Jason C Hill Speaks…
Jason Hill, Aptera Chief of Design, did a webinar on October 7th for transportation design students at the Cleveland Institute of Art. This was an event that I arranged with the help of Will Reynolds, Jason, and Doug Paige, professor of industrial design at the Cleveland Institute of Art. CIA has 300+ solar panels cranking away on the roof of its main building and sustainability is a big part of their approach to design education. The event was intended to serve as PR for Aptera, but also to afford the students an opportunity to hear from a professional in the field of vehicle design and learn how he worked through the myriad design choices that have been part of the development of the Aptera.
I gathered a few pertinent quotes from Jason’s presentation that I thought might be of interest to us on the forum. I transcribed them from the recording of the presentation.
Comments on Aptera Vehicle Features
There will not be a logo on nose of vehicle. The backlit logo will be retained on both B pillars. Jason: “Similar to the Tesla cybertruck, the Aptera vehicle IS the logo.”
There will be a center headlight cluster. Jason: “Central headlight is a legal requirement (for motorcycles and autocycles); all elements need to be around the centerline of the vehicle; our headlight efficiency is north of 50% while most auto headlights are 25-35%…(on avoiding placement of headlights on the angled surfaces on the far left and right of the Aptera body) pushing through angled surfaces, performance goes way down.”
Yes, Aptera will have a steering wheel “yoke”, not a full steering wheel. This is to allow viewing of the side mirror cameras now placed directly in front of the driver.
In regards to the mid-window bar in each side window: “You can’t do a full drop window AND maintain the proper aerodynamic shape. All the cool supercars have them going back to the Lamborghini Countach.”
“The production design will be completed by middle of November 2022 and the plan is to head right to the production tooling from that design.”
In response to a question about future vehicles from Aptera: “We’re on track to launch this vehicle next year (i.e. 2023) Any distraction against that becomes detrimental to the mission. Once we prove that it’s in the marketplace, then you can look at the evolution of the product, the evolution of the brand, and the evolution of the company which includes other products.”
Comments on Aptera History
On the demise of the original vision at the hands of the auto execs brought into the company in the 2006 time period: “They didn’t understand what is was supposed to be, so they tried to make it into something it wasn’t. It’s not supposed to be a car. It’s a different vehicle with different characteristics.”
Referring to Aptera restart by Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony in 2018: “The Aptera story has a Hollywood movie arc to it — the heroes come back after almost being defeated.”
“Aptera is choosing a spot in the vehicle market with a set of regulations we can get into using an achievable amount of capital.”
“Brand identity demands that it (i.e. Aptera) be unique in as many aspects as possible. We know we need to be unique first before we capitalize on a bigger market.”
On not trying to have Aptera compete head-to-head with 4 wheel vehicles: “You can’t compete with a 4 wheel vehicle — Ones a fruit and ones a mineral, they’re just completely different.”
Other Aptera Statements of Interest
“My vision was always to have the simplest interior possible.”
One of the students raised the question of pushback received re: central screen — don’t people prefer tactile controls? Jason’s response: “There’s always pushback on pretty much everything”.
On what it’s like to drive an Aptera: “You have a unique relationship with vehicle. I never used that term until I owned a Tesla model 3.”
Is this a recreational vehicle or a daily driver? Jason: “I believe the pleasure that is going to be derived from ownership and experience of Aptera is much more aligned to fun and freedom. When I think of these, I think of ATV’s I think of off-road or zippy things around town.”
3 wheels? Jason: “It starts with efficiency (i.e. reduced rolling resistance, less weight, and tapered body for aerodynamics) but also for capital vs. regulations that must be met to enter a market.”
Is it a motorcycle or autocycle? (Note: some states categorize Aptera as motorcycle, others as autocycle) Jason: “Our mission was to have the most efficient vehicle in as many metrics as possible.”
“We are starting with supplemental solar, but the goal is to get to almost primary.”
Comments on Design in General and Philosophical Musings
“Design at its core is problem solving.”
“Design needs to be ahead of the curve. You’ve got to be way out front with optimism. Design for optimistic outcome.”
What should designers do? Jason: “Satisfy the desire and take away the fear in a novel way. Effect real change in a positive way. That’s the mission of designers.”
“I live on coffee and learning.”
“Science fiction magically becomes fact.”
“We change our environment. All other species adapt to the environment. However, we’re being more efficient through technology and through knowledge.”