Electric Cars – The Aptera

Posted: May 24th, 2008 by: h-2

Although I do not believe that the car based lifestyle has any future, clearly I am in a minority. Most of the United States is built around the concept of suburban, car based development, and most of the people who bought into that are not about to let go of that dream, at least not without a fight.

In general, I consider most of the so-called ‘advances’ totally pointless. A Prius, for example, gets only about 42 or so miles per gallon highway, which is actually less than say a mid 1980’s Honda CRX, which was a very light car.

Other totally ridiculous things being promoted are the ‘hybrid’ Tahoe SUV. But I came across the Aptera electric/hybrid-electric recently, it’s pretty interesting, and, unlike the Prius style development, is a fairly serious effort to get around the core issues of modern cars: weight and air resistance (review in www.treehugger.com).

In a sense, it pains me to post things like this, but because this vehicle is clearly real, and equally clearly, is far less of a conceptual joke than say the Prius, I feel an obligation to take note. The car has a pretty large range in electric mode, about 120 miles, and, on sub 300 mile trips, gets about 300 miles per gallon (when considering the first 120 miles is on electric batteries). Real, non-electric mileage is 120 mpg, give or take.

I thought it was impressive how practical the planning for this car was, including making it a technical motorcycle, 3 wheel class, to get around certain legal issues with small cars, etc.

While I’m most definitely not in the techno-utopian camp by any stretch of the imagination, it would be totally naive to think that our current car based system and culture is just going to disappear without a whimper, along with all the people who can’t conceive of any other way to exist. This car is the first serious attempt to deal with the reality of peak oil I’ve seen so far.

So What’s Wrong with a 300 mpg Car?

In a sense, nothing. If people must drive, I’d rather they drove something like this than any standard car.

But there’s a lot of assumptions being made when a certain group within the American culture decides that when faced with resource limits, global warming, etc, the best solution is to not change fundamentally. And make no mistake, a car like this is not a fundamental change. It will still be driving on roads made out of asphalt, which is petroleum based, and rising in price along with all other crude oil products.

And roads will still be made and maintained by huge diesel consuming trucks and other heavy equipment.

And of course, the less gasoline is sold, the harder it is for individual gas stations to survive, since they make very little profit per gallon sold.

And don’t forget the gas taxes that largely pay for road maintenance and building. It’s going to be a hard sell to get higher taxes to pay for roads when only the relatively well to do can afford to drive electric or gas/gas-hybrid cars.

As Kunstler has pointed out, when things start to crack, they don’t necessarily crack neatly, or predictably.

But what’s worse, the longer we try to cling to the car based lifestyle, the less likely we are to start putting money into serious solutions, like electric rail. These solutions are not ‘continue the status quo’ type infrastructural models, but are a new way of life for Americans. Unfortunately, Americans do not want a new way of life, and probably will keep trying to hang on to their current way until their economic system collapses completely, which if today’s Automatic Earth is even 1/3 right, is a very real possibility.

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