Electric car maker Aptera closes its doors
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Electric car maker Aptera Motors is closing after failing to woo enough investors to bring a new sedan to market.
Aptera CEO Paul Wilbur said the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company closed its doors Friday and laid off all 30 of its employees.
The company was hoping to get a $150 million loan from the Department of Energy but needed to raise matching funds, Wilbur said. He said Aptera had trouble drumming up interest from investors, who have been spooked by the difficulties other small electric car makers have had. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla Motors Inc., for example, has racked up millions of dollars in losses as it prepares to bring its electric Model S sedan to market in mid-2012.
“A lot of people on the West Coast thought they could do the industry better. But the reality that has set in is that these are capital intensive industries, and it’s difficult,” Wilbur told The Associated Press on Friday. “It’s scared a lot of investors in the space right now. We have a million sympathizers, but when it comes to writing a big check there aren’t many of those around.”
Aptera was formed in 2006 and first developed a three-wheeled electric car. Last year, the company shelved that car and concentrated on building a four-door electric sedan that would get the equivalent of 190 miles per gallon of gas. By comparison, the electric Nissan Leaf is rated at 99 mpg.
Wilbur said the car was made of extremely lightweight materials, so it would be about the size of a Honda Accord but around 1,000 pounds lighter. He also estimated that it could have sold for less than $30,000. The Leaf’s list price is $35,200.
Wilbur said he still hopes to develop the car, but doesn’t know whether he will start a new company.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., was among those who tried to help Aptera. Issa, who has sharply criticized the Obama administration over a $528 million federal loan to solar panel maker Solyndra, wrote a letter on behalf of Aptera last year to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy protection in August.
A federal loan “will greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district,” Issa wrote in a January 2010 letter to Chu.
Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is one of several House panels investigating Solyndra and the broader loan program. Issa has said the program involves “picking winners and losers” in what he called a misguided attempt to manage the economy.
The Department of Energy said Friday that it had not given Aptera any commitment for a loan.
AP Writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.
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