Why Three Wheels?

Aptera Community Aptera Discussions Why Three Wheels?

Aptera Community Aptera Discussions Why Three Wheels?

  • Why Three Wheels?

  • Dave Hoder

    October 12, 2022 at 3:59 pm

    Maybe a dumb questions but the only answer I could find was rolling resistance. Wouldn’t putting 2 narrower tires together (same rolling resistance) make it 4 wheel and eliminate any helmet or tax credit issues? What are the rules that would change it from an autocycle (or whatever it’s called) into a car if it follows automotive safety regulations?

    Sorry if this has been asked before but I couldn’t find the answer.

  • Jonathan Reni

    October 12, 2022 at 4:23 pm

    My guess is that its a combination of efficiency and using hub motors. If they were to use two rear wheels, they might need to have some sort of shared motor and drivetrain for the rear wheels. This would add complexity and weight to the vehicle. Even if it was just a front wheel drive unit, the extra rear wheel would add resistance and weight.

  • J.P. Morere

    October 12, 2022 at 4:36 pm

    Efficiency is one aspect, but there is another rather LARGE issue. When you have four wheels, you legally have a car and have TONS of rules and regulations that you MUST comply with. All of those regulations cost lots of time and hundreds of millions of dollars to design, test and certify before you can sell the vehicle. This greater cost is a huge barrier for startups like Aptera. Yes, there are four-wheel startups like Rivian, but those vehicles also cost 3x to 4x what Aptera plans to sell for.

    Once Aptera is established and has the cash flow, they intend to enter the 4 wheel market too, but that is sure to be years down the road. Meanwhile, we have a really cool and ultra-efficient vehicle to drive around.

  • Qiang Fu

    October 12, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    Yes it was discussed before. No conclusion was drawn whether making the rear wheel a dually will make it a “car” and subject to car regulation for NHTSA, or will make it satisfy the “four wheels” requirement for IRS. To make the effort worthwhile, a dually rear-wheel aptera would ideally be still seen as autocycle in the eyes of NHTSA, but would be counted as having “four wheels” in the eyes of IRS.

    • Mark Salyzyn

      October 13, 2022 at 7:06 am

      Hmmm <Checks TireRack and finds 125/70-SR16 with same overall diameter and wonders if can find a slender rim and a dually of that fits inside the rear pants, then removes after getting tax break>

    • Joshua Rosen

      October 13, 2022 at 7:28 am

      The only advantage of being considered an autocycle by NHTSA is to eliminate the need for crash safety tests but it causes licensing problems at the state level and it also adds regulatory problems in the EU. Aptera has promised to meet the crash safety requirements for a car, that eliminates the one reason to have NHTSA treat it as an autocycle. I for one won’t buy one until they’ve passed the crash safety tests, I want a safe vehicle. At the state level many states and provinces lack autocycle laws which means that you need a motorcycle license to drive one. My state, Massachusetts, is in that group. I can’t buy an Aptera until either the state passes an autocycle law or Aptera adds a fourth wheel. In the EU there is a width regulation for motorcycles that the Aptera violates, if it had a fourth wheel it wouldn’t have a problem. Legislatures move very very slowly, engineers move much faster, they could add a fourth wheel in less time then it will take the various legislatures to pass autocycle laws.

  • Russell Fauver

    October 13, 2022 at 10:03 am

    Biggest issue I see with adding a 4th wheel is the requirement for front and rear bumpers. They would totally ruin the aerodynamics.

    • George Hughes

      October 13, 2022 at 10:09 pm


      You are right, with regulations, et. al. your observation makes the statement Chris said to Jay Leno in that video, among the most profound in the Aptera story. Chris said basically that if you build a car for efficiency, the physics of fluid dynamics means it is going to have to look like this (Aptera).

      And while we might think about Aptera growing from its base in SoCal out to Seattle, then Denver, the southeast, east coast … etc. … with a three to five year build-out of production, the reality is the need for this better mousetrap is more dire in the southern hemisphere.

      Think of the value of a generational solar car that lasts and lasts in sub-Saharan Africa or Sri Lanka or even Puerto Rico. I mean have you seen the rats nest of wires that comprises at least a significant portion of India’s electric grid?

      Just for the positive aspects of spreading Aptera’s benefits world wide (rapid development of EVs in areas with EV unfriendly infrastructure I almost wish Aptera would concentrate on the subsystems production (motors, solar panels, batteries, interior and exterior systems) and, once one or two additional assembly plants are built and manned, turn over final assembly to franchisees along the Coca-Cola model.

      I don’t think that even Aptera’s management or even investors grasp the importance to the local economies that the citizens of an area participate (get jobs) producing the things they need and use.

      If the Aptera is as transforming as the Model T Ford (down to the $5/hr local paycheck for building it) it is entering the world where 76 million potential customers (US Pop 1900) could aspire to a Model T, but a world population a hundred times larger can aspire for the Aptera.

      This stab at a joke may help explain why the world market may be bigger than you imagine.

      Why did the nomad refuse to sell his camel for a Jeep but dug up his treasure for an Aptera? Because the Aptera is cheaper to keep than the damn camel that just eats and eats. And why not the Jeep? There are no gas stations in the desert.

  • guy vanoppen

    October 14, 2022 at 4:24 am

    Three wheels to avoid safety tests? How can I explain this to my loving wife?

    • Riley …

      October 14, 2022 at 5:49 am

      Avoids decades of big auto lobbying that makes it harder for new companies to come into the market.

    • John Voules

      October 14, 2022 at 6:20 am

      From the beginning of APTERA’s development it was to make the most efficient manufacturable vehicle ever made. Along with aerodynamics removing the 4th wheel was key, aside from added weight, a 4th wheel is also added friction.

      As far as safety goes, APTERA has a thick roundish composite body (egg shape), this allows for a natural benefit of being in a roll cage. APTERA will also subject the vehicle to US standards of crash testing, many will be waiting for these test results before completing their purchase. APTERA has already claimed through computer simulations that safety of this vehicle will not be a compromise.

  • David Marlow

    October 14, 2022 at 9:51 am

    Dave, besides the 25% less rolling resistance, the shape with only a center rear wheel allows much less air drag, it also evens out the weight distribution per wheel for better handling and traction. This makes the all wheel drive version perform very well in all weather conditions.

    • Dave Hoder

      October 14, 2022 at 2:50 pm

      Rolling resistance, weight, and aerodynamic difference would be negligible with two narrow (dual) tires taking the same space as the wider single I would think. The laws seem pretty gray and outdated from what I could tell but making it a car would solve a lot of issues it seems.

      • OZ (It’s OZ, Just OZ)

        October 14, 2022 at 4:45 pm

        “making it a car would solve a lot of issues it seems”….and create many more. Also you might think that having to put two very small streamlined mirrors on it due to regulations would have a negligible effect on the drag, but you would be wrong.

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