Design Risks

Aptera Community Aptera Discussions Design Risks

Aptera Community Aptera Discussions Design Risks

  • Design Risks

     Paul Kirchner updated 4 months ago 18 Members · 33 Posts
  • Charles Lewis

    November 17, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    I’m an investor, a fan and hopefully early owner of an Aptera. If this product meets its design goals it will change the way cars are built. There are so many new innovations.

    Mass producing lightweight composite cars will dramatically improve efficiency. If these bodies can be produced at the expected rate and meet the strength and crash specs it could become the dominant way that cars are built.

    Making the tear drop shaped car(autocycle?) a marketable vehicle. This has got to be close to the lowest aerodynamic drag that could make a car.

    I think this is the first production run of the in wheel motors from Elaphe.

    The speed with which the software is being developed is impressive. There will be lots of testing needed. The larger automakers, even Tesla, are in a maintenance and enhancement cycle which is more expensive. For a short time Aptera will be straight development.

    While I hope for the very best for this Aptera design it’s important to understand what the risks are that need to be overcome.

    In my mind the motors from Elaphe are the biggest risk. The design and testing has been outstanding. But can they get the supply chains and production volume up and maintain the necessary quality. Elaphe is certainly motivated. But volume production will be a new thing for them I think.


    November 17, 2021 at 7:46 pm
    • Charles Lewis

      November 17, 2021 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks Bruce, This is still a plan and they are not doing the production in Slovenia for some reason.

      • kerbe2705

        November 18, 2021 at 6:10 pm

        Elaphe is an electronics and motor design company – not a volume manufacturer.

  • Pistonboy Delux

    November 18, 2021 at 11:40 am

    Will Aptera get their motors from Lordstown in Ohio, or directly from Elaphe in Slovenia? The article says Lordstown would deliver their first vehicle in January of 2021. Have they delivered any? If they do not need the motors for their truck, would they go to the trouble of making the motors for Aptera’s small need? I don’t think so.

    Motor Trend says about Lordstown: ” The goal remains for fleet customers to receive their first deliveries in January 2022.”

    Would Elaphe make the motors in Slovinia for Aptera? Would I want the motors made in Slovinia?

    • George Hughes

      November 18, 2021 at 12:21 pm

      My understanding is there are two or three players in the in-wheel electric motor field.

      Electric motors are comparatively simple to make – you can make them at home with some copper wire, magnets and a spindle. It is the IP that surrounds how you make them that separates Elaphe from a startup.

      Also know there are many additional applications for in-wheel motors.

      One that intrigues me is the idea of placing two in-wheel motors on a rather typical pickup truck. Add the motor controller, inverter and a way to power the old trucks 12-volt system, and for something like $15-20,000, you could improve the power of your trusty 2wd f-150 by 100+ HP, add four-wheel drive capability and with a 20kw battery, provide 30-40 miles of EV only range.

      We need to think about cutting CO2 and I suspect in-wheel motors may be a critical tool in doing that.

      I think the case in point here, though, is that the big money is crazy about EVs – the Rivian IPO is an example – and the elegance of in-wheel motors and their implications on how to repurpose the cabin space and vehicle space made vacant by moving the motors to the wheels is an advantage that makes betting on the technology … a real good bet.

      Elaphe is on the verge of being there with the Lordstown contract and I’m sure they’ve invested the time and money to be able to back their promises. If not, there are competitors in the space and Elaphe knows that.

      Part of my recommendation of an independent chain of EV parts stores that do repairs, parts and service plus have space dedicated for the assembly of ‘composite’ based cars … just as you said … is because it gives the suppliers a marketing outlet for their components and stocking those stores helps them scale production. It is really not all about Aptera although Aptera is the point of instigation.

      • Curtis Cibinel

        November 18, 2021 at 1:34 pm

        Gotta say the concept is interesting for old gearheads doing retrofits. The market will always be small for this kind of thing but its the same idea as Fords new electric crate motor. The batteries, dash systems and motor made as simple as possible will allow this to work. My only concern is the risk of non-electricians dealing with high voltage; hopefully we don’t end up frying to many 70 year old retired guys.

    • Pistonboy Delux

      November 18, 2021 at 1:59 pm

      The article said: “But some companies, like Japanese supplier Nidec, think they’re ready. Last year, the company predicted it would be mass producing in-wheel motors by 2023. Aptera also hoped to make in-wheel motors from Elaphe part of its 1,000-mile two-seater, while Chinese company NEVS last year bought one of the most advanced in-wheel motor companies—Britain’s Protean.”

      I do believe there will be more in-wheel motors available in the future, but in the mean time, Aptera needs them soon enough to make 5,000 vehicles in 2022. Will Aptera have enough motors in time. Switching suppliers would be difficult. It would involve significant redesign of the drive train, its mechanical mounting, and electronics.

      I like the simplicity of in-wheel motors. They make it much more possible for start-ups to get in the business. The platform to be offered by foxcon also makes it easier for start-ups to get in the business.

    • Pistonboy Delux

      November 18, 2021 at 2:07 pm

      The following talks about Foxcon purchasing Lordstown Motors , but not the hub motor assembly line.

      It is dated Nov 10, 2021

      I am sure Aptera executives are very much in touch with Elaphe which is very much in touch with Lordstown Motors.

      The plot thickens.

      • Charles Lewis

        November 22, 2021 at 1:47 pm

        Yep. A thick plot indeed. At this time there must be a Elaphe motor production plan in place. Just don’t know what it is. I don’t think Aptera is in a position to switch to a non-Elaphe design without a massive schedule hit. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

  • Charles Lewis

    November 22, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    It’s interesting that no one has discussed the design risk of the composite body. Is there a road vehicle that has used this approach in the past or presently? Composite construction has come a long way. While I agree with the approach, Why this is such a new thing. Any mechanical engineers out there that can answer this question? This seems like a big design risk.

    • Peter Jorgensen

      November 22, 2021 at 2:56 pm

      I’m an Aerospace composites engineer and spend a ton of time designing and working on fiberglass sailboats and various other related things – The body doesn’t worry me at all. Not even a little bit.

      The complexity of a composite body is extremely low and it’s very easy to make a strong, tough, lightweight structure from composites. It’s not well suited to robotic assembly at extremely high rates, but it’s very well suited for low-volume production where 1-50 units a day are made. Most production cars are produced at higher volume so it doesn’t make as much sense. They are also not as concerned about weight.

      Which part of the composite structure concerns you the most? Maybe we can talk about that?

      Fiberglass and Carbon has been common in the auto industry for a long time. Most notably Corvettes, BMW I3, A lot of high-end supercars, etc, all utilize a lot of carbon fiber or fiberglass. Some of them are almost entirely carbon fiber (Pagani comes to mind).

      Aviation uses this construction method a LOT. FRP aircraft are extremely common. This makes sense because they’re concerned about weight, and aren’t making them in high-volume like ford is.



      Diamond Star:

      And others – Pipistrel, pretty much every glider company, even Airbus, Boeing, Cessna, Beechcraft are going that route now!

      • Riley ________________________________

        November 22, 2021 at 10:48 pm

        When it comes to the composite shell my concern was with the potential fluid channels. I know that aptera plans to use an aluminum underbody panel for cooling but what I am not 100% sure is if the micro fluid channels will actually make it to production. I hope they don’t because it could cause unnecessary complexity to the outer composite shell.

        • Peter Jorgensen

          November 23, 2021 at 7:27 am

          Only the belly has cooling channels. They’re formed into the aluminum tray as I understand it. No channels in the composite.

          • Charles Lewis

            December 14, 2021 at 2:47 pm

            That makes sense. So there is only one piece of stamped aluminum in the car? Aluminum would have good conductivity. I had the impression that all the main/structural body parts were composite. That left me with the question of how would Aptera get heat to transfer through a composite and at what rate.

            How certain are you about the Aluminum tray?

      • Charles Lewis

        February 23, 2022 at 10:44 pm

        I own a 16 year old fiberglass sailboat and my sister owns one that is 53 years old. Both boats are still quite solid in spite of heavy use.

        My thought pattern is… If composite construction is so good, why isn’t it the standard way to make cars?

        Your point that composite construction is only good for 1 to 50 units a day doesn’t make sense if you compare the required manufacturing floor area and costly equipment to get the higher volumes of metal bodies. The dramatically smaller number of body parts that composite allows along with the ability to have parallel production lines should allow for the same or better production rate as metal bodies for the same floor area. (I think?)

        So I’m back to the question of why composites are not the normal way to make a car. Perhaps it is because of institutional resistance to a change of that magnitude????

        • Harry Parker

          February 24, 2022 at 6:46 pm

          Have you noticed that quite a few cars made in smaller volumes have composite bodies (as Peter mentioned above last November)? However I’m guessing they are more like your boat body than Aptera’s.

          What’s really new is Aptera’s use of 3d printed molds and UV cured foaming resins in the vacuum formed composite body molding process. My dentist uses a similar UV cured resin on my fillings. The basic UV curing technology has been around for over a decade in the epoxy/glue industry, but the cost has been high.

          The UV curing speeds up the hardening process from hours to minutes, making an assembly line of 40 cars per day possible and economical. You won’t get 40 boats per day with traditional fiberglass epoxy methods. I understand Aptera has some patents pending on their process.

          • George Hughes

            February 24, 2022 at 10:44 pm

            Thanks for the update. That could be some valuable IP.

            • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  George Hughes.
          • Charles Lewis

            February 25, 2022 at 8:47 am

            I think of the Corvette with the fiberglass body panels. But underneath it has a metal frame. There are probably a bunch of cars like that. But any that have composite as the main structural element? Maybe I haven’t kept up.

            Has the cost on UV curable epoxy come down?

            • George Hughes

              February 25, 2022 at 3:06 pm

              If you have steel presses, good relations and credit with steel suppliers, a paint shop, a place to dip frames, etc. etc. it is a no-brainer to opt for steel or metal.

              But traditional, legacy, automobile manufacturing has since Henry Ford’s first assembly line regime, has been making cars that way. Wood was once a common component of cars but that was almost completely eliminated by the ’40s. The weight penalty of steel was mitigated by fiberglass fenders, hoods and boot covers. Other stronger metals have been used such as the titanium safety cage in the Smart Fortwo.

              People in the field of auto manufacturing are gaga over the time savings of Tesla’s mega castings; time being money. That innovation ends up with VW’s lament that with all the robots, etc. in Wolfsburg, Tesla-Berlin produces a car VW takes 30 hours to make in 10 hours.

              As it hasn’t been calculated, we don’t know the time it takes to ‘make’ an Aptera on the assembly line, but Nathan Armstrong has off-handed suggested you could dismantle a complete Aptera to its (unglued) components in less than two hours with a handful of hand tools. That at least suggests that even with the expanded time to form composite shells, Aptera should be able to assemble vehicles at least as fast as VW if not faster than Tesla.

              That you can accomplish this in a facility with less than 100,000 sq. feet including parts inventory with no highly restricted point-source pollution issues and being manned by maybe 20 assembler’s over two lines, opens the door to distributed assembly with notable additional transportation savings.

              I think the combination of cost and labor savings will prove revolutionary in a world where efficient transportation is an imperative.

      • Steven G. Bueche

        February 26, 2022 at 4:55 pm

        Don’t forget the old Ford Bronco’s entire roof shell was fiberglass. The rear Hatch on my 96 Jeep Cherokee is fiberglass as well. With their past history of making boats I think they’ve got the whole composite thing down to an art and science.

        I’m waiting for the Start to Finish video of the Aptera’s construction.

        • Paul Kirchner

          February 26, 2022 at 7:25 pm

          I agree. A build video would be great.

  • David Marlow

    November 22, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    Elaphe is very motivated in working with Aptera, as Aptera will be there largest volume customer. Besides receiving a Beta unit in December to finalize the custom design of the motor and software for the Aptera, they have all ready placed orders for production units. I’m sure just as Aptera is setting up a production facility now, so is Elaphe.


      December 14, 2021 at 10:52 pm

      Elaphe just got a small government infusion too.

    • Gabriel Kemeny

      February 25, 2022 at 5:13 am

      Assuming they start delivering on their new schedule, Lordstown will likely be the largest Elaphe volume customer later this year.

  • Guy SKEER

    December 15, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    I have worked on a “Kit” Lancair 320. AmaZING Strong and Light. Am also a Formula 1 Follower. I am unconcerned about the Chassis/Fuselage of the APTERA.

    Further, I worked on Container Cranes that Changed from Analog Drives to Digital Drives…from Huge Lumps of IRON spinning in the Generator side, that Spun More Iron on the Motor Side of things. Watched the Drive systems go from Huge Rooms full of Relays and electromechanical things to Smaller than a Two Suit Luggage sized Drive system – Not worried about the Drive on the APTERA.

    What I am worried about, though is the Statement that the Aptera Folks are “Making their Solar Cells” That is a whole industry, and requires Clean Rooms, and all sort of Laws of Physics and Chemistry “Magic” to be successful, let alone at the top of the Efficiency Charts. Please tell me that there is some Arrangement with a Major Manufacturer that has Capacity available to dedicate to APTERA needs!

    • Alain Chuzel

      January 2, 2022 at 3:34 pm

      I’m pretty sure that the “Aptera Folks” haven’t been, and won’t, make their solar cells. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest Aptera is acquiring individual cells from a major manufacturer that has significant capacity. I believe it’s Maxeon Solar Technologies spun-off from U.S.-based SunPower Corporation.

    • Joel Smith

      January 2, 2022 at 4:52 pm

      Agree with everything Alain said. I would only add that it still remains for Aptera to panelize the purchased PV cells in durable, heat dissipating, and otherwise admirably serviceable skin panels. I gather some other folks who have been doing their own panelization of the same or similar flexible PV cells have struggled (read as failed) to do that effectively. I presume to hope that the folks at Aptera are keenly aware of that recent history.

      • Alain Chuzel

        January 3, 2022 at 6:18 am

        “Panelize” is a great term! Much better than what I’ve always defaulted to (assemble/encapsulate).

        As you, more or less, point out, successful panelization isn’t trivial and it’s even less trivial for this application. I’ve said in numerous forums that I’ve been particularly concerned that Aptera hasn’t appeared to have accepted that. The “good” news is that now there appears to be time.

        If you don’t mind, Joel, any chance you can either detail or point me to some of these “failed” self-panelization efforts? I may be able to help them.

  • John Malcom

    February 25, 2022 at 8:41 am

    Once again many of the posts on this thread are looking at Aptera from bits and pieces of information and forming speculative conclusions from the outside.

    We know these things as facts. Elaphe has been selected as the in wheel motor vendor for some time. Elaphe in wheel motors have been in all Aptera vehicles from the start. Aptera has specified some customizations of the Elaphe motors (We do not know what these are or when they will become a part of the Aptera prototypes maybe they already are) Pablo Ucar, VP of Production and Supply chain, has proven skills and is experienced at his job. Elaphe had a contract to supply Lordstown with in wheel motors so had plans for mass production. Aptera is uncharacteristically open in their communication of development progress. NONE of the Aptera updates have identified in wheel motor availability as a risk factor. Production planning is progressing with announcement of owner contacts to firm up orders in the Q4 of this year. There are no indicators in the “Facts” that would lead to a conclusion that Elaphe is not capable of meeting production for Aptera in wheel motors.

    The sky is not falling or about to fall over in wheel motor availability. Peter is right in this thread about cooling channels. David is right about in wheel motors. and Alain is right about battery manufacture. I trust the engineers and managers at Aptera based on their amazing past performance and openness. If this is not a problem now or if it becomes a problem they will let us know. Until they do, let’s have trust that they know what they are doing.

    • kerbe2705

      February 25, 2022 at 9:17 pm

      I believe the Beta is testing the new motor: It was mentioned during a webinar that, for Aptera, the power and cooling ports on the motors would need to be moved and they appear to have been. There’s also now a metal shroud over the connections.

    • Alain Chuzel

      February 26, 2022 at 6:44 am

      Minor correction if you don’t mind John. I’m (Alain Chuzel) more a “solar cell guy” than a “battery guy”….

      • John Malcom

        February 26, 2022 at 1:29 pm

        My apologies. I consider you both.

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