This article contains a correction and an addition.
With soaring prices of gasoline at the pump now averaging upward of $4 per gallon, and as concerns continue to rise over the possible consequences of global warming, consumers around the nation are wrestling with transportation worries. President George W. Bush signed an energy bill in December 2007 that encouraged automobile makers to manufacture and produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and increase the industry average to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020. However, some automobile makers don’t think this is enough.
Take Aptera Motors Inc, a private automobile manufacturing company based out of Carlsbad, CA. Aptera’s founder, Steve Fambro, endeavored to design and build a passenger vehicle that was “safe, comfortable, and more fuel-efficient than any other vehicle ever produced.” His answer was the Aptera Typ-1.
The Aptera Typ-1 is an environmentally friendly, aerodynamic, two-seat, three-wheeled vehicle, which offers an all-electric or plug-in hybrid option. The original hybrid diesel prototype, the Mk0, hit 230 miles per gallon at 55 mph, which is 195 more than the average outlined in Bush’s bill.
The Typ-1 hybrid option is powered by a single-cylinder, 12-horsepower gasoline engine and a 24-horsepower DC electric motor, and has a fixed gear ratio transmission. Its power is delivered through a single rear wheel mounted on a composite swing arm. The all-electric version can get 120 miles per charge, while the hybrid is claimed to reach 300 mpg on short-range trips (100 miles) and 130 mpg on long-range trips (350-400 miles). After 5 years in the making, the Aptera Typ-1 has been redesigned, re-engineered, and refined into a production-ready vehicle, which can be reserved today. Actual production for the vehicle is set to begin late in 2008.
Corporations in the multi-billion dollar auto industry are realizing that providing alternative-fuel vehicles to consumers can be very profitable—both to the manufacturer and the buyer. General Motors, for example, announced last week that they will be shifting their production from SUVs to alternative-fuel vehicles like the Volt. The Toyota Prius gas/electric hybrid continues to be a hot seller, with a plug-in version on the way. Toyota announced in May of this year that its worldwide cumulative sales of the Prius had passed the 1 million mark.
The benefits that arise from fuel alternative vehicles are certainly substantial. More fuel-efficient vehicles mean less demand for oil, which reduces foreign imports from unstable regions. “Over half of the nearly 20 million barrels of oil that the U.S. burns each day comes from other countries, including 500,000 barrels per day from Iraq and 1.5 million per day from Saudi Arabia,” according to The Green Machines Tour, an educational campaign that showcases fuel-efficient vehicle technologies. All in all, the United States imports 62 percent of its oil, with over 30 percent coming from regimes that are less friendly, such as Venezuela, Nigeria, and Algeria.
By buying fuel-efficient vehicles today, consumers can begin reducing global warming gas emissions and help to minimize its effects while saving money at the pump. A car such as the Aptera, which would emit less and go farther on a gallon of gas, would certainly go a long way toward achieving all of these goals while reducing oil dependence. It may look like something out of a science fiction movie, but it might be the first of a new generation of cars that carry fuel efficiency to a new level.
* Correction, June 16, 2008: This article incorrectly stated that the Aptera Typ-1 had a continuously variable transmission and was a diesel hybrid. The car has a fixed gear ratio transmission and the hybrid version now has a gasoline engine.
* Addition, June 16, 2008: The following information was added to this article: "The all-electric version can get 120 miles per gallon, while the hybrid is claimed to reach 300 mpg on short-range trips (100 miles) and 130 mpg on long-range trips (350-400 miles)."
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