300 MPG-CA.-NY. on 10 Gal.

Five years ago, engineer Steve Fambro was working for a biotech company, spending his weekends tinkering with his pickup truck to increase its fuel economy. “I realized it was a losing proposition because of all the weight and drag,” he says. “I thought, ‘What would a vehicle with no drag look like?’” The Aptera Typ-1e, which should be available by the end of 2008, became Fambro’s answer. It could prove revolutionary, opening up a new automotive category of ultra-high-mileage automobiles designed for real-world drivers and—at $30,000—priced for them, too.

The Typ-1e’s drag coefficient is an astounding 0.15, compared to 0.26 for the Toyota Prius, considered an exemplar of aero­dynamic efficiency. (SUVs top 0.40.) According to Fambro, the entire Typ-1e (shown here) produces less drag than the sideview mirrors on a pickup truck.

At just 1500 pounds, the two-seater is lightweight, as well. The body is made of an ultralight composite—Fambro’s partner, Chris Anthony, used the material in wakeboard boats he’d designed—bonded to a metal safety cage. As a three-wheel vehicle, the Typ-1e is exempt from some safety requirements, yet it meets or exceeds crash-test guidelines for conventional cars. The company is launching the all-electric Typ-1e with a 120-mile range and a recharge time of 8 hours. Next year, it plans to follow up with a plug-in hybrid, the Typ-1h, which should get 300 mpg for the first 120 miles and never go less than 130 miles on a gallon of gas. Aptera is also planning a larger vehicle with seating for four.

Unlike some other eco-car startups, Aptera has recruited heavy hitters from the automotive industry, arguably giving the company the know-how to truly transform the roads. “I think as time goes on and everyone accepts that we’re in an energy-scarce world, cars will shift in styling,” Fambro says. “Twenty years from now, we’ll look at cars that waste energy the way we look at litter today. They will make us feel weird.”

For more info visit: www.aptera.com

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