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  • Highly Efficient Stupidity

    Posted by Shannon Love on October 15th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Like most “alternative” energy projects, this “car” is simply stupid. [h/t Instapundit] [More Details]

    Here’s the fundamental problem: they designed the car backwards. 

    When you begin the design of any piece of technology, from cars to medicine to software, you begin with the functionality it will provide. A piece of technology allows you to do something you could not do without it. In technology, form always follows function.

    They began with the idea of producing a vehicle that used a minimal amount of fuel. Hooray! Unfortunately, people don’t buy cars to save fuel. They buy cars to accomplish specific transportation tasks. If the car can’t perform the task, then it is useless, even if it is powered by perpetual motion. 

    The Aptera cannot function as a car because its design only allows it to move two people under ideal conditions of weather and road surface. Small two-seater cars have been around since the 1890s, but they never catch on beyond single 20-somethings because people use their cars to move people and stuff in many different configurations. The fuel-saving aerodynamics of the car destroys all the internal space that people can use to move all kinds of things. Its three-wheel design means that even if it did have space, it would be sensitive to load balance. The design also will not function under adverse conditions. Its ultra-light body will not provide sufficient traction in heavy rain, ice or snow. High crosswinds will knock it about and could even flip it. The hybrid motor will not provide a enough heat to keep people warm in a northern winter, nor will it provide enough power to run an air conditioner to keep people cool in a southwestern summer. 

    In short, you can’t actually use the Aptera as a real-world car. You can’t use it to replace a humble vehicle like a Toyota Camry or a Ford Escort. You can use it to move two people over short distance in the tranquil conditions of coastal California, but that is about it. 

     

    31 Responses to “Highly Efficient Stupidity”

    1. Obloodyhell Says:

      > “Twenty years from now, we’ll look at cars that waste energy the way we look at litter today. They will make us feel weird.”

      Twenty years from now we’ll go “Aptera? What the hell’s that? Some kind of dinosaur?”

      … and they’ll be right.

    2. Obloodyhell Says:

      People really, really don’t get Gasoline.

      The stuff carries a LOT of energy for the space and weight, is flammable but not *too* flammable, allows a vehicle to have an optimal range of 250-400 miles between fillups, and… (here’s the critical part) allows a complete fill up (i.e. “recharge”) in just 5-10 minutes.

      There’s just no substitute with current technology. That may change. A break through in Fuel Cell design/tech could do it. Some miraculous new energy storage “battery” could do it.

      But it’s not happening anytime soon, and when you DO hear of that, it’ll be something trumpeted around the world and take 5-10 years to put it into full production.

      Further, Obama has openly stated he believes we should lower US electrical production.

      Yes — lower — by about 15%.

      How does THAT fit in with electric cars?

      Ah, well… you’ll drive less, of course.

    3. Jonathan Says:

      “I think as time goes on and everyone accepts that we’re in an energy-scarce world, cars will shift in styling,” Fambro says.

      If we’re in an energy-scarce world it’s because we’ve made energy artificially scarce. To approach the issue as a question of vehicle efficiency is to misframe it. It would be better to deregulate energy production and free up supply than to waste manpower designing arbitrarily efficient vehicles.

      The reductio ad absurdum here would be to get people to ride bicycles instead of driving, since bicycles are more efficient than any motor vehicle in pure energy-use terms. But once you put a value on people’s time, and on the convenience and safety of robust, all weather vehicles, the modern automobile starts to look like the best available option.

    4. Stan Says:

      Electric Vehicles can make good second/commuter vehicles. I drove one for 8 years ( a converted Porsche 914). It did it’s job and cost me $0.15/mile ($0.12/mile was battery replacement costs for 6V Golf cart batteries).

      BUT like OhBloodyHell says, it’s hard to beat gasoline for energy density (not even counting the fact that you don’t have to carry the oxidizer, like a rocket has to). My 914 had 1200lbs of batteries to get a 40mi range (real world.) and it drove like it.

      I sold it for a Prius when I got the chance, because a hybrid gives you much more flexibility. A Prius even does a good job as a generator in a power outage.

    5. Dave Says:

      If they were serious about improving fuel economy, they’d legalize the extra-small pickups like the ones used in Thailand for taxis. I’d buy one in a heartbeat if I could.

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      Dave,

      Yea, I’d love a small pickup. My uncle used to drive them back in seventies, CAFE standards did them in. Because they’re built on a car frame, they have to have the fuel efficiency of a streamlined car. Making them so efficient would make them as expensive has the mid-sized pickups we have now.

    7. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “A break through in Fuel Cell design/tech could do it. Some miraculous new energy storage “battery” could do it.”

      No. Fuel Cells that operate at normal temperatures must be feed pure hydrogen. Hydrogen is costly to make, store, and transport. You would be better off burning money directly.

      Batteries are not new technology. They were the first source of electricity invented. They are fundamentally limited by the laws of chemistry. There is only so much energy available from any given set of reactions. Chemists have charted that landscape. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a battery powered vehicle that has the functional characteristics of modern automobiles at a reasonable price.

    8. Obloodyhell Says:

      > But once you put a value on people’s time

      Dead on. Mass transit has the same problems — in my mid-sized city (100k/250k metro), you can get anywhere in town, door-to-door, even at rush hour, within a half-hour, and usually within 15-20 mins. So a round trip is 35ish minutes, an hour at rush hour. Using mass transit, the same trip will never take less than an hour and fifteen, so a round trip will be two and a half hours. That’s a massive waste of valuable human time — even more when you run it across thousands of people each and every trip, each and every day. Even combining does not save a lot, since a good chunk of that is waiting for the bus.

    9. Obloodyhell Says:

      > I sold it for a Prius when I got the chance, because a hybrid gives you much more flexibility. A Prius even does a good job as a generator in a power outage.

      Stan, the problem I have with things like the Prius, though, is that they cost like 10k more than a Honda Civic with a VTEC engine did 10 years ago, while not getting notably better gas mileage. Lay out the calculations —

      Mi/day * REAL(not estimated)Gal/mi * $/gal * #workdays/yr == $/yr expense
      — Do that for both vehicles, the Prius and any other.
      The differential — even at $6 a gallon, generally doesn’t justify the extra 10 grand over the course of five years. If you bought it because it makes you feel better, that’s your option — but I don’t agree with the notion that it’s a cost-effective measure.

      …and I’m curious what kind of “disposal tax” the government is going to hit Prius owners with down the line when they have to junk those things.

    10. Obloodyhell Says:

      > No. Fuel Cells that operate at normal temperatures must be feed pure hydrogen. Hydrogen is costly to make, store, and transport. You would be better off burning money directly. (etc.)

      Uh, Robert, please read more carefully. I choose my words and punctuation with careful intent in most cases. Such was particularly true for this statement.

      I said:
      “A breakthrough in Fuel Cell design/tech could do it. Some miraculous new energy storage “battery” could do it.”

      1) “Breakthrough” is the operative word. Something massively more effective than current tech. Also, fuel cells don’t have to run directly on hydrogen, even if that is a part of their actual functioning at the chemical level. There are fuel cells which run off alcohol, for example. Catalyst chemistry, for example, could provide an interesting development in this area.

      2) note the quotes around “battery” — I was not limiting the concept to electrochemical storage, but any mechanism, including those currently unknown to the public or even science, which, functioning like a battery, absorb energy and then return it on demand. No, that’s not the usual specific for a battery, hence the quotes and the specific term “miraculous”, noting it would be utterly outside current knowledge or technique.

      ;-)

    11. Obloodyhell Says:

      P.S., see the next thread on Solid State Nukes for the kind of thing I’m talking about, but in a different arena. They hope to get as much as 85% of Carnot Cycle out of a heat engine. If they can even improve low-diffrential efficiencies substantially, that could be important, making Ocean Thermal practical and, who knows — maybe you can partly charge a car by the heat buildup inside the cabin while it sits in the parking lot… There are a lot of possibilities, here, including a parka which charges itself using the heat difference between the wearer and the outside…perhaps sending out radio locater bursts for tracking in emergencies.

    12. douglas2 Says:

      The Aptera is 3/4 the weight of my MGB, and has narrower tires, so traction on snow wouldn’t be a problem, although dense uncleared deep snow above the level of the fender skirts might be — but at that point I’d say that most drivers would be having other problems anyway.
      I do recall waiting in the car in a Tesco carpark while my wife ran in for “just a few things” and watching someone put their whole week’s shopping into a Toyota MR2 with a babyseat, and the process involved lots of movement between front boot, rear boot, placing items behind seats on both sides, and placing larger items on the floor of the passenger side. So I am certainly in sympathy with the practicality issue. But for some commuters, almost all of their travel miles are single passengers with not much more than a briefcase. It kind of makes sense not to be hauling around a huge container of air on 95% of your journeys when you need the capacity only 5% of the time, especially if you have access to other vehicles within the family unit.

      Anyway, I can accept that the car is simply stupid for you, because it is not practical for the above reasons. It is stupid for me because it is well above my price range even at $30K. But if you are the sort of person who wants your car to have style, green credentials, and geek credentials, it looks pretty non-stupid to me, as long as your lifestyle can accomodate the restrictions of cargo and passenger capacity.

    13. Jonathan Says:

      Douglas2’s comment reminds me of an Iowahawk post about the time he attended a Hollywood party. The guests were entertainment people and he was surprised to see that they mostly drove Priuses. Perhaps the Aptera would find a ready market with such fashion-conscious consumers.

    14. Nate Says:

      >The fuel-saving aerodynamics of the car destroys all the internal space that people can use to move all kinds of things.

      Ahh, so you’re one who’s waiting for their 4-wheel 4-passenger model, currently on the drawing board. Glad we’re on the same page!

      >Its three-wheel design means that even if it did have space, it would be sensitive to load balance.

      True, however it’s more stable than you might realize – the heavy battery is placed low in the frame, an option that gas engines don’t afford. That gives you excellent stability. Check out videos of the Tango commuter car for a similar concept.

      >The design also will not function under adverse conditions. Its ultra-light body will not provide sufficient traction in heavy rain, ice or snow.

      Huh? Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who bought an SUV because “4WD makes you safer.”

      You’re lighter, which means less force on the road. It also means less force to accelerate and stop.

      >High crosswinds will knock it about and could even flip it.

      Erm, right. I’d guess that that whole “more aerodynamic than any car ever made” part helps out here a bit.

      >The hybrid motor will not provide a enough heat to keep people warm in a northern winter, nor will it provide enough power to run an air conditioner to keep people cool in a southwestern summer.

      Woah, where to start… I’m assuming by “motor” you mean “gas engine,” which the first version of the Aptera completely lacks. Instead of wasting gasoline energy heating up the engine block, and some of that heat working its way to the cabin, the Aptera uses a nifty device called a heat pump. This electric gadget provides heat and cooling in one compact device, and is around 4x as efficient as that electric space heater you may have at home.

      Also, solar panels on the roof ventilate the car in the daytime, so it will never get roasting in those infamous southwestern summers. In the worst case it’ll be a couple degrees above the outside temp, and the heat pump can easily cool you from there to something comfy. Not having to make that “cold blast” you need when you first get in really cuts down on the size heat pump you need.

    15. Rei Says:

      To the author:

      First off, before you write about the “tranquil conditions” of coastal California, perhaps you should check out a topo map:
      http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=34.232242,-119.119263&spn=1.582682,1.928101&t=p&z=9

      (Or a traffic map while you’re at it). SoCal may not have harsh winters, but it is not easy driving. If you want easy driving, go to Kansas.

      Secondly, before you complain about how much room a car has, perhaps you should, you know, actually learn how much room it has. The Aptera Typ-1 has 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s more than the Camry that you lovingly compare it to.

      As for what sort of cars people want right now: tell me, of the following cars, which one is being sold out faster than they can produce them and which one are they desperately trying to move: A) the Smart Fortwo or B) the Hummer H3?

      (I should add that Aptera has twice the cargo space and a small child seat in comparison to the Fortwo)

      You’re right, though. It’s not a car for everyone. It’s only a car that meets the needs of about half of the world’s population. The other half will have to find something else.

    16. Shannon Love Says:

      Nate,

      Ahh, so you’re one who’s waiting for their 4-wheel 4-passenger model, currently on the drawing board.

      No, I want a car that has the passenger and cargo capacity, as well as the flexibility of a Ford escort. I have a life. My car needs to be designed around my transportation needs first. If it can’t actually perform the transportation task I require, then its gas mileage is largely irrelevant.

      True, however it’s more stable than you might realize…

      I doubt it. It’s basic physics. Unless they put some kind of segway-like gyro system on board a three-wheel design will never be as stable as a four wheel. It will not even get close.

      You’re lighter, which means less force on the road. It also means less force to accelerate and stop.

      Sorry, but again basic physics means that light vehicles have inferior traction. Anybody who has driven a motorcycle knows they do worse on slick road surfaces than do SUVs. Less wheel contact with the road means less control.

      Erm, right. I’d guess that that whole “more aerodynamic than any car ever made” part helps out here a bit.

      The car is only aerodynamic for forces front to back. The side cross section of the car is not particularly aerodynamic. In fact the Aptera seems to have an unusually high profile. That and the large ground gap towards the back will catch side winds. I know, I’ve driven vehicles with similar profiles in thunderstorms. It ain’t fun.

      Also, solar panels on the roof ventilate the car in the daytime, so it will never get roasting in those infamous southwestern summers.

      The heating and cooling features do sound promising but I will believe it when I see it. In my 30 years of experience evaluating “alternative” car designs I have never on that took cooling seriously which basically makes them non-starters in the southern half of the U.S.

      I hope I’m wrong. This looks like a nifty vehicle and if I had the cash I’d buy one for fun. But given the unrelenting track record of failure of such designs, I have little hope because the designs fail due to the designers lack of concern about peoples real world transportation needs. They want people to adapt to the car instead of making a car that can do what people want.

    17. Shannon Love Says:

      Rei,

      SoCal may not have harsh winters, but it is not easy driving. If you want easy driving, go to Kansas.

      Sorry, but costal California does not have tornado spawning thunderstorms, hurricanes, ice storms and blizzards. Kansas is a much more difficult driving environment than costal California not to mention Texas. I know from personal experience that designers based in costal California do not give serious weather enough emphasis. That applies in everything from vehicles to architecture.

      The Aptera Typ-1 has 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s more than the Camry that you lovingly compare it to.

      I can configure my Ford Escort to carry half a dozen eight foot long 2×4. In a pinch, I can strap things to the roof or attach a carrier. I can attach a trailer hitch. Looking at the Aptera, I doubt I can do any of that. Cubic cargo measurement do not tell you much about real world usefulness.

      Again, the constraints of aerodynamics place inherent limitations on the vehicle performance. Those constraints destroy its real-world utility.

      It’s only a car that meets the needs of about half of the world’s population.

      I seriously doubt it. This is not a 21st century version of a model-T. It’s primary design goal is energy efficiency, not usefulness. It will attract the same sort of people who buy Miatas i.e. people who want something fun to drive.

    18. Jonathan Says:

      There have been three-wheeled cars before. I suspect there are good reasons why they aren’t currently produced.

    19. Nate Says:

      Nate,

      >No, I want a car that has the passenger and cargo capacity, as well as the flexibility of a Ford escort. I have a life. My car needs to be designed around my transportation needs first. If it can’t actually perform the transportation task I require, then its gas mileage is largely irrelevant.

      Oh, so what you really meant to write is an entry entitled “Highly efficient vehicle that doesn’t meet my particular needs” Common typo ;)

      How often do you really fully utilize your vehicle? If you note what percentage of your trips involve transporting-you-and-you-alone-to-a-place-to-do-something-and-then-back-again, if you’re like most Americans you’ll find it surprisingly high. There’s a large disconnect between the vehicle people *think* they need, and the one they actually need.

      >>True, however it’s more stable than you might realize…

      >I doubt it. It’s basic physics. Unless they put some kind of segway-like gyro system on board a three-wheel design will never be as stable as a four wheel. It will not even get close.

      I’ve already explained the idea of center of mass, so I won’t bother repeating myself here.

      A four-wheeled vehicle will never be as stable as a 6-wheeled vehicle, either! Of course this is true, but we all know that 4-wheeled vehicles are *safe enough*. With a low center-of-mass, the Aptera will be able to corner just like a conventional car. Again, check out those Tango videos.

      >>You’re lighter, which means less force on the road. It also means less force to accelerate and stop.

      >Sorry, but again basic physics means that light vehicles have inferior traction. Anybody who has driven a motorcycle knows they do worse on slick road surfaces than do SUVs. Less wheel contact with the road means less control.

      It’s interesting that you invoke “basic physics,” and then appeal to anecdotal evidence. The “basic physics” lays it out exactly as I described.

      That has much more to do with motorcycle tires than it does their weight distribution. That, and of course the fact that motorcycles are inverted pendulums.

      >>Erm, right. I’d guess that that whole “more aerodynamic than any car ever made” part helps out here a bit.

      >The car is only aerodynamic for forces front to back. The side cross section of the car is not particularly aerodynamic. In fact the Aptera seems to have an unusually high profile. That and the large ground gap towards the back will catch side winds. I know, I’ve driven vehicles with similar profiles in thunderstorms. It ain’t fun.

      I’d be curious to see a vehicle with a similar profile to this. Most vehicles have giant flat sides, unlike the Aptera.

      >>Also, solar panels on the roof ventilate the car in the daytime, so it will never get roasting in those infamous southwestern summers.

      >The heating and cooling features do sound promising but I will believe it when I see it. In my 30 years of experience evaluating “alternative” car designs I have never on that took cooling seriously which basically makes them non-starters in the southern half of the U.S.

      Cool! I must say, however, that there hasn’t been an alternative car design of this caliber for quite some time. What alternative vehicles have you evaluated?

      >I hope I’m wrong. This looks like a nifty vehicle and if I had the cash I’d buy one for fun. But given the unrelenting track record of failure of such designs, I have little hope because the designs fail due to the designers lack of concern about peoples real world transportation needs. They want people to adapt to the car instead of making a car that can do what people want.

      Do you know how a vehicle comes into being in Detroit? It’s a fascinating process:

      First, they draw some things on paper. They try to construct a vehicle that has the proper emotional impact for their target audience (this, btw, is why I prefer to call them car ‘stylists’). Then they go through a series of clay models, again evaluating them aesthetically rather than functionally. Ultimately this leads to a concept vehicle, i.e. the concept Chevrolet Volt. Then, of course, they have to make it all work – engines, aerodynamics, interiors, etc. They tweak the design to make it actually, you know, do something well.

      Modern vehicles (or at least their exteriors) are designed like furniture. They start out with something aesthetic, and tweak it into something functional. You may not agree with their design decisions, and they may very well not jive with your particular needs. However, that is not an indication of “stupidity,” just of unsuitability for your application.

      I don’t assume that the Typ-1 is the vehicle for everyone. However, there is a large segment of the population that has long commutes, already owns a hauling vehicle, and is hurting because of current gas prices. A lot of them live in CA, the only place where they’re selling it. It makes you think they might have thought of these drawbacks before!

    20. Shannon Love Says:

      Nate,

      Oh, so what you really meant to write is an entry entitled “Highly efficient vehicle that doesn’t meet my particular needs”

      I used myself as merely an example. I am a perfectly ordinary middle-class, middle American in terms of my automotive use. If a car won’t serve my needs it probably won’t serve the needs of a majority of ordinary car owners.

      How often do you really fully utilize your vehicle?

      It doesn’t matter how often I need to fully utilize the vehicle, it only matters that I need to do it sometimes. If a particular vehicle can’t do what I need, I have to factor in additional transportation spending into my decision to buy the car. So the Aptera can handle 80% of my driving needs (as measure by time spent driving) but then I have to find some other means of handling the other 20%. That means I have to either have a second vehicle($) or I have to plan on spending time and money renting a vehicle when I need to do something the Aptera cannot handle.

      Why not simply buy a more utility vehicle that gets poorer gas mileage? People have a transportation budget into which they factor all the cost of transportation: vehicle cost, fuel cost, maintenance cost, insurance cost as well as the cost of renting vehicle to handle things their primary vehicle will not. They also factor in the cost of their time in terms of flexibility, ease of use and safety. A vehicle has to have acceptable tradeoffs on many different cost to be considered an economical choice.

      This why the most successful vehicles in history, especially the world changing one, have been designed around moderation. They are moderately fast, moderately sized, moderately priced, have a moderate cargo capacity and get moderate gas mileage.

      Anyone can make an extraordinary vehicle by focusing on one specific function or attribute of transportation. You can make a vehicle that hauls a lot, goes very fast, is very inexpensive, saves gas etc but that vehicle will not have a broad market. The necessary tradeoffs make such vehicle useless as general purpose transportation.

      I’ve already explained the idea of center of mass, so I won’t bother repeating myself here.

      It has nothing to due with the center of gravity. It has to due with the force vectors on the car, especially when it corners sharply. Simplistically, a car is a rectangle that rotates around a point slightly behind the front wheels. View the car from above. If the car turns right, the right front corner is driven down while the left back corner is lifted up. The left front is lifted some and the back right is pressed down some. In a four wheel vehicle, the lose of traction on the left back is counter balanced by the gain in traction on the right back. In a back three-wheeler, the one wheel simply loses traction every time the vehicle turns. Worse, the force vectors make the vehicle want to pivot left-to-right using the rear tire as the fulcrum.

      You cannot overcome this problem without having a rear wheel that moves side to side (which is way to complex and dangerous) or with the use of gyroscopes.

      A four-wheeled vehicle will never be as stable as a 6-wheeled vehicle, either!

      Its a matter of scale. Moving from 3 wheels to 4 increases stability by over 50% given the same vehicle mass. Adding a 6th wheel to existing 4 wheels increases stability only on the order of 5% or less because a four wheel vehicle already has wheels at the points that the primary vectors act upon.

      Of course this is true, but we all know that 4-wheeled vehicles are *safe enough*

      To be successful, however, a three-wheel vehicle must be as safe and stable feeling as cars that cost the same or less. You can’t do that. You would need exotic solutions such a gyroscopes.

      Three-wheel designs have been around for nearly 120 years now. They’ve never gain wide acceptance for the reasons I have outlined. Nothing in the Apetera overcomes these basic limitations.

      It’s interesting that you invoke “basic physics,” and then appeal to anecdotal evidence.

      No, I use a common every day experience to illustrate a matter of physics. More people have ridden motorcycles than have taken physics.

      That has much more to do with motorcycle tires than it does their weight distribution.

      The Apetera is basically an enclosed motorcycle and suffers the same limitations. Motorcycles need large contact patches because they have little weight compared to a car. However, those contact patches create a hydroplaning surface. The less the surface to weight ratio, the greater the risk of hydroplaning. The same works for ice and snow.

      There is a reason that sports cars are very dense i.e. lot of weight for their size. They need the weight to keep themselves on the road.

      >The car is only aerodynamic for forces front to back. The side cross section of the car is not particularly aerodynamic. In fact the Aptera seems to have an unusually high profile. That and the large ground gap towards the back will catch side winds. I know, I’ve driven vehicles with similar profiles in thunderstorms. It ain’t fun.
      I’d be curious to see a vehicle with a similar profile to this. Most vehicles have giant flat sides, unlike the Aptera.

      The major problem with the Aptera’s shape is the teardrop shape that opens up a wind catching space between the body and the ground. Wind from the side, or wind from passing trucks will compress under the vehicle and lift it.

      I think it will be a problem given the vehicles weight. Any cross wind is a problem if the vehicle is lightweight. This is why cyclist do not use streamlining on their frame or wheels. It catches the wind and blows them over.

      Cool! I must say, however, that there hasn’t been an alternative car design of this caliber for quite some time. What alternative vehicles have you evaluated?

      I came of age during the “energy crisis” of the 70’s. I built all kinds of little vehicles and alternative energy gagets. I’ve been watching people come out with these types of “innovations” for over 30 years.

      The Aperera’s design is not particularly innovative. Composites and/or airframe design are not new. Hybrid engines are not new. Aerodynamic bodies are not new. Three-wheel designs are not new. Nothing in its technology provides an advantage that could not be provided with cheaper overall cost in a conventional vehicle.

      Modern vehicles (or at least their exteriors) are designed like furniture.

      That’s because the fundamentals of the automotive design are well understood. Most models share a common technology “under the hood”. Innovations occur in invisible areas such as computer control of the engine and brakes. Such innovations are shared across many different models. Automobiles are a mature technology. We know what general configurations work in the real world and which do not.

      You may not agree with their design decisions, and they may very well not jive with your particular needs. However, that is not an indication of “stupidity,” just of unsuitability for your application.

      It’s stupid to repeat the mistakes of the past. If you want to define the design goal of the Aptera as an attempt to create a novelty vehicle or speciality vehicle such as a high end sports car, then its pretty nifty. If you want to define it as a creating a general purpose care that can replace the majority of cars currently in service, then it is indeed a “stupid” design. It will not accomplish that.

      It makes you think they might have thought of these drawbacks before!

      People have. People have been designing and trying to sell dedicated commuter cars since the 1930’s. Detriot has tried time and time again to sell such vehicles. The only kind that come close to succeeding are extremely inexpensive cars. Anyone who could afford a $30,000 dedicated commuter car isn’t going to be sensitive enough to fuel prices to accept the compromises of an exotic design.

      The basic problem in the history of automotive design is that people start the designing process with some unidimensional goal such as small size, conserving parking space or saving fuel. They neglect the multidimensional tradeoffs that people actually evaluate when they buy cars. That is why the designs fail.

      Again, I would love to be wrong. Driving something like an Aptera would be damn spiffy. But I don’t think I’m going to get one anymore than I will get my flying car.

    21. Obloodyhell Says:

      > The Aptera is 3/4 the weight of my MGB, and has narrower tires, so traction on snow wouldn’t be a problem

      Douglas, being a Florida native, I have next to no experience in snow, but… I have taken my MGB up to Alabama, and had the tires get clogged with the orange clay/mud after a rainstorm, turning them into defacto slicks. I had to move the car off onto the grass next to the “road” and basically back off and gun it just to get up a low (20-30′ ht) hill.

      I *think* snow/ice can and does do the same thing (i.e., clog up tire grooves), which suggests it may be more of a problem than you suggest.

    22. Obloodyhell Says:

      > It’s only a car that meets the needs of about half of the world’s population.

      Half the world’s population can afford a car that costs $30k and gets charged up at an electric socket?

      Really? Which world is that? And how do I get there from here?

      > There’s a large disconnect between the vehicle people *think* they need, and the one they actually need.

      No, there’s a large disconnect between the vehicle idealist idiots want people to use, and the one they really need.

      Cars are multipurpose. Their drivres get groceries, bring home building supplies, take the kids to soccer, and commute to work. Most people have one car for the whole job. Sometimes, families get two different types of cars because it is possible for the families’ needs to be shoehorned onto whomever has the “right” car, but that’s usually highly inconvenient for the one with the much more versatile car (they wind up getting stuck with the errands) — so it’s better for both cars to be at least moderately versatile.

      This car seems to be valid for one purpose, *perhaps* — and that is the daily commute to work. Some people, that may be worthwhile. For most, it won’t be, for the same reason many do not like to carpool. It constrains what you do after work. You can’t stop and pick up a week’s worth of groceries (including bulk items from Sam’s), or the building supplies. You can’t pick up the kids and their friends at the library. You can… go home. That’s about it. And for that “privilege”, you’re going to be paying an extra $10k or so. Oooh. Oooh. Gimme some of that privilege!!.

      Additional notes:
      1) It conveniently doesn’t mention top speed OR acceleration. My own observations say that’s usually what goes out the window when you target efficiency “uber alles”. Maybe not here, but that they don’t mention either is suggestive. Which means getting onto the crowded Interstate may be quite fun with a semi bearing down on you at 65 mph, then blowing past you (wind shear is NOT your friend!) at 30mph more than you are going.
      2) OK, quick calulations. Suppose this replaces a Honda VTEC-engined coupe (at least moderately versatile), which gets about 40mpg. Suppose you commute 100 miles (50 to and 50 back) each day. That’s a LOT. Suppose you work 5 days/wk, 50 weeks/year (not much vacation) just to make the numbers rounder. That’s 250 days — times 100 miles, or 25k miles (considerably more than average — most people drive ca. 12k miles per year). The PopMech blurb says this thing is going to get 130mpg, compared to the Honda’s 40mpg. Assume that gas prices SURGE all the way up to $6/gallon, which is a good 30% to 50% more than they were at this year’s peak.
      The fuel costs for the Honda will be 3750/year (25kmi/40mpg*$6perGal)
      The fuel costs for the Aptera will be 1150/year (25kmi/130mpg*$6perGal)
      The fuel cost difference then, is about $2600.
      So it’s going to take you almost FOUR YEARS of operation at these inflated numbers JUST to make back the extra 10 GRAND this thing cost you.
      So if you really still think this is a good deal…
      You wanna buy some LAND?

      Assuming more reasonable numbers, (12kmi/yr, $5/gallon gas)
      The fuel costs for the Honda will be 1500/year (12kmi/40mpg*$5perGal)
      The fuel costs for the Aptera will be 460/year (12kmi/130mpg*$5perGal)
      The fuel cost difference then, is about $1040… meaning that it’s going to take this thing more than NINE years of operation to pay back the 10k premium.

      Right about now, of course, you’re geearing up to try and argue that the car “gets charged by electricity and doesn’t use gas at all on that commute”. OK, in that case, say it has a fuel differential of the FULL $1500 — say the electricity to charge it is free (it very much isn’t, and it’s going to get much, much more expensive if Obama gets his way, but we’ll ignore that) — THEN, the car only takes SIX AND A HALF *years* to pay back the extra $10k it costs to buy it… Yeah, that’s the DEAL for… well, perhaps YOU but not ME.

      In short — Q.E.D. — this is a STUPID vehicle with a very limited set of consumers — essentially it’s stupid, eco-twit lefties who cannot handle basic arithmetic, and who don’t have any friends who can, either.

    23. Obloodyhell Says:

      > It’s only a car that meets the needs of about half of the world’s population.

      Half the world’s population can afford a car that costs $30k and gets charged up at an electric socket?

      Really? Which world is that? And how do I get there from here?

      > There’s a large disconnect between the vehicle people *think* they need, and the one they actually need.

      No, there’s a large disconnect between the vehicle idealist idiots want people to use, and the one they really need.

      Cars are multipurpose. Their drivres get groceries, bring home building supplies, take the kids to soccer, and commute to work. Most people have one car for the whole job. Sometimes, families get two different types of cars because it is possible for the families’ needs to be shoehorned onto whomever has the “right” car, but that’s usually highly inconvenient for the one with the much more versatile car (they wind up getting stuck with the errands) — so it’s better for both cars to be at least moderately versatile.

      This car seems to be valid for one purpose, *perhaps* — and that is the daily commute to work. Some people, that may be worthwhile. For most, it won’t be, for the same reason many do not like to carpool. It constrains what you do after work. You can’t stop and pick up a week’s worth of groceries (including bulk items from Sam’s), or the building supplies. You can’t pick up the kids and their friends at the library. You can… go home. That’s about it. And for that “privilege”, you’re going to be paying an extra $10k or so. Oooh. Oooh. Gimme some of that privilege!!.

      Additional notes:
      1) It conveniently doesn’t mention top speed OR acceleration. My own observations say that’s usually what goes out the window when you target efficiency “uber alles”. Maybe not here, but that they don’t mention either is suggestive. Which means getting onto the crowded Interstate may be quite fun with a semi bearing down on you at 65 mph, then blowing past you (wind shear is NOT your friend!) at 30mph more than you are going.
      2) OK, quick calulations. Suppose this replaces a Honda VTEC-engined coupe (at least moderately versatile), which gets about 40mpg. Suppose you commute 100 miles (50 to and 50 back) each day. That’s a LOT. Suppose you work 5 days/wk, 50 weeks/year (not much vacation) just to make the numbers rounder. That’s 250 days — times 100 miles, or 25k miles (considerably more than average — most people drive ca. 12k miles per year). The PopMech blurb says this thing is going to get 130mpg, compared to the Honda’s 40mpg. Assume that gas prices SURGE all the way up to $6/gallon, which is a good 30% to 50% more than they were at this year’s peak.
      The fuel costs for the Honda will be 3750/year (25kmi/40mpg*$6perGal)
      The fuel costs for the Aptera will be 1150/year (25kmi/130mpg*$6perGal)
      The fuel cost difference then, is about $2600.
      So it’s going to take you almost FOUR YEARS of operation at these inflated numbers JUST to make back the extra 10 GRAND this thing cost you.
      So if you really still think this is a good deal…
      You wanna buy some LAND?

      Assuming more reasonable numbers, (12kmi/yr, $5/gallon gas)
      The fuel costs for the Honda will be 1500/year (12kmi/40mpg*$5perGal)
      The fuel costs for the Aptera will be 460/year (12kmi/130mpg*$5perGal)
      The fuel cost difference then, is about $1040… meaning that it’s going to take this thing more than NINE years of operation to pay back the 10k premium.

      Right about now, of course, you’re geearing up to try and argue that the car “gets charged by electricity and doesn’t use gas at all on that commute”. OK, in that case, say it has a fuel differential of the FULL $1500 — say the electricity to charge it is free (it very much isn’t, and it’s going to get much, much more expensive if Obama gets his way, but we’ll ignore that) — THEN, the car only takes SIX AND A HALF *years* to pay back the extra $10k it costs to buy it… Yeah, that’s the DEAL for… well, perhaps YOU but not ME.

      In short — Q.E.D. — this is a STUPID vehicle with a very limited set of consumers — essentially it’s stupid, eco-twit lefties who cannot handle basic arithmetic, and who don’t have any friends who can, either.

      Also, as Shannon notes:
      > The major problem with the Aptera’s shape is the teardrop shape that opens up a wind catching space between the body and the ground. Wind from the side, or wind from passing trucks will compress under the vehicle and lift it.

      Also that flat laminar surface surrounding the rear wheel is going to catch lateral wind shear something fierce. So, as you suggest, not only is the wind going to provide lift at the rear, reducing traction, but it’s doing it at precisely the point of greatest sideways force. Just look at it, and you’ll know what she notes and I add to is almost certainly correct. It would not be fun having a semi barrel past you in wet-weather conditions.

      > But I don’t think I’m going to get one anymore than I will get my flying car.

      Aw, come on, Shannon. All either one of them takes is a massive breakthrough in physics which eliminates a whole host of problems in one fell swoop. Who’s to say one is more likely than the other… :oP

      Speaking of flying cars — Along that totally OT line:
      Will Life Be Worth Living In 2000 A.D.?

    24. ffffffffffffffffffffff Says:

      Wow, you people will make any excuse to make something new and unfamiliar seem bad.

    25. Shannon Love Says:

      Ffffffffffffffffffffff,

      Wow, you people will make any excuse to make something new and unfamiliar seem bad.

      Except our entire argument here is that the Aptera is neither new nor unfamiliar. Indeed, it is a minor variant of a general design that dates back at least to the 1930’s. Buckminster Fuller created his Dymaxion car in 1933 which presaged all the major structural elements of the Aptera including the emphasis on airstreaming and using aircraft construction techniques to keep the weight down. Over the intervening 85 years, many others have tried variants of the same idea. All these ideas failed for the reasons outlined above.

      It is the combination of an arrogant if-you-build-it-they-will-buy-it attitude combined with the lack of a historical perspective that makes these designs “stupid”. Few things are more foolish than repeating the mistakes of the past.

    26. Nate Says:

      Nate,

      >>Oh, so what you really meant to write is an entry entitled “Highly efficient vehicle that doesn’t meet my particular needs”

      >I used myself as merely an example. I am a perfectly ordinary middle-class, middle American in terms of my automotive use. If a car won’t serve my needs it probably won’t serve the needs of a majority of ordinary car owners.
      >>How often do you really fully utilize your vehicle?

      >It doesn’t matter how often I need to fully utilize the vehicle, it only matters that I need to do it sometimes.

      There’s no-one telling you that but yourself.

      >If a particular vehicle can’t do what I need, I have to factor in additional transportation spending into my decision to buy the car.

      And that’s a bad thing… how? Besides, you already do that: you don’t insist on an amphibious car because you make business trips to England. You simply accept that that is a transportation need that your automobile can’t meet. Your choice of a land-bound vehicle certainly isn’t stupid for that realization.

      >So the Aptera can handle 80% of my driving needs (as measure by time spent driving) but then I have to find some other means of handling the other 20%. That means I have to either have a second vehicle($) or I have to plan on spending time and money renting a vehicle when I need to do something the Aptera cannot handle.

      Zipcar looks awfully good. Or pay your neighbor a little something to use their truck for the day. You’ll sure be able to afford it with all the gas money you’ve saved! And yeah, it builds community too, knowing that you can rely on those around you (and they on you) rather than just fighting for yourself.

      >Why not simply buy a more utility vehicle that gets poorer gas mileage? People have a transportation budget into which they factor all the cost of transportation: vehicle cost, fuel cost, maintenance cost, insurance cost as well as the cost of renting vehicle to handle things their primary vehicle will not. They also factor in the cost of their time in terms of flexibility, ease of use and safety. A vehicle has to have acceptable tradeoffs on many different cost to be considered an economical choice.

      Of course fuel economy isn’t the only consideration, but it’s pretty dominant. Fuel becomes more expensive if you don’t ignore the price of climate change, the price of national security (including the Iraq war), the price of air pollution, the price of platform and tanker spills, etc. Sure you could pass those costs onto your children, but do you want to? I certainly don’t.

      >This why the most successful vehicles in history, especially the world changing one, have been designed around moderation. They are moderately fast, moderately sized, moderately priced, have a moderate cargo capacity and get moderate gas mileage.

      >Anyone can make an extraordinary vehicle by focusing on one specific function or attribute of transportation. You can make a vehicle that hauls a lot, goes very fast, is very inexpensive, saves gas etc but that vehicle will not have a broad market. The necessary tradeoffs make such vehicle useless as general purpose transportation.

      Ahh, so it’s either “general purpose transportaton” or “simply stupid.” Nice artificial dichotomy. Again, are airlines stupid because they don’t go to the hardware store? Despite your not having the need for this vehicle, there’s a great many people who do.

      >>I’ve already explained the idea of center of mass, so I won’t bother repeating myself here.

      >It has nothing to due with the center of gravity. It has to due with the force vectors on the car, especially when it corners sharply. Simplistically, a car is a rectangle that rotates around a point slightly behind the front wheels. View the car from above. If the car turns right, the right front corner is driven down while the left back corner is lifted up. The left front is lifted some and the back right is pressed down some. In a four wheel vehicle, the lose of traction on the left back is counter balanced by the gain in traction on the right back. In a back three-wheeler, the one wheel simply loses traction every time the vehicle turns. Worse, the force vectors make the vehicle want to pivot left-to-right using the rear tire as the fulcrum.

      Wait, so one tire loses traction, and no tires gain traction?

      Are you suggesting that Aptera Motors has invented antigravity?

      >You cannot overcome this problem without having a rear wheel that moves side to side (which is way to complex and dangerous) or with the use of gyroscopes.

      Huh? You can solve this problem by having a wide base and a low center of gravity. You’re forgetting *why* the vehicle torques around the roll axis – because its center of mass is higher than the wheel contact patch. Lower center of mass = lower weight shifting, all other factors being equal.

      Popular Mechanics, after test-driving, commented that “even while we were exceeding the street’s speed limit by a good margin, Aptera’s prototype felt stable and planted.”

      >>Of course this is true, but we all know that 4-wheeled vehicles are *safe enough*

      >To be successful, however, a three-wheel vehicle must be as safe and stable feeling as cars that cost the same or less. You can’t do that. You would need exotic solutions such a gyroscopes.

      Er, I’m betting that the VCs who invested in Aptera (Idealab, Google, etc) have a better idea of what it takes for something to be successful than either you or I.

      Also, since when are gyroscopes ‘exotic’? MEMS has brought them down tremendously in price without sacrificing reliability.

      >Three-wheel designs have been around for nearly 120 years now. They’ve never gain wide acceptance for the reasons I have outlined. Nothing in the Apetera overcomes these basic limitations.

      It’s “Aptera.”

      >>That has much more to do with motorcycle tires than it does their weight distribution.

      >The Apetera is basically an enclosed motorcycle and suffers the same limitations. Motorcycles need large contact patches because they have little weight compared to a car. However, those contact patches create a hydroplaning surface. The less the surface to weight ratio, the greater the risk of hydroplaning. The same works for ice and snow.

      The Aptera uses the same tires as the Honda Insight, so they’re not going to need large contact patches. See my earlier comments on why stability won’t be an issue.

      >There is a reason that sports cars are very dense i.e. lot of weight for their size. They need the weight to keep themselves on the road.

      >>>The car is only aerodynamic for forces front to back. The side cross section of the car is not particularly aerodynamic. In fact the Aptera seems to have an unusually high profile. That and the large ground gap towards the back will catch side winds. I know, I’ve driven vehicles with similar profiles in thunderstorms. It ain’t fun.

      >>I’d be curious to see a vehicle with a similar profile to this. Most vehicles have giant flat sides, unlike the Aptera.

      >The major problem with the Aptera’s shape is the teardrop shape that opens up a wind catching space between the body and the ground. Wind from the side, or wind from passing trucks will compress under the vehicle and lift it.

      >I think it will be a problem given the vehicles weight. Any cross wind is a problem if the vehicle is lightweight. This is why cyclist do not use streamlining on their frame or wheels. It catches the wind and blows them over.

      You’ll be happy to know, then, that they appear to be lowering the body, reducing that wind-catching space.

      >>Cool! I must say, however, that there hasn’t been an alternative car design of this caliber for quite some time. What alternative vehicles have you evaluated?

      >I came of age during the “energy crisis” of the 70’s. I built all kinds of little vehicles and alternative energy gagets. I’ve been watching people come out with these types of “innovations” for over 30 years.

      Ahh, a cynical ex-dreamer. It all makes sense now. ;)

      >The Aperera’s design is not particularly innovative. Composites and/or airframe design are not new. Hybrid engines are not new. Aerodynamic bodies are not new. Three-wheel designs are not new. Nothing in its technology provides an advantage that could not be provided with cheaper overall cost in a conventional vehicle.

      Of course they’re not new. However, putting them together in such a way is. The Aptera isn’t really an invention, just an innovation. Innovations, though, are what counts.

      >>Modern vehicles (or at least their exteriors) are designed like furniture.

      >That’s because the fundamentals of the automotive design are well understood. Most models share a common technology “under the hood”. Innovations occur in invisible areas such as computer control of the engine and brakes. Such innovations are shared across many different models. Automobiles are a mature technology. We know what general configurations work in the real world and which do not.

      Nothing in that refutes my point that they’re designed like furniture. The Aptera includes such under-the-hood innovations as well, such as their distributed electrical system. It reduces wiring assembly while increasing reliability.

      >>You may not agree with their design decisions, and they may very well not jive with your particular needs. However, that is not an indication of “stupidity,” just of unsuitability for your application.

      >It’s stupid to repeat the mistakes of the past. If you want to define the design goal of the Aptera as an attempt to create a novelty vehicle or speciality vehicle such as a high end sports car, then its pretty nifty. If you want to define it as a creating a general purpose care that can replace the majority of cars currently in service, then it is indeed a “stupid” design. It will not accomplish that.

      Er, I think it’s only *you* who wants to define it in the latter way. As I said, their forthcoming 4-wheel 4/5-passenger design will have much broader market appeal.

      >>It makes you think they might have thought of these drawbacks before!

      >People have. People have been designing and trying to sell dedicated commuter cars since the 1930’s. Detriot has tried time and time again to sell such vehicles. The only kind that come close to succeeding are extremely inexpensive cars. Anyone who could afford a $30,000 dedicated commuter car isn’t going to be sensitive enough to fuel prices to accept the compromises of an exotic design.

      Ahh, “People.” Well, if People say it’s impossible, I guess they’re right!

      New things happen. Really.

      >The basic problem in the history of automotive design is that people start the designing process with some unidimensional goal such as small size, conserving parking space or saving fuel. They neglect the multidimensional tradeoffs that people actually evaluate when they buy cars. That is why the designs fail.

      So far, it seems like your only real complaint is that it’s a two-seater, which doesn’t meet your (perceived) needs. There’s plenty of two-seaters out there.

      >Again, I would love to be wrong. Driving something like an Aptera would be damn spiffy. But I don’t think I’m going to get one anymore than I will get my flying car.

      Moller.com ;)

    27. Shannon Love Says:

      Nate,

      So far, it seems like your only real complaint is that it’s a two-seater, which doesn’t meet your (perceived) needs.

      Well, since I’m a middle-class American, my “perception” of my transportation needs is shared by the majority of car buyers. Of course, perhaps we’re all just to stupid to understand your brilliance and we make dumb choices that greater minds such as yourself could spare us from.

      Or, your not as smart as you think you are.

      What you fail to understand is that the Aptera is not particularly innovative either in concept or design. People have designed dedicated commuter cars. People have designed three-wheeled cars. People have designed highly gas efficient cars. People have designed highly gas efficient, three-wheeled dedicated commuter cars.

      These vehicles failed because the designers focused to much on a single aspect of car use and functionality. I think the Aptera will fail for the same reason.

      I would be happy to be wrong but it irritates me to see people make the same mistakes over and over again.

    28. Ian D. Miller Says:

      I think there’s room in people’s lives for small commuter cars and pickup trucks (or some other utility vehicle). I’m not going to piggyback on Nate and Shannon’s thread too much but the basic argument I hear Nate saying is that the bulk of most people’s travel is commuting. Shannon’s argument is that he wants utility in his primary vehicle rather than a second vehicle (having one for commuting which racks up the bulk of the miles and a secondary for utility jobs, hauling, etc.).

      I think the idea of having a commuting vehicle and a utility vehicle is practical…so long as the price points make sense. For my family, when I was growing up, we had an old Toyota pickup truck that we used to make runs to the dump, hauling firewood home, etc. That truck got VERY little use (in fact I don’t think we even registered it with the county or whatever because we figured we could get away with it not driving it hardly at all). In that scenario, the utility vehicle is just that…it’s ugly but it gets the job done, and for us, we didn’t need it very often. We invested more money in our commuting vehicle and luckily the Toyota ran like a champ for many many years.

      I DO think that many people assume they need a utility vehicle more often than they do and feel the need to have utility “just in case.” It’s a convenience and it’s natural that Shannon wants to maintain that convenience. However, I think that we all can consider sacrificing convenience at times if there’s a strong enough motive to do so. That motive can be global wraming, saving a few dollars on fuel, whatever. I agree that $30k is a bit high for a primary vehicle. Aptera originally was aiming for $20k but you know how these things go…if there’s enough demand for the vehicle, there’s economies of scale that would reduce the price substantially. I think at $20k it becomes MUCH more accessible (the VW Jetta is about that).

      I know the whole charging thing is a pain, but honestly, you just plug it in at night and forget about it. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The hybrid version is more attractive if you want to take this thing on a road trip (although service in the event of a breakdown is non-existent outside CA…and probably will be for a while…so road trips are probably not a great idea for a few years).

      I don’t necessarily like the battery technology that they chose, but I understand why they chose it. I drove the Toyota Rav4 EV for a while and it was way too expensive, largely because they chose the NiMH battery technology which it a reeeally nice battery but way expensive. Lithium ion is similar. Nickel Cadmium is a bit cheaper but has some drawback (had that pack in the Ford Th!nk I drove). So I understand why Aptera went with Nickel Zinc, but there’s some questions about how many charges the battery would tolerate before needing replacement…and of course what that replacement cost might look like.

    29. Shannon Love Says:

      Ian D. Miller,

      Shannon’s argument is that he wants utility in his primary vehicle rather than a second vehicle (having one for commuting which racks up the bulk of the miles and a secondary for utility jobs, hauling, etc.).

      You misunderstand my argument. I’m not saying everyone needs a “utility” vehicle. I am saying that for any vehicle to be successful it must have a certain broad functionality (utility) i.e. that it can carry out a wide array of transportation task to some degree.

      Let’s think about the problem from the other end. Consider a pickup truck. A pickup truck is built around hauling with passenger space, fuel economy etc all secondary consideration. However, to succeed a pickup truck has to perform moderately well in its secondary design considerations. A truck has to get reasonable gas mileage. It has to be able to carry two or three passengers in the cabin.

      How successful would a pickup design be if it had fantastic hauling capacity but only had passenger space for one person, the driver? People might buy a limited number of them for highly specialized tasked but such a design could never compete with the pickup niche of the current market. People who drive pickups need to be able to transport a college or pickup a kid from school. They won’t buy a pickup that does nothing but haul. T

      The Aptera represents narrow design as the hypothetical pickup. It’s a vehicle designed to one thing well, commuting. History shows that such narrow designs will not succeed. Throw in the dubious economics of the design and it’s failure is almost guaranteed.

      The Prius is an example of a better design. The vehicle gest very good, but not miraculous, mileage while still preserving all the functionality (utility) of other cars of its size.

    30. Obloodyhell Says:

      > You’ll sure be able to afford it with all the gas money you’ve saved!

      Nate, I just looked back on this thread, and it’s unlikely to be read by anyone, but I find it completely interesting that you’ve made this ignorant statement despite the fact that I’ve made a straightforward calculation which shows that this car doesn’t save you a single dime for five or more years with gas continuously at a higher price than it’s ever been in the USA.

      You’re full of it, and pretty much anyone actually reading the counterarguments against this idiotic car’s expressed purpose is completely aware of it.

      The car sucks. It has no reason to exist except as a novelty.

      > And yeah, it builds community too, knowing that you can rely on those around you (and they on you) rather than just fighting for yourself.

      Funny how someone who I’ll bet doesn’t believe in “Nation Building” thinks that there is such a thing as “Community Building”… LOL. Given increasing liability concerns, who the heck loans out their car any more, unless they’re good friends?

      > Sure you could pass those costs onto your children, but do you want to? I certainly don’t.

      Or you could assume that changes in many different factors (technology, availability of oil, etc.) will result in a change of cost-effectiveness of something, which means that one way or another your kids won’t have the same set of problems, but their own set. Because I am CERTAIN that my grandkids will appreciate my vast music collection stored on 8-track tapes and cassettes. And what they’ll really love is my grandfather’s collection of super 8 movies I’ve kept for them!

      > Despite your not having the need for this vehicle, there’s a great many people who do.

      And yet you continue to refer to them in this vague, nonspecific sense without detailing who they are, despite prodding by Shannon…

      > Are you suggesting that Aptera Motors has invented antigravity?

      No, she’s suggesting that you have no clue of any kind how physics works. Probably not even the Ex-Lax kind.

      > Er, I’m betting that the VCs who invested in Aptera (Idealab, Google, etc) have a better idea of what it takes for something to be successful than either you or I.

      Uh, yeah. “Appeal to Authority”, and a remarkably vague one at that.

      > Also, since when are gyroscopes ‘exotic’? MEMS has brought them down tremendously in price without sacrificing reliability.

      Uh, gyroscopes which can stabilize the mass of a moving car are quite exotic. The reason why the Segway is so exotic is because no one tried actively stabilizing any mass that large before. Hint: Cars mass a bit more than a human+Segway.

      > See my earlier comments on why stability won’t be an issue.

      See my earlier comment about your knowledge of inertial physics being highly suspect for obvious reasons.

      > Ahh, a cynical ex-dreamer. It all makes sense now. ;)

      Ahh, an arrogant, idealistic know-nothing. It all makes sense now. :oP

      > Nothing in that refutes my point that they’re designed like furniture.

      Yes it does. This car isn’t evolutionary, it contains a whole raft of previously untested features. And all that should go into a car at a time is close to the number you can count on your fingers. So not only are there going to be problems with those features and design flaws, there are going to be umpteen billion interactive issues between them which can’t be forseen, too. That’s a recipe for citrus.

      > Ahh, “People.” Well, if People say it’s impossible, I guess they’re right!

      Amazingly, they’re right more often than they’re wrong. The “impossible being possible” is usually followed by a slow, steady and widening realization that it’s not impossible any more. It’s rare that someone just makes the impossible work out of nowhere. It happens, but that’s not the best way to bet.

    31. Shannon Love Says:

      It’s rare that someone just makes the impossible work out of nowhere. It happens, but that’s not the best way to bet.

      More importantly, people forget that for every breakthrough idea that changes the world and makes it into the history books, there are thousands of failed ideas which get forgotten. Wise people look askance at radical ideas because the vast majority of them are destined to be failures.

      Somehow, we’ve gotten to the idea that, because groundbreaking ideas are often scorned by most before they prove themselves, therefore all scorned ideas must be groundbreaking. The social response to an idea does not predict its ultimate validity.