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Aptera to Start Production in October 2009.

The Aptera two-seat, three-wheeled all-electric vehicle sometimes leaves reviewers scratching their heads. For licensing purposes, it's classed as a motorcycle, but with its swept-back design and front wheels sitting out to the side on wing-like extensions, the word "airplane" immediately comes to minds.

The San Diego County start-up that has been working on the futuristic vehicle since 2006 has picked up some impressive funding, including money from Google, so production is finally slated to begin in October 2009 with sales via a small group of dealers taking place by the end of the year.



The hope is that over the next two years the Aptera will go national with annual sales targeted at 100,000 units. In year one, they hope to sell 10,000 and there are already spinoff concepts in the works for a more conventional four-seater with a companion gas-engine.

The current iteration, which will be called the 2010 Aptera 2e, sports a body made of a proprietary resin composite in the interest of keeping weight low. Light, however, doesn't equate with weak. This stuff goes well beyond federal standards by at least two factors. Energy absorbing crumple zones are present front and rear with side-impact door beams, aircraft-grade seatbelts, and airbags in the dash.

The Aperta's doors open upward in butterfly fashion and the unit also has a rear hatch. The 2010 is expected to have an electric motor putting out 60 lb-ft. of torque. The plug-in battery pack relies on lithium-ion phosphate chemistry. Since two trim levels are planned based on battery size, the range will vary from 100 to 120 miles. The equivalent mile per gallon rating is almost unbelievable -- 300 mpg. Drivers will need eight hours to recharge from a standard household plug. The company is claiming the vehicle can do zero to 60 mph in 8 to 10 seconds.

Other features that fill out the Aptera's impressive resume include: heat-rejecting glass, automatic climate control including warm-up and cool-down modes, power windows and doors, remote locks, pushbutton start, powertrain immobilizer, and a solar array on the roof to juice up electrical accessories and to save on battery drain. Optional goodies include a rearview camera, anti-theft system, and a navigation unit linked to Google.

Initially sales will be limited to California only, but the company says it has taken 4,000 cash pre-orders. Aptera Motors has been reluctant to talk price, no doubt sensitive to what will be a high-dollar figure in light of the current recession. Best guesses, however, place the three-wheeler at just a bit under $40,000 -- on par with the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt, a four-passenger sedan that will be available late in 2010.

With its small size, undoubted "cool" factor, and incredible all-electric performance, the Aptera could be a hit as an ultra fuel-efficient three-wheeled competitor to the smart car. Like most of its class, however, it will face licensing hurdles as it moves nationwide, with some would-be drivers forced to seek a motorcycle license to drive an Aptera. That may not, however, deter drivers tired of pain at the pump and anxious about the effects of global warming. One thing's for certain. This one will be a head-turner in traffic.