# Accelerated Composites - Aptera - 330 mpg Hybrid Car

#### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
Startup Plans 330-MPG Hybrid

Accelerated Composites will use cutting-edge materials and manufacturing methods to design a super-efficient car that sells for less than $20,000 Accelerated Composites is a Carlsbad-based startup that aims to disrupt the car design status quo by developing a low cost, 330 MPG hybrid car to be manufactured in Southern California and sell for under US$20,000. The company's two-seat passenger car is constructed from lightweight composite materials and is extremely light, which according to the company, will enable the diesel/electric hybrid to post 330 MPG fuel efficiency in normal city and highway driving and demonstrate acceleration and handling similar to that of a Honda Insight. Dubbed the Aptera, the vehicle achieves these remarkable numbers through the use of cutting-edge materials, manufacturing methods, the lowest drag coefficient of any production car and a maverick design mantra.

Unique, optimized aerodynamics gives the Aptera a drag form factor that will be lower than any mass produced car in the world. "It looks like nothing you've ever seen because it performs like nothing you've ever seen," says Accelerated Composites founder and CEO Steve Fambro. "What we've done is changed the way cars are thought of and designed. Rather than designing to a styling aesthetic, like the big auto makers do, we hew to an efficiency and safety aesthetic. When you do that, math and physics mostly dictate the shape of the car, and in this case, math and physics look awesome."

But aerodynamics is only half of the equation. The other half is weight. The Aptera is made almost entirely of lightweight composites, making it one of the lightest cars on the road. Yet this savings does not come at the cost of safety. In fact, the construction of the car is based on the driver-protection "crash box" or "safety cell" found in Formula One race cars.

So why aren't the Big 3 Detroit car makers doing this?

Inertia of large corporations.

"They have many billions of dollars invested in factories and infrastructure for making cars the old-fashioned way. They couldn't walk away from that if they wanted to. This is something that only a new company can do, and that's where we come in. We are going to disrupt the status quo."

"We've got a perfectly timed, market busting product. We have a great team of world class engineers and designers, high-powered marketing and sales experience, and a solid business plan".

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#### Cliff_J

While I think the idea is great, the comparisons here really get me. Sure I understand that a press release isn't a research paper nor needs to hold to scientific scrutiny, but a Formula 1 (or other open-wheel) car has evolved to more than just a safety cell, and the evolution was at the expense of drivers who were injured (like the Zanardi bar). They also have the advantage of good track design with proper run-off areas as evidenced by things like the track redesign after Senna's death and so on. As a fan, you learn its more than just one thing that contributes to saftey in the face of what appears to be very dangerous.

In short, if I were to believe this car passes all federal mandated saftey requirements for passenger cars, then why not build it with 4 wheels? I understand the 3-wheel build-your-own DIY projects as some means of having a low-weight high-mileage transport, but to label it as safe?

These two do not look all too different:

http://www.rqriley.com/tri-mag.html

I think GM did a great job with the EV1 and with a decent battery pack could have made it into a nice car. But the government regulations really pigeonholed the project into the red in the worst way.

So the 3-wheel choice to build an "enclosed motorcycle" as seen by the government may really be just to circumvent many of those regulations. I dunno, the numbers all look entirely too optimistic to elicit much more than skepticism to me.

The T-Zero seems like it would easily beat this to market since they've had a prototype on the road for a few years now. AC Propulsion seems to have the resources and braintrust to convert their car from performance to efficiency should they choose to do so. And a 6-figure pricetag seems a lot more realistic than 20k until the economies of scale on LiOn or supercaps are inverted.

#### russ_watters

Mentor
Astronuc said:
So why aren't the Big 3 Detroit car makers doing this?
Because the very idea of a 330mpg production car is utterly rediculous. Laughable. Even if it were just an enclosed motorcyle, that wouldn't be possible. If the guys who are running this are serious, they need their head examined and if they aren't, well, then it's a hippie-targeted scam and I wish them luck. :tongue:

For specific problems - Cliff hit on some, but....

-3 wheeler ATVs were outlawed for a reason....
-An all-composite car is cost prohibitive - $20k is not believable. -Passengers. -A trunk. -Air conditioning. -Law of gross tonnage. Anyway, it isn't like this is a new idea - it's failed before. My dad used to tell a story about one of his college profs at Stanford who had a 3-wheeler 1-seater car. For fun, his students would occasionally carry it up to the door to his classroom. Last edited: #### Pengwuino Gold Member For things like these, i believe in the law of put up or shut up :) I'm always amazed at what people can think up and create but results are all that matters #### Pengwuino Gold Member http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aptera_hybrid_car Hmmm there it is.... I've been looking around and it looks like a scam but the "introduction" will be next month supposedly so i guess we won't have to wait long... #### FredGarvin Science Advisor The use of composites has been looked at many times, even in my short duration in the automotive field. The big drawbacks to composite usage are the lack of infrastructure and talent to lay up patterns on the production scales necessary and, more importantly, they could never get a vehicle to pass crash standards. I remember testing a car with a carbon fiber hood. The hood was so strong and inflexible that in crash tests, it basically decapitated the passengers. The notions of crumple zones was gone. That in and of itself is a serious hurdle that I don't think will be overcome easily. I did a lot of part 202 and 207 testing (head rests and seating) in my earlyier days. Those tests alone are HIGHLY dependent on the floorboards and the strength of the frame of the vehicle. I would be very interested to see how they get the strength they need for these components as well as others. I highly doubt that this start up company's cars will pass half of the FMVSS safety standards. 330 MPG would be great, but it sounds like this company is looking at solving the problem while leaving out many of the necessary variables that have to be accounted for. In case anyone wants to take a read, here are most of the parts that all vehicles have to abide by: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import/FMVSS/ Last edited by a moderator: #### Astronuc Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Nearly 3 years later - Exclusive: Aptera 2e http://autos.yahoo.com/articles/autos_content_landing_pages/857/exclusive-aptera-2e An exclusive drive of an aerodynamically slick electric vehicle that looks to change the world, three wheels at a time. Better yet, the 2e is scheduled to begin rolling off the Vista, California, assembly line this October for an as-yet-to-be-determined price between$25,000 and \$40,000. Charge it overnight from your 110-volt home outlet, and it's claimed to have a range of 100 miles...in the carpool lane, if you wish.

Pie in the sky? Nope. The business model looks sound; nearly 4000 deposits have been placed (Robin Williams among the clientele), enthusiastic investors are locked in, and co-founders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony have assembled a team that balances Detroit low-volume niche-production experience with California "anything is possible" attitude. Chief engineer Tom Reichenbach was formerly vehicle engineering manager for both Ford GT and Shelby GT500 programs; and CEO Paul Wilbur has a storied history at Ford, Chrysler and ASC. And Fambro, a biotech engineer and private pilot intrigued by his aircraft's composite construction, and Anthony, a composites specialist with a background in boat design and fluid dynamics, seemed predestined for this partnership.

. . . .
Steering and brakes are unassisted, but efforts are reasonable as the curb weight is only 1700 lb., about half the weight of a base Honda Accord.
. . . .
Perhaps the Big 3 will follow suit.

#### mheslep

Gold Member
Fred - just came across this old post w/ Astronuc's thread bump, and I hope you'll revisit.
The use of composites has been looked at many times, even in my short duration in the automotive field. The big drawbacks to composite usage are the lack of infrastructure and talent to lay up patterns on the production scales necessary ...
Yes that's as I understand it, and let us add that the auto industry's competence with metal stamping has evolved to a high art. However, it is always the case, is it not, that the introduction of new technology is difficult, but the fat and happy horse and carriage makers will inevitably get left behind.

FredGarvin said:
...and, more importantly, they could never get a vehicle to pass crash standards.

I remember testing a car with a carbon fiber hood. The hood was so strong and inflexible that in crash tests, it basically decapitated the passengers. The notions of crumple zones was gone. That in and of itself is a serious hurdle that I don't think will be overcome easily. I did a lot of part 202 and 207 testing (head rests and seating) in my earlyier days. Those tests alone are HIGHLY dependent on the floorboards and the strength of the frame of the vehicle. I would be very interested to see how they get the strength they need for these components as well as others. I highly doubt that this start up company's cars will pass half of the FMVSS safety standards.
Regards the strength issues, do we not agree that CF is stronger and stiffer than most steel per unit volume? The problem is in forming the CF economically, not its strength. Regards crash worthiness, it appears the idea is that CF can be designed to crush and if so it will absorb more energy than stell. Here's a comment from composites advocate A. Lovins, note the energy absorption line:
A. Lovins said:
...Concerns about cost and safety have long discouraged attempts to make lighter cars, but modern light-but-strong materials — new metal alloys and advanced polymer composites — can slash a car’s mass without sacrificing crashworthiness. For example, carbon-fiber composites can absorb six to 12 times as much crash energy per kilogram as steel does, more than offsetting the composite car’s weight disadvantage if it hits a steel vehicle that is twice as heavy. With such novel materials, cars can be big, comfortable and protective without being heavy, inefficient and hostile, saving both oil and lives. As Henry Ford said, you don’t need weight for strength; if you did, your bicycle helmet would be made of steel, not carbon fiber....
http://www.sciam.com/media/pdf/Lovinsforweb.pdf
and here
Letter to NHTSA said:
..For example, the front end of a 2004 Mercedes SLR McLaren supercar (1,768 kg curb weight) contains two 3.8-kg thermoset crush cones, two feet long, reinforced mainly with woven carbon fiber. Their cross-section varies over their length to provide constant deceleration. Those two cones can absorb the entire crash energy of a fixed-barrier frontal crash at ~66 mph at the nominal 120 kJ/kg shown by Mercedes.17
https://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Energy/E04-10_FuelEconStand.pdf [Broken]

• Fiber-reinforced polymer composite materials weigh around 50 percent less than steel, though
according to a carbon fiber manufacturer, they are characterized by a higher absorption of crush
energy per kilogram—100 kJ/kg, compared to steel’s 25 kJ/kg. On impact, carbon fibers can have
four to five times higher energy absorption than steel or aluminum.2,3
• Front end components made of these lightweight energy absorbing composite materials are
specially designed to fracture in a manner that uses up impact energy.4
• An automotive front-end section built from glass-fiber-reinforced polymer composites passed
a key 35 mph barrier crash test performed by the Automotive Composites Consortium (ACC), a
research partnership established by DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors. 1
• Passing this type of fixed-barrier test demonstrates that a car is able to absorb its own kinetic
energy by deforming its front end without significant intrusion into the passenger compartment,
helping protect occupants from the full force of the impact.5
http://www.americanchemistry.com/s_plastics/doc.asp?CID=1080&DID=6584

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Homework Helper

#### mheslep

Gold Member
Volkswagon have their 100Km/Litre (280MPG) car out next year

http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/volkswagen-world/futures/1-litre-car

It's purely diesel, not hybrid - VW are taking the view that with current battery tech hybrid or PEV isn't worth it compared to high efficiency diesel.
280mpg for what? I'm sceptical. They post no performance numbers. It appears to be a single seater so this compares to, what, a motorcycle? What's the top speed? No brainer to get high mpg at <30mph, 0-30mph in 20s. Looks like new low rolling resistance tires. Fine, but what's the handling like? Whats the stopping distance? I smell BS, this is likely a circus car for show from VW.

#### FredGarvin

Mheslep,
That's good info. My days of testing in the auto industry were quite a while. This thread is also 3 years old. I would certainly expect the ever evolving carbon fiber technology to overcome those design shortcomings. However, to this date I have not seen anything to say that composite structures can be completely used in a street legal vehicle. I'm not saying it won't though. There are too many people working on this to not figure it out.

#### mheslep

Gold Member
Mheslep,
That's good info. My days of testing in the auto industry were quite a while. This thread is also 3 years old. I would certainly expect the ever evolving carbon fiber technology to overcome those design shortcomings. However, to this date I have not seen anything to say that composite structures can be completely used in a street legal vehicle. I'm not saying it won't though. There are too many people working on this to not figure it out.
Mercedes McLaren SLR? CF body at least.

#### mgb_phys

Homework Helper
280mpg for what? I'm sceptical. They post no performance numbers. It appears to be a single seater so this compares to, what, a motorcycle? What's the top speed? No brainer to get high mpg at <30mph, 0-30mph in 20s. Looks like new low rolling resistance tires. Fine, but what's the handling like? Whats the stopping distance? I smell BS, this is likely a circus car for show from VW.
Average 0.89L/100km on a freeways from VW to Hamburg according to the article - that only 238 mpg(US) 289mpg(UK).
8hp motor with a top speed 120km/h (75mph) and it meets the same EU crash tests as any other VW, has airbags, ABS, ECS, crumple zones etc. It's a two seater.

Partly it is a technology demonstrator/marketing ploy. but a regular VW golf diesel gets 70mpg so a Smart Car size one of these with the same CF body and a lightly larger engine should still do >100mpg.

#### mheslep

Gold Member
Average 0.89L/100km on a freeways from VW to Hamburg according to the article - that only 238 mpg(US) 289mpg(UK).
8hp motor with a top speed 120km/h (75mph) and it meets the same EU crash tests as any other VW, has airbags, ABS, ECS, crumple zones etc. It's a two seater.

Partly it is a technology demonstrator/marketing ploy. but a regular VW golf diesel gets 70mpg so a Smart Car size one of these with the same CF body and a lightly larger engine should still do >100mpg.
Larger? The Golf diesel is a monster truck in comparison to this '1 liter' car.
8hp = big lawn mower engine, small motor scooter engine. It's a clown car.

10.5HP
, top speed 65mph:

I call bs again on the 75mph from VW. Maybe downhill in a tail wind, and guaranteed that's w/ only one of the two passengers. A 100mpg ICE car sounds doable - a reach but doable. 280mpg no, not without making the thing beyond what's commonly called a car.

#### mgb_phys

Homework Helper
Drag coefficent of an unfaired bike = 0.95
Drag coefficent of Vw 1L = 0.159

Interestingly Cd depends on smoothing out the details of the airflow as much as general shape.
A Hummer has the same Cd as a lotus seven (tiny 2 seater open cockpit British sports car) but a lot more frontal area.

A 100mpg ICE car sounds doable -
A Fiat panda with 1L diesel used to do almost that nearly 20years ago.

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#### russ_watters

Mentor
Nearly 3 years later -

Exclusive: Aptera 2e
http://autos.yahoo.com/articles/autos_content_landing_pages/857/exclusive-aptera-2e
An exclusive drive of an aerodynamically slick electric vehicle that looks to change the world, three wheels at a time.

Perhaps the Big 3 will follow suit.
Follow suit with what? I was right - it was a hoax!

3 years after it's "next month" introduction, it is 6 months away. So then 3 years from now it'll be a year away, right?

It also apparently isn't a hybrid anymore, but is a pure electric and is going to be more expensive than promised....which doesn't really matter because I doubt anyone will ever get delivery anyway. The company will suck more money from sucker dreamers, then go belly-up. It's an impressive scam they've been able to pull, actually. Reminds me of the solar power tower.

#### mheslep

Gold Member
Drag coefficent of an unfaired bike = 0.95
Drag coefficent of Vw 1L = 0.159

Interestingly Cd depends on smoothing out the details of the airflow as much as general shape.
A Hummer has the same Cd as a lotus seven (tiny 2 seater open cockpit British sports car) but a lot more frontal area.
Sure, as expected since a normal sedan has Cd~0.2. The mass and tire dependent http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_resistance#Physical_formula_and_tables" will be 3 or 4:1 in favor of the bike/scooter.

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#### mheslep

Gold Member
A 100mpg ICE car sounds doable - a reach but doable. ...
..A Fiat panda with 1L diesel used to do almost that nearly 20years ago.
A simple google search on the Panda diesel shows that's an overstatement. ~70mpg now, not 100mpg, and certainly not 20 years ago.

#### mgb_phys

Homework Helper
A simple google search on the Panda diesel shows that's an overstatement. ~70mpg now, not 100mpg, and certainly not 20 years ago.
The original Panda 20years ago only weighed a fraction of the modern one (a new meaning to the word tinny!) it sold with a 600cc petrol engine, put a modern small diesel in it and it would do that (at least for real gallons)

They even had a 4x4 version of the orignal, it was an interesting drive - not exactly overpowered, but if you got stuck 4 of you could lift it out of the hole.

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