or brake horsepower.

An increasing number of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers are designing a wide variety of vehicles that have three wheels, a bench or bucket seat, a steering wheel, and are enclosed. Some of the new vehicles are gasoline powered and some are electric.  Most of these three-wheel vehicles meet the federal definition of a motorcycle and the federal safety standards. Until now, due to the bench seat, we had not considered titling them or registering them as Motorcycles.

The Title office shall begin on September 23, 2008 to title any three-wheel motor vehicles that meet the federal and the Ohio House Bill 562 definitions, for “motorcycle when presented with proper evidence.

The operators of these vehicles must comply with Ohio’s motor vehicle Laws, including our helmet law. The driver must be properly licensed to operate the vehicle and have a motorcycle license or a motorcycle endorsement on their valid operator’s license, and they must meet Ohio’s financial responsibility laws.

If you have any questions, please contact the Helpdesk and select 3 for Deputy Registrar And Title Support Services, DTS-Title Unit.

Thank you.

Did you catch the part about helmet laws? Here is what the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has to say about helmets:

No person who is under the age of 18 years, or who holds a motorcycle operator’s endorsement or license bearing a “novice,” shall operate a motorcycle on a high-way, or be a passenger on a motorcycle, unless wearing a protective helmet on his or her head, and no other person shall be a passenger on a motorcycle operated by such a person unless similarly wearing a protective helmet. Source- http://www.bmv.ohio.gov/misc/traffic_rules.htm



I was stumped by the whole idea that you had to wear a helmet and have a motorcycle license to drive an enclosed vehicle until I realized that this was a way of rewriting the law without actually creating a new law for a new vehicle type. They have to keep the seemingly strange rules on the books for other 3 wheeled vehicles like ATVs and custom “trikes”; those three wheeled choppers that seem to be popular with the senior citizen motor cycle gang members. I have a feeling though that most officers of the law are going to have common sense enough to understand the “spirit” of the law and not enforce the letter of the law. However, I will have a helmet behind the seat just in case. I think this may be a good excuse to look really scary in a very alien car. Yes! that’s it! I now have a reason to buy that helmet I wanted to get.


Again, this is late in coming, but I thought I would add it in case you missed it elsewhere. Click HERE to see Jay Leno actually drive the Aptera! This is a great video because it shows Jay Leno standing next to the car which should give you a pretty good feel for how large the car is. According to internet sources, Jay Leno is 5′ 11″ tall and he states that the car is roomy once he gets in the driver seat.

Now some of you may be wondering why you should care about Jay Leno driving the Aptera. Well in case you don’t know already, Jay is a car fanatic. Actually his “garage” is really a museum to automotive history that I think gives the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan a run for its money. The link  above will take you directly to the Aptera video at Jay’s website rather than the Aptera website. The reason I linked it there was because the video quality was a little better and you can actually make the video full screen as where I was not able to do so at the Aptera website.

Jay was very kind in reviewing while remaining honest. I don’t think he would have given an endorsement to the vehicle the way he did without really meaning it. While you are at Jay’s site, you should check out all of his other cars. Jay Leno’s Garage is one of the most entertaining websites I have ever gone to and it gave me a whole new appreciation for Jay Leno.

For quite some time now I have been following the progress of the solar power industry. I just got word this morning that Heliovolt, a company that has made many advances in Thin Film solar collectors, has a new man at the helm that they hope will take the company in a more positive direction. What does this mean? Who cares? I know that I don’t care until they actually start production and I can get my hands on the stuff to wrap my house in. However, it is still important from the perspective that this technology actually exists. Unlike standard solar cells, Heliovolt’s product can be printed on to thin metal or glass.

One application I read about was one where you could print (just like a computer printer) the material on windows to be used for skyscrapers. The idea being that the windows could power the building.  If printed on thin gauge aluminum sheets you could easily nail this stuff to the roof of your house. But why stop there? why not print aluminum siding with this material? That would effectively make the whole outside of your home a solar collector.

In thinking about this for my home, I realized that perhaps this product could be applied to the outside of an automobile. An automobile like say… The Aptera? Rather than having one big solar collector on the top of the car, why not print the skin of the Aptera with this solar collecting material? I think by doing that you would increase the solar collection efficiency quite a bit especially if the sun is at a low angle in the morning or evening hours.

Not being expert on this new material I have to say that I may be wrong about being able to print solar collection material on the body of the of the Aptera so don’t get your hopes up at my, “What if” statements. None the less, it is food for thought.

Something has been bothering me about the 2010 Prius. I like the car. I like the looks and the advanced electronics in the dashboard and head unit. I like the roof that collects solar energy for the air conditioning. I like the…(play sound of needle scratching across the surface of a phonographic record) SOLAR POWERED AIR CONDITIONING?! Hey! isn’t that something that the Aptera had first? Yes, I do believe it is! Unless I am missing something here, I think it may be possible that Toyota may have taken a page out of the Aptera playbook.  Can they do that? Is that fair? Part of me thinks it isn’t fair. Yet, another part of me thinks I need to keep my cool and do a search for prior art on this subject before I make rash statements or worse yet get arrested for going to the next North American Auto Show in Detroit and creating a scene by testing to see if the Prius solar collector can operate from under a 500 pound pile of horse manure. Solar power isn’t a new idea. Powering air conditioning (in your home) isn’t a new idea. Powering a car with solar power is not new. So is it a huge leap to put a solar power collector on the roof of a car to power a portion of the car? In my mind, not really. However, I am about fairness. I think it would be nice if the people at Toyota acknowledged all of the people that did the pioneering work that made their new Prius possible. The Aptera was not the first car I ever saw with a solar panel, but I feel it was the first truly viable car that didn’t look stupid because of the panel.  In saying this I can’t say I am angry at Toyota but I am concerned that they may get credit for this innovative idea because they were the first to make it available on a grand scale. So rather than get mad and spread my own special brand of hate, I will respond to those who ask, “Have you seen the solar panel on the new Prius?” with a mildly smarmy response, Yes, but the Aptera had one first.  (Insert video of me drinking a vodka martini while looking blankly at nothing to my upper right).

For those of you out there who have been looking in on this blog from time to time (and it hasn’t been many) It will be a shock for you to see a new post. I looked in on it today for the first time in a long time to see if I was even interested in keeping it alive. I discovered that over a year has passed since my last post. I have watched idly from the sidelines as others blogged about the Aptera using information they received from the “legitimate press”. I stopped blogging because I was bored with doing the same thing other people had been doing which was regurgitating better blogs.

That said, I wanted to say that I am very happy to see that the company is still living on even after a year. Especially now in a time when our economy is in chaos and my IRA has just enough money in it to purchase an Aptera. I may need the Aptera to live in if the economic downturn continues at its current rate. Bad times aside, the Aptera is for me a symbol of what we can become as a people. More caring and courteous to each other and our planet. Even if this car doesn’t become successful on its own, I would have to say that it will be recognized in the long run as the car that made us realize that 100 MPG is not an impossibility.

Note to Steve Fambro: Dear Steve, I still dream of owning your car. Even though I purchased a 2008 Prius and still get about 50 MPG with it, I want more. The Aptera has what I want and I want it now! Please keep the dream alive Steve!

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.

Next Page »