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Transportation Earth The Almighty Buck

Google.org Invests $2.75M In Aptera Motors 110

Posted by kdawson
from the hoping-for-a-smooth-ride dept.
Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, has just invested the first funds from its RechargeIT program: $5.5 million for plug-in electric vehicles. Half of the money goes to Aptera, whose 230-mpg, 3-wheeled electric we have discussed before. The other half bolsters the efforts of ActaCell, a Texas company working on li-ion battery technology developed at UT Austin.
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Google.org Invests $2.75M In Aptera Motors

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  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @11:28AM (#24320293) Journal

    If they want to sell more of those Apteras to people besides the 'OMGTHEENVIROMENT' groups, they will seriously have to give that vehicle a better look.

    • by RingDev (879105) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @11:38AM (#24320485) Homepage Journal

      I'm part of the 'OMGFOURFIFTYAFUCKINGGALLON' group, and I'm okay with its appearance. Paint it black, throw a skull and flame job on it, and I'll drive it.

      -Rick

      • And people are still happy to run around in their Chelsea tractors. It can't be all that expensive.

         

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RingDev (879105)

          LOL, I'll admit it, I had to google 'Chelsea tractors' ;)

          I've never been to the UK, but I did spend a bit of time in Germany and a year in Japan. All in all, driving in the US vs driving in Germany (Frankfurt) and Japan is looked at in entirely different lights.

          For example, my round trip commute is 64 miles. Even in my VW Golf TDI I'm still looking at about 1.5 gallons a day and that's if I go straight to and from work. Going to a theater is a 40 mile round trip. Going to a large grocery is a 36 mile trip.

          W

          • by BeanThere (28381)

            For example, my round trip commute is 64 miles. Even in my VW Golf TDI I'm still looking at about 1.5 gallons a day and that's if I go straight to and from work. Going to a theater is a 40 mile round trip. Going to a large grocery is a 36 mile trip.

            Holy Nuts, 36 miles to a grocery store, do you live in the middle of nowhere, or have zoning laws gone that beserk? Is this typical in the US?

            • by mmkkbb (816035)

              There are plenty of tiny little towns, even in crowded New England, that have as their 'grocery store' something that's just a bit larger than a typical convenience store, with a Wal-Mart as either the only or one of the few larger options that are in the next big town that is, in fact, 40 miles away. These aren't oft-ballyhooed suburbs; these are isolated rural areas that might be mostly farms or wilderness.

            • by RingDev (879105)

              36 miles to a large grocery store. One with highly competitive prices and a much larger selection.

              We have a decent sized grocery store in town, maybe 2-3 miles away. The prices are a bit higher, and the selection isn't quite as nice, but we can manage to feed ourselves from it. But any time we are looking for something specific that is out side of the most profitable lines, it means driving in to the larger store.

              And we have a little quicky-mart 3 blocks away we can go to for milk and bread, but it costs tw

        • by Tim C (15259)

          Define happy - I hear plenty of moaning about the price of fuel and calls and petitions to have it lowered (by reducing the tax on it, which makes up a large proportion of the price).

          I have to admit to feeling very little sympathy for the Chelsea tractor set though...

      • by aliquis (678370)

        I think it looks awesome, didn't the car in AI look similar?

    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @11:38AM (#24320487)

      Yes, it needs to look like a Hummer H1. And still have a 0.11 drag coefficient.

      Seriously, what's wrong with form-follows-function? The Prius was considered ugly when it was first released; now it's the sexy, trendy car to own.

      • by k_187 (61692) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @11:52AM (#24320745) Journal
        The Prius might be the trendy car to own, but its still ugly.
        • I disagree. I think it looks cool.

          See? [automotive.com]

          • by k_187 (61692)
            I'm sure there are people that agree with you, but I'd imagine that people aren't buying it because of how it looks.
          • The Prius is ugly. My 1969 Cadillac Coupe DeVille Convertible is cool.

            However my 69 Caddy only gets 7mpg of super.

          • by mobby_6kl (668092)

            It's still fugly, I don't see how your photo proves otherwise. Just because hollywood douchebags are all over it doesn't mean it's not ugly. It's only when one adds some sexy models to spice things up that looking at the Prius becomes bearable, like so [imageshack.us]. Much better.

          • by Sabriel (134364)
            Thanks for the link. Actually saw my first Prius just a couple of weeks ago here in Australia. Not as nice as the one in your link, but still decent. I don't see why they're considered ugly. OTOH those Apteras will take some getting used to...
      • On a semi-related note, most Prius drivers I've seen have been as big of assholes on the road as most Hummer owners. And the way they typically drive (petal to the floor at take off, slam on the breaks at the last moment) completely negates the already negligible increased fuel efficiency the hybrid engine provides.
        • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @12:22PM (#24321385)

          Though the electric assist and regenerative braking mitigates bad driving to some degree, I won't deny that most (American) Prius owners are trying more to be trendy than efficient.

        • by joggle (594025) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @12:26PM (#24321473) Homepage Journal

          I just got a Prius a couple of months ago. I've been doing city and mountain driving, including driving up Pikes Peak, and still average 47-50 mpg. Out in the flatlands on the highway I would get even better mileage.

          It is larger than my old Saab 900 and still gets significantly better mileage (the Saab got 25-28 mpg in similar driving conditions). I typically got 270 miles per tank on the Saab (10 gallons) and now get 500 miles per tank on the Prius. How the heck is that insignificant??

          • your saabs 0-60? I am sure it's less than the week it takes for the prius to get up and go. If you plant a tree sideways, and feed it a little miracle grow + it'll grow faster than a prius can accelerate.

            I drove my friends 1st gen while he was in Alaska for a few months. 5k miles, got 55 avg w/ some freeway some intown driving split about 70/30. It was neet to have some feedback about how my driving helped or hurt my fuel economy, which did make me more concious of how I drive today.

            Personally, I am on

            • by joggle (594025)

              For me the real test will be heading west into the mountains on I-70. Pikes Peak was relatively easy since it was all low speed (30-35 mph max). I haven't driven west on I-70 yet in the Prius but in my old Saab (which was a 1990 900 without a turbo) I couldn't maintain the speed limit the whole time.

              Accelerating is pretty decent if you want to floor it with the current generation of Prius. I don't often floor it but it was a test I did when trying one out for a test drive. I'm pretty sure it would get to 60

              • When I went over I-90 out here in WA, the Prius didn't do a bad job. I was honestly more worried about going down than up. While the regen braking works fine, it tops off the batteries rather quickly coming down. The pads (at least on gen 1) were so tiny and the car was so heavy that I wondered a few times if I was going to fast. It's a thought that I have only had one other time in my life, when I was 4yo on a bicycle and there was a small cliff in front of me.

                Gratz on the new car btw!

                The prius is a g

                • by joggle (594025)

                  Thanks! Yea, it's definitely heavy. Going down Pikes Peak I tried doing a stupid experiment: relying solely on brakes heading down from the peak, not sure what the heck I was thinking. There's a stop along the way down where they check your brake temperatures and suggest that you wait x minutes to cool off if they are over 300 degrees F. Well mine were 600 degrees so had to wait 20 minutes. I downshifted the rest of the way down (there's a special 'B' mode for engine braking) so didn't have to use the brake

          • by T3hD0gg (908064)
            If people are more interested in looks and still want great gas mileage, take a look at a Volkswagen Jetta TDI. It looks exactly like other Jettas but it has the same gas mileage as a Prius with greater torque.

            500 miles to a tank? Oh, please... my dad gets 600 miles in his TDI.
            • by joggle (594025)

              The TDI has a fuel tank that stores 14.5 gallons. The Prius stores 11.9 gallons.

              Also, does he drive in the mountains? I do and I'm sure if I was in the coastal plains or Kansas I could get even better gas mileage.

              The TDI is also a diesel which costs more than regular gas.

          • by aliquis (678370)

            But then SAAB gasoline consumption are huge as well (maybe not compared to huge american cars, but compared to asian ones.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          I don't doubt they're being stupid (especially the "slam-on-the-brakes" part), but sometimes it's actually a good idea to floor the accelerator in a hybrid because it makes sure the electric assist is fully engaged. I think it might apply more to manual-transmission Insights rather than Priuses, though: they say the way to drive an Insight is to floor it in 1st and 2nd, then shift straight to 5th once you're up to speed.

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            I think it might apply more to manual-transmission Insights rather than Priuses, though: they say the way to drive an Insight is to floor it in 1st and 2nd, then shift straight to 5th once you're up to speed.

            Well then maybe that means the Insight is the hybrid for me, since that's how I drive my gas-powered car today. =D

      • The Prius was considered ugly when it was first released; now it's the sexy, trendy car to own.

        That's because it was ugly [wikipedia.org] when it was first released; the sexy, trendy one [wikipedia.org] is the second-generation model.

        • by ksheff (2406)
          It's trendy, but I certainly wouldn't call it sexy. It's still what I'd refer to as ugly/plain. I did enjoy driving one a few years ago though. It was nice to have a car with a decent amount of room and luggage space that was still efficient.
        • Those two look exactly the same to my eye, and they've both just average looking.

          Of course, the only car I really consider ugly are those box-things. Dunno the name of them, I'm not a car guy, but they look just like large metal rectangles with a spot cut out for the hood/windshield.

          • That would be the Scion xB, [wikipedia.org] which is made by Toyota.

            It's a great car for environmentally-conscious geeks looking to reduce their polygon footprint.

          • Of course, the only car I really consider ugly are those box-things. Dunno the name of them, I'm not a car guy, but they look just like large metal rectangles with a spot cut out for the hood/windshield.

            Hey, don't hate the xB until you tried driving one. I admit that I don't really like the original, but I actually bought a 2008 model because of the redesign [edmunds.com].

            Really, it's a better Camry: same engine, similar curb weight, more passenger space, less cost, all without the grandpa-inspired handling of the Camry

      • by aliquis (678370)

        I think it has looked cool the whole time, maybe not as an rx7 or something like that, but better than a Volvo (yes I'm swede.)

    • by Otter (3800) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @11:38AM (#24320493) Journal
      Yes and no -- part of the success of the Prius relative to other hybrids is that it's distinctive looking. For a lot of the 'OMGTHEENVIROMENT' people, being seen to be doing something supposedly useful is at least as important as whether it is actually useful (which in the case of current hybrids is questionable).
      • by joggle (594025)

        How is it questionable? The Prius retains its value more than any other car sold in 2007 (selling used in 2008 for virtually the same amount it was sold for new in 2007), it gets better gas mileage (I get 47-50 mpg in mountain and city driving vs. 25-28 mpg in my old Saab 900 hatchback that was a significantly smaller car), and has tons of safety features (side curtain airbags, side impact air bags, backup video camera, etc).

        If you have the money and a 5-seat vehicle that can't tow does what you need then g

        • by HungWeiLo (250320)

          I don't own a Prius, but I like the Prius, and I think the the build quality is superb.

          Although based on solely the economic point of view, I would have to disagree with the "no-brainer" part of getting a Prius. I have come up with the following analysis based on my wife's 2005 Corolla. From my calculation, it gets about 30/38 for mileage (about 33 MPG mixed average usually).

          So the annual gas savings from driving a Prius (let's say 48.5 MPG mixed average) for 12,000 miles at $4.25/gallon would be about $493

          • by Retric (704075)
            (363 - 247) * 4.25 = 493$ (If you only drive 12,000 miles a year.)

            But, a Corolla does not have the same features as a Prius. So by going with a Corolla you skip:
            4 Wheel ABS Brakes
            Electronic Brake Distribution

            Front Side Airbags
            Side Head Curtain Airbag
            Roll-Sensing Side Curtain Airbags

            Steering Wheel Audio Controls
            Automatic Climate Control
            Illuminated Vanity Mirrors
            Steering Wheel Mounted Controls

            It's $22,220 vs $17,135 ~1/2 of which should be paid back in 5 years. IMO the 2.5k for that many safe
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If they want to sell more of those Apteras to people besides the 'OMGTHEENVIROMENT' groups, they will seriously have to give that vehicle a better look.

      When gas hits $6/gal, the Aptera will be the most beautiful looking car on the road.

      • by maxume (22995)

        That's awfully pessimistic. I figure someone will have come up with something much better looking by the time 2020 rolls around.

    • I'd buy it, but then I'd have to run a long extension cord from my apartment to the parking lot. Once dealerships start offering monthly payment plans and leases, this thing is going to look really attractive to the people getting one tenth the mileage or less - ie, everyone.
    • by tknd (979052)

      While we're at it it also needs spinners. And racing stripes. And a "TYPE-R" sticker. Yep, you may be driving a pile of junk but hey, at least you look cool while you burn through those hydrocarbons! /sarcasm

      • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

        You forgot the ever popular performance upgrades of a coffee can sized exhaust tip and a TRD sticker.

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @12:39PM (#24321737) Journal

      Yeah. I prefer the look of the Lean Machine [3wheelers.com].

    • What do you mean, it's gorgeous!

    • by gormanw (1321203)
      No kidding. They are fugly. There is a great picture of one of these fugly cars in a great article about electric cars in London, called "Electric Car Finds its Niche" at http://economicefficiency.blogspot.com/2008/08/electric-car-finds-its-niche.html [blogspot.com] [blogspot.com] They make sense if you are only going a short distance and not carrying cargo. But they are still ugly.
  • Slashdot editors often post confused stories.

    "Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org..."

    Google.org is both profit and non-profit.
    • Link (Score:3, Informative)

      Link: Google.org About Us [google.org]. Quote: "But we can also invest in for-profit endeavors..."
    • by TPIRman (142895)

      No, the summary is accurate. "Philanthropic" doesn't necessarily mean "non-profit." From the About Us page [google.org] on Google.org, emphasis added:

      Google.org is a hybrid philanthropy that uses a range of approaches to help advance solutions within our five initiatives.

      • If for-profit enterprises can be philanthropy, then the Google.com search engine is philanthropy, also, since it certainly benefits humankind.
        • by maxume (22995)

          They (.org) give away money, that's about all that is required to be a philanthropy. "for-profit" and "non-profit" and so forth are just tax statuses, and the ones that aren't "for-profit" come with more obligations than "for-profit" does.

        • by TPIRman (142895)

          You're being purposely obtuse. Google.org has a set of five charitable aims. The organization pursues those aims through a combination of grants and investments. Most observers would classify this as philanthropy, as does Google.org itself.

          The term "non-profit" is essentially a legal term, a function of the tax code. Philanthropy existed before the notion of NPOs did.

          • The fact is... (Score:3, Insightful)

            The fact is, the average person does not think of philanthropy as a for-profit venture capital enterprise. Anyone who uses the word that way confuses many people.
            • by mmkkbb (816035)

              The average person probably doesn't understand how endowments work, either, and gets offended when the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation doesn't give away all their cash every year.

  • Remind me: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @11:30AM (#24320331) Homepage
    is that 230mpg in gasoline-only operation, or 230mpg when you're cheating by pre-charging it electrically?

    Not that precharges are useless but it's not really effective to compare otherwise, and they seem all vague about the pure-gasoline figure.

    • by Thagg (9904)

      Yes, you can compare the 230mpg with all of the other plug-in hybrids out there.

      Oh, right, there aren't any.

      Seriously, I don't believe that Aptera has even built a hybrid version of the car yet, all the prototyping has been done on a relatively-easy-to-build pure electric car. The 230mpg is a projection based on that data.

      At 70mph, even with a .11 drag coefficient, tiny hard tires, and very light weight, it's hard to believe they could get anywhere near 230mpg under gasoline power. Maybe 120 mpg would be

      • If I recall correctly, the 230 MPG rating was based on the Plug-in electric/gas hybrid.

        The challenge of determining the actual MPG of a PE/Gas hybrid is that when you start driving, you are running almost entirely off of electric, and as you drive longer and longer, the gas engine has to contribute more and more.

        So on a 1 mile drive, where the engine never even turns on, you are driving a an infinite MPG, but obviously, this isn't a practical way to advertise the car. I believe the 230 MPG number was taken

      • Re:Remind me: (Score:4, Informative)

        by Amouth (879122) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @12:38PM (#24321723)

        if you read their site and the preformance info..

        they do hit 120mpg at high way speed under all gas power

        the 230mpg mark came from a diesel prototype - which because of how CA does emmsion rattings they can't get past the diesel restrictions as they can't get a small high effecient diesel engine - and CA does emissions by the gallon consumed and not mile driven

        - it looks nice - i would love to test drive one and maybe even own one.. but it seems like it takes these people way to long to get out the door with anything - even when they have massive funding. :/

        • by ksheff (2406)
          It is really unfortunate that CA diesel regulations keep a lot of efficient European and Japanese vehicles out of the US market. Now they are keeping this one out too. :( I wish the manufactures would say "to hell with California" and make them available to the rest of us.
        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          the 230mpg mark came from a diesel prototype - which because of how CA does emmsion rattings they can't get past the diesel restrictions as they can't get a small high effecient diesel engine - and CA does emissions by the gallon consumed and not mile driven

          So sell it *new* everywhere but California & States that follow California emissions.

          Even better, lease it for 7,500 miles in non-California emissions States then sell those cars as 'certified used' in CA. Used cars don't have to meet the same stringent emissions requirements.

    • or better yet they said it was an electric plug in, not a plug in hybrid so what liquid are they talking about? Does it run on cheetah blood?
      • by Andy_R (114137)

        There are 2 production models planned, the 'Typ-1e' is electric and the 'Typ-1h' is a plug in hybrid.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by origamy (807009)
      The answer is in their Vehicle Details page, under PowerTrain & Energy:

      Diesel or Gasoline? Our first prototype, the Mk-0, was a parallel hybrid Diesel and achieved an average of 230 MPG at a steady state of 55 MPH. This was pure Diesel/mechanical drive with no electric assist. Diesel is attractive for its Carnot efficiency and the increased enthalpy of Diesel fuel vs gasoline. However, diesel contains lots of unburned hydrocarbons and NOX compounds, and it's impossible to get a small Diesel engine ce
      • If they aren't using the engine for acceleration then a Stirling engine might be able to do the job. In fact, decouple the generator from the drive completely.
         

    • What would be the difference between pre-filling with gas or pre-charging with electricity. Maybe the time to fill/charge is the only difference. With removeable batteries, this point is moot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by adisakp (705706)
      is that 230mpg in gasoline-only operation, or 230mpg when you're cheating by pre-charging it electrically?

      Their website clearly states that the MPG curve starts at around a ridiculous 1000 Miles per gallon for short electric-only trips and is asymptotic to 130 MPG (where it will stay all day long driving on gas only). The 230MPG figure was chosen at a range of 120 Miles of driving which is about 3X the average daily commute.

      The *WORST* MPG you'll get is 130MPG. To get the 230MPG you are required to p
    • by djlemma (1053860)
      On the aptera site they had a graph of fuel economy vs. how far you drive between charges. If you only drive 50 miles between charges, you shouldn't ever have to go to the gasoline motor. If you drive 120 miles between charges, it's more like 300MPG. Granted, the electricity is still coming from somewhere (most likely a coal power plant where I live) but it's still more efficient and cheaper to go off the electric energy.
  • by BPPG (1181851) <bppg1986@gmail.com> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @11:47AM (#24320635)
    At first I read that as Aperture Motors, and immediately thought: 'Sweet, car mounted portal guns!'
    • Now that, my friends, would be true fuel efficiency!
    • by Smidge204 (605297)

      Sure would make the morning commute easier...

      =Smidge=

    • Heck forget the car, just a have a series of portal stations where bus stops are that lead to a huge terminal with a whole bunch of portals, so you turn you commute into pretending you are a packet on the internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by saxoholic (992773)

      At first I read that as Aperture Motors, and immediately thought: 'Sweet, car mounted portal guns!'

      The mileage per gallon is a lie.

    • Does it have GLADOS running it? If so I want one...I always get warm fuzzy feelings from psychotic computers.
  • To me the Aptera looks like a general aviation airplane without wings. If it can handle steep grades and winter conditions and they were sold in Colorado I would get one in a heartbeat.

    • "Hi there, I'm an Aptera, a wingless bird with hairy feathers!"
      "No wings, eh, that's pretty funny."
      "I don't know, I'm still laughing about the feathers."

      "Hi there, I'm an Aptera, a wingless bird with hairy feathers!"
      "I'm a schlog of foam from the surf with no visible means of support."
      "Are you making fun of me?"

      -- Apologies to Johnny Hart (and apologies to Slashdot for typos, this is from memory)

    • To me the Aptera looks like a general aviation airplane without wings. If it can handle steep grades and winter conditions and they were sold in Colorado I would get one in a heartbeat.

      Yeah, me too, in NH. Actually I'd get one for just 3-season driving (winter here is 6 months long) if the price were more reasonable. And by reasonable I'm comparing with an enclosed scooter which can be had for $4500. I'd easily pay double that for an Aptera. However:

      The approximate price for the all electric version is

      • by kesuki (321456)

        mass production won't help, they're already pioneering mass producing an ultralight vehicle, total weight 850 lbs.

        and it's still only a 1 seater, and it doesn't look like it's very good for grocery shopping, either..

        i hope that they manage to survive, and eventually make a 2-seat + cargo space vehicle... otherwise, i think plug in prius models will dominate. they've got 4 seats and cargo area... and with plug in over night can pre-charge, and maybe if you have a short commute, not even need to use gas.

        • and it's still only a 1 seater, and it doesn't look like it's very good for grocery shopping, either..

          Look closely in the windows - two seats.

          I suspect there's storage behind the seats, but, yeah, it's strictly a commuter. That's why it'd need to be cheaper than a Prius, IMHO.

  • I was optimistic about Aptera, but for a company that wants to mass produce cars of any sort, $2.5M is really chicken feed. That sort of money is for first-round, hire a staff and find office-space time. Does this mean Aptera are actually teetering on the edge of insolvency that they need a small injection of funds from, basically, charity, to keep the doors open?

  • What a great article! I have been reading a lot about electric cars lately, and a really good article titled, "Electric Car Finds its Niche" at http://economicefficiency.blogspot.com/2008/08/electric-car-finds-its-niche.html [blogspot.com] Great read!

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