CARLSBAD – Solar EV company Aptera is poising itself to break through the clouds that that have set back other vehicle manufacturers in the EV space, thanks to a special crowdfunding campaign that drove in $34 million.
Aptera announced Feb. 2 the completion of its Launch Accelerator Program – a community-led effort launched in January 2023 allowing anyone to snag one of the company’s first 2,000 vehicle reservation slots by investing $10,000 or more.
The funding will finance the low-volume tooling equipment needed to build initial production models for testing and validation, which will take place over the “next couple months,” said Aptera Co-CEO Chris Anthony. “We’re in a good position now where we don’t have to slow down and wait for money.”
Aptera aims to be in testing in May or June of this year, starting with suspension and brakes testing before crash and impact testing.
“We’ve been a very open communication company, and we’ll continue to be, and we’ll share the crash test results and videos – all that fun stuff – when it comes available,” Anthony said.
More Funding Needed
While testing and validation is taking place, the company will continue raising capital to fund the high-volume equipment needed to ramp up production to between 40 and 80 vehicles a day.
“We think that people with the first 2,000 orders should expect them in 2025,” Anthony said.
To get there, Aptera will need to raise $50-$100 million, and the company is looking into “a number of possible avenues” to get the funds, Anthony said. Those avenues include debt options, sovereign investment and retail-focused rounds through New York banks.
“As we get our first production-intent builds done, fundraising will be a lot easier with a product you can sit in it, drive in it, and say ‘I can see this as part of my life,’” he said.
In addition to looking to more traditional avenues for capital, Aptera is still offering anyone the opportunity to become a shareholder in the company through its crowdfunding portal, which has secured over $100 million during the past two years.
“The Aptera community is full of pioneers, dreamers, and those who challenge the status quo,” said Aptera Community & Content Manager Chris McCammon. “With the help of our passionate community, we’re building a solar-powered vehicle for the people, by the people.”
In addition to funding by the people, Aptera has had success in landing grant funding, including California Energy Commission grants for solar and battery production equipment.
“I think we’ll get a couple more grants along the way to help us bring more jobs, and support economically distressed communities here,” Anthony said, adding that raising the capital for full production equipment “will take a few more months, but hopefully we’ll be able to start limited production this year and then really ramp up next year.”
Some Market Advantages
Anthony readily admits that Aptera’s sunny outlook on raising the $50-100 million in capital needed to begin high-volume production comes at a time when “the EV market has been eviscerated in the stock market.”
However, he pointed out that Aptera, unlike other solar EV companies that recently flopped, has several advantages. Aptera has more than 46,000 vehicles pre-ordered, totaling around $1.7 billion in potential revenue – 2,000 of those vehicles are already sold through the Accelerator Program, which collected an average investment of $15,000.
“And once vehicles are on the road, we think our pre-orders will explode,” Anthony said.
In addition to the customer base already interested in an Aptera, the vehicle’s design itself is an advantage over other solar EV startups such as Lightyear and Sono Motors, both of which ended last year.
Lightyear, Anthony said, was making a “a very, very premium solar electric sedan” priced $170,000-$250,000, and Sonos built a traditional automotive vehicle “that happened to have solar.
“The problem is, if you build it in a traditional automotive way, you have to pay traditional automotive capex to get in the business. All the tooling equipment for a modern automotive program is hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars,” he explained. “We’re doing things differently. We have a very simplistic carbon-fiber body structure that’s built in Italy. It’s only six parts so it has a much lower capex. All of our vehicle components are very modular.”
Because of Aptera’s “leaned out” manufacturing – which Anthony credited to bringing in Detroit auto industry veteran Sandy Moore – the company estimates that the capital needed to get to high-volume production of its carbon-fiber three-wheeler EV is 10x less than traditional autos.
Aptera is also taking cues from industry leader Tesla in how and why it has not only weathered the downward shift in the EV market but is thriving in it.
“It’s kind of crazy that the market sentiment is against EVs when EVs grew 30% last quarter. The problem is that Tesla is the only one that is reaping all the success. They vertically integrated, they positioned themselves well, they have the most compelling product – they’re killing it,” Anthony said. “The other companies in that space, they haven’t taken a unique enough strategy to really compete with Tesla. Aptera is different. We’re very vertically integrated. We’ve got a very simplistic body structure that is easy to tool and easy to capitalize on. We think we can do what Tesla has done but with solar power.”
To achieve Tesla-like success. Anthony said Aptera has put more focus on the economic benefit owning a solar EV has for consumers.
“The dollars and cents of it is really compelling,” he said. “A lot of people out there are spending over $5,000 a year on gasoline. Aptera gets 98% of its power from the sun for most commuters, so $5,000 a year in savings is a real economic benefit. For low-income families, for the economically distressed, for people who just want to have more money in their bank account, the Aptera can be a real solution for a lot of people.”
In addition to providing consumer savings that can go toward things like “a kid’s college fund,” Anthony said Apteras can also be a solution for fleet vehicles with commercial applications like Uber Eats delivery and more.
“I think we have a great product market fit. People really want solar mobility in their lives,” he added.
Co-CEOs: Chris Anthony, Steve Fambro
BUSINESS: Electric vehicle manufacturer
FUNDRAISING: $120 million
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.