A few days ago, Aptera revealed the details of their Launch Edition vehicle. I won’t go into the full details here, but I wrote a detailed article in two parts and a link to Aptera’s video presentation here. For the TL;DR crowd, the biggest details were that the Launch Edition will be rated for 400 miles of range, be all-wheel drive (all three wheels), and come with a full set of solar panels. All options for the Launch Edition will be uniform to help the company get its production footing, but later production runs will be available with all the options Aptera’s configuration tool allows.
But there was one big news that caused a lot of discontent, controversy and confusion: the first series of vehicles would come without DC fast charging.
Aptera defended this decision by pointing out how efficient the vehicle is supposed to be. With as little energy as the vehicle uses, 6.6 kW Level 2 charging still allows for an added range of 57 miles per charge. hours of charging. Plus, Aptera made it clear that it only did this for early vehicles. Later Aptera vehicles would have level 3 charging as an option and you would be able to have Aptera add fast charging to early vehicles later.
The response to this was not good for Aptera. Among the people who understood that this was only for early vehicles, people were still very annoyed by it. Without fast charging, the ability to go on road trips would be very limited, and others had questions about whether Aptera would survive as a company and retrofit fast charging later. Even worse, many people misunderstood the announcement and thought Aptera would never offer fast charging on any vehicles, leading to some very angry responses, canceled orders and people demanding refunds on social media.
Aptera listens to customers, decides to make DCFC standard on all vehicles
The announcement was made on Friday, and by the end of Monday, the company released a blog post and social media that reversed course. They all linked to this YouTube video:
The big news was that they will offer DC fast charging on all Apteras at a rate of at least 40 kilowatts. With the efficiency of an Aptera, it should come out to about 400 miles of range added per hour of charging (at peak load). This makes it the equivalent of around 150 kW of charging in most other vehicles, so it’s not shabby. Add in the extended range that some Aptera vehicles will have in the future and you’re talking about a very reasonable road trip vehicle if an Aptera has the cargo space you need.
But Aptera didn’t just throw out a quick “mea culpa” and then move on, expecting to suddenly be able to pull a decent DC fast charge out of their butt. After all, if the company didn’t want to include fast charging in the first place, there was probably something preventing it. If it’s something serious, then we’d be right to be skeptical that it would be able to deliver it in any reasonable timeframe.
Aptera knew this, so it provided some receipts. It showed a prototype of the battery design and how it had already planned to integrate fast charging. The hold-up was nothing to do with battery design; it was actually that they had paused the development process when they were trying to get permission to use Tesla’s charging socket. Tesla only recently (November) changed the name of the plug to the North American Charging Standard (NACS), allowed others to use it, and released the necessary data to do so. But this was not enough time for the Aptera to have Supercharging-compatible fast charging ready on time for its normal schedule.
Because it was already quite close, leaving room for the necessary parts in subsequent designs, and people were really upset, Aptera decided to go ahead and do whatever it takes to finish the process and have 40-60 kW charging ready to go to. Launch Edition and all Apteras thereafter. So there is a reasonable way for delivery
An unsolved question
Tesla released data and gave people permission to use its plug, but that doesn’t mean vehicles built with a compatible Tesla plug will be able to use Superchargers. The network itself hasn’t been opened up in North America yet, so if an Aptera hit the streets today with Supercharge capability, it wouldn’t be able to get a charge.
Tesla has plans to do this, and Aptera says it wants a compatible car from day one, so it’s highly likely that it will all work out, but we don’t have final confirmation from Tesla, nor do we have a date of Supercharger stations opening up to other vehicles like Aptera. So the vehicle could hit the road and need to use other charging stations for a while, or they could be ready to go.
We’ll just have to wait and see when it all comes together.
Having L3 charging capability means more than what plug it has
When I first heard that the Launch Edition wouldn’t have Level 3 charging capability, I ran the numbers into A Better Routeplanner and tried to see what a 42kWh Aptera would likely be capable of out on the road. What you need to understand is that the 400 rated miles would not have been possible at highway speeds. So the real range for a launch edition is probably much closer to 300 miles on road trips.
Without fast charging, a Launch Edition car would have been useful only for local and regional trips. Longer range in the future Apteras would probably have been OK, as a 1,000-mile Aptera would probably do 700-800 miles at highway speeds, which is enough for most people’s driving day. But a pack less than half that size just wasn’t enough without fast recharging.
The decision to only go with L2 charging because Aptera wanted the Tesla plug really bad seems like a really bad approach. Although the Supercharger network is better than the CCS network at the time of writing, having access to CCS would have been better than access to no supercharger at all. It’s certainly a good thing that Aptera listened to customers and found a way to get DCFC back on its development path instead of sacrificing the company on the altar of Tesla’s charging plug, and it’s a good thing it didn’t come down to that.
Featured image of Aptera.
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