How the Aptera Hybrid Works

Aptera Specs

The Aptera will be available as an all-electric or a plug-in hybrid for under $30,000.
The Aptera will be available as an all-electric or a plug-in hybrid for under $30,000.

So how can the Aptera get such great gas mileage? Several aspects of the vehicle's design give it high fuel-efficiency, but Aptera Motors' area of expertise lies in composites. You may hear the word sometimes when people talk about construction, but what exactly is a composite, and how does it help the Aptera?

A composite is a material that is made up of two or more different properties. Although these properties are easy to tell apart when combined and don't fuse together completely, they work together to form a substance that is strong, light and easy to shape. Composites can occur naturally in nature, or they can be man-made. A natural composite, for instance, is something as simple as wood, which is made of strong fibers of cellulose bound together by a light, weak substance called lignin. Concrete, on the other hand, is made by combining aggregate -- small stones and gravel -- and cement.

Sports car manufacturers use carbon fiber composites to build light, speedy yet powerful cars like the Aston Martin Rapide and the Lamborghini Reventon. Airplanes, cars, boats and insulation for buildings are made with fiberglass because of its great strength. The Aptera uses its own patented process called "Panelized Automated Composite Construction (PAC2)" for its body design, which gives the vehicle its unique, aerodynamic shape.

The Aptera was intended to operate on a diesel engine, but it became too difficult to build a small enough engine that would pass California's emissions testing. Instead, it will be available as either a pure electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid. Top speed for the Aptera will exceed 85 mph and will most likely be limited electronically at 95 mph -- smaller, lightweight cars can't go too fast, especially on highways, because air resistance makes them unstable. If you throw a light paper airplane through the air with a bit too much force, you might get an idea of how easily air can alter its course. The same goes for a lightweight car traveling too fast down the road.

But the speed limitation isn't the only safety precaution AC has taken with the Aptera.