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Sunday, Jul 21, 2024

Aptera Hitches Solar Licensing to Biz Plan

TECHNOLOGY: $130M IP Portfolio Provides New Revenue Stream

CARLSBAD – While Aperta Motors is cruising along toward its goal of rolling its first solar-powered three-wheel vehicles off the factory floor and into the garages of customers, the company has begun expanding its reach into a new line of business that leverages its know-how in solar mobility.

Aptera announced last week a strategic plan to license its $130 million intellectual property portfolio of solar technologies to other companies looking to add a solar-powering solution to the vehicles they manufacture.

Steve Fambro
Co-founder & Co-CEO
Aptera Motors

The potential revenue of the new licensing business is “meaningful to the company,” said Aptera Co-founder and Co-CEO Steve Fambro. “If you’re just looking at some of the segments that we’re looking at, the existing install base that’s out there, coupled with the value that we add to the customer, they would overwhelmingly choose to go with this solution.”

Unique Technology Portfolio

Aptera’s solution is its patented “3D solar” technology that allows for solar panels to curve to a very specific shape “like the hood of a car or the fender,” Fambro said.

More importantly, the panels are manufactured to be reliable to automotive standards such as impact tests, heating and cooling tests and vibration. “There’s all kinds of standards – and vibration is the biggest one – that if a panel goes on a vehicle it has to be reliable,” he said.

Solar panels that are currently found on vehicles such as RVs are subject to microcracking within a few years due to vibration and use.

“Part of our IP is identifying that early on in the manufacturing process and developing material science plans, process plans – everything to mitigate that during manufacturing so we can bend these cells and panels and ensure they are going to have a very long life span,” Fambro said.

For Aptera’s flagship solar EVs, the panels that cover them significantly enhance the range and provide an option of grid independence, while also significantly lessening the environmental impact. In sunny climates, solar power can add more than 11,000 miles of range per year to Aptera’s solar electric vehicle, and over 8,000 miles in less sunny regions.

This advancement in automotive solar technology means that most drivers may never need to charge their Aptera, removing the EV recharge barrier for most of the U.S. and European population while reducing stress on the grid.

Aptera solar panels on a Averest Trepel 280 E pushback tractor. Averest is looking to offer Aptera’s zero-carbon solution for a major airline client. Photo courtesy Aptera Motors

A Growing Need in Mobility Industry

Aptera’s solar technologies can also offer efficiency to fleet vehicle operations, such as buses, shuttles and ground equipment.

“Those are all opportunities where our technology can really move the needle, reduce the number of chargers that need to be installed or even remove the need, in some cases, of the vehicle needing to be charged,” Fambro said. “It’s a value not having to plug in and not have that vehicle out of service when its being charged. There’s lots of logistics that come into play with ramping up electric vehicle implementation at a fleet level and our technology basically softens that curve.”

Aptera is currently piloting just how soft the curve can be in supporting an electric-powered fleet of vehicles with a program underway that is retrofitting ground support equipment (GSE) for one of the largest airlines in the world.

Aptera, in collaboration with GSE OEM Averest, Inc., is applying its technology to a Trepel 280 E pushback tractor along with various other electric utility vehicles such as baggage carts. The goal of the pilot program for GSE, which is set to be completed by the end of Q3 2024, is to potentially eliminate the need for conventional charging entirely, significantly boosting operational readiness while minimizing maintenance needs and downtime risks.

Working in the GSE space is not new to Aptera’s management team. Fambro and fellow co-founder and co-CEO Chris Anthony held leadership roles at Flux Power, a San Diego-based company that makes electric battery solutions for GSE and warehouse vehicles such as forklifts.

Beyond fleet vehicles and ground equipment, Aptera is also looking to tap other mobility industries like recreation vehicles and boats, where there is a push to require electrification in order to cut pollution in waterways.

Aptera is currently piloting a program in another mobility segment – trailers – with Polydrops, maker of EV trailers designed for efficient and sustainable travel.

Polydrops is utilizing Aptera’s custom-fit panels to ensure maximum energy capture and deliver a high-power output of 1300 W, providing substantial energy for extended trips and off-grid applications. These custom-fit panels are significantly lighter than traditional glass panels, maintain a low profile for enhanced aesthetics and functionality, and offer high durability, making them ideal for the rugged conditions often encountered by trailers.

Part of the Plan

Aptera’s licensing business was always part of the company’s business plan, Fambro said, adding that he is “no stranger to intellectual property field” because of his background in biotech as a senior electrical engineer at Illumina and others.

“I’ve seen firsthand how protecting and building intellectual property to companies beyond just the products they sell,” he said.

Three years ago, Fambro – whose co-CEO duties include leading business development at Aptera – started building the company’s portfolio with inhouse patent counsel working full time to create a program based on a vision of what technologies Aptera wanted to own and protect. The company also had its portfolio independently valued at $130 million.

“We knew at some point it would be appropriate to start leveraging this IP portfolio,” Fambro said.

That point came about just recently as Aptera’s solar team finished its design work for the Aptera vehicle panels – including “one of the largest solar panels ever made,” Fambro said, adding that the company’s core IP team can now work on new designs for companies that want to license Aptera’s solar tech or even buy its solar panel components directly. “The solar team and the high-voltage electronics team does now have that bandwidth to say, ‘look, here’s other things we can do.’”

While the core IP team at Aptera is expanding into this new business for the company, the majority of the Aptera team is still focused on making the first production intent Aptera vehicles, complete with seats, dashboards, AC and other components that were not included in the prototypes.

“We’re going to be driving those vehicles around this summer” for road testing, media test drives, etc., Fambro said. “I’m excited as I’ve ever been. This is a breakout year for sure.”

Aptera Motors
Co-CEOs: Chris Anthony, Steve Fambro
BUSINESS: Electric vehicle manufacturer
FUNDRAISING: $120 million
WEBSITE: aptera.us
CONTACT: info@aptera.us
NOTABLE: Aptera’s unique body shape is so efficient that the entire vehicle exerts less total wind drag than just the side-view mirror on a Ford F150.


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