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California Startup Carmakers, Aptera and Zap, Finalists in Automotive X Prize

And then there were nine. What began in April as a field of 136 experimental cars and 111 teams with their eyes on the $10 million Automotive X Prize has been winnowed to just nine cars and seven teams. Track testing was completed Tuesday at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI.

The nine finalists for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize include the Aptera 2e from Aptera Motors of Carlsbad, CA, and the Alias, developed by Zap of Santa Rosa, CA. Both California cars are battery-powered, three-wheeled, all-electric vehicles (EVs) that are competing in the alternative classification for “side-by-side” vehicles, that is, vehicles in which the driver and a passenger sit side-by-side.

“There are only five cars left in our class,” Aptera Chief Engineer Tom Reichenbach told me by telephone yesterday. Reichenbach, who joined Aptera in 2008 after 27 years with the Ford Motor Co., said he felt “tired,” but also “really good” about reaching the finals.

Aptera 2e
Finalists in two categories—the mainstream vehicle and alternative vehicle classes—now move onto a final, technical validation phase in which each car will undergo dynamometer testing under controlled laboratory conditions at Argonne National Lab facilities. The technical validation is intended to verify the numbers that each team has calculated for their vehicles in terms of aerodynamic efficiency, emissions, and performance requirements.

Zap Alias
Reichenbach tells me that Aptera’s numbers “are the best” in the alternative class.


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