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Startup Introduces 330MPG Diesel Hybrid Design

A rendering of the Aptera

Accelerated Composites, a San Diego, California-area startup, has designed a two-seat, three-wheel parallel hybrid—the Aptera—to achieve up to 330 MPG and sell for less than $20,000.

The Aptera hybrid is to be built from lightweight composites, and designed to deliver its 330 mpg in normal city and highway driving and demonstrate acceleration and handling similar to that of a Honda Insight.

Accelerated Composites claims that the coefficient of drag on the vehicle will be 0.055-0.06—an order of magnitude lower than any production vehicle on the road.

The production powertrain will consist of a 12 hp (9 kW) diesel engine with a 25 hp (19 kW) permanent magnet DC motor. (Accelerated Composites is designing the prototype with a gasoline engine for cost.) The electric motor is coupled through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT); when the engine is off the car can run on the electric motor alone.

The company plans to use ultracapacitors for energy storage, although it is working with lightweight lead gauze batteries in the prototype. (Lead gauze batteries suspend the electrolyte in a gauze material.)

The Aptera weighs 850 lbs and is made almost entirely of lightweight composites, based on Accelerated Composites’ Panelized Automated Composite Construction (PAC2) process. It accelerates from 0–60 mpg in 11 seconds, and has a top speed of 95 mph.

Depending upon the completion of funding, a prototype could be ready to roll as early as the end of March or April, according to Accelerated Composites founder and CEO, Steve Fambro.


Mark A

Sign me up, I am ready to buy. But for the mainstream public, will it meet all the current front, side, and roll over crash test standards, while delivering both cold A/C for the desert southwest, and heat for frigid Alaskan winters?


I think a license plate is going to drop the coefficient of drag a bit. ;-)

I wonder what feedback the get from the state and fed about licensing such a thing for the road. Does it have 5mph bumpers, etc?

Harvey D

WOW - An economical beetle offspring with a 0.06 drag coefficient and 300 mpg is almost to good to be true. I want one. Where could this leave GM, Ford and other major car manufacturers?

Some Guy

I want one. Hope it pans out.


It's a theoretical vehicle. Even if it runs at 330 mpg at $20,000, it won't be driven on the road much. There's no way it meets safety standards.

Still, if they can develop some good technology and lease it to the auto makers, they may have themselves a business model that improves mpg on lots of vehicles.

Scott Jernigan

With only three wheels, doesn't it qualify as a motorcycle? That would make it exempt from car crash and other safety rules.


Scott is right about the 3 wheels.

But is it a 2 seater or a 1 seater?

If it's a 2 seater I'll have to trade in my Insight :)


oops my bad, it is a 2 seater..
yeah I'd trade my Insight for that :) (sorry for the double-post)

Jesse Jenkins

It does look like it wouldn't be certified for on-road safety standards but it's a great vehicle to push the limits of what we think is possible anyway.

I imagine they could add some safety features (and a bit of weight) and still get phenomenal mileage. If they can come up with a consumer version that meets safety standards, gets over 150 mpg (seems easy to do if they can get 330 mpg with this model) and still sells for under $20,000, these guys will certainly have a market for their vehicles.

Seve Fambro

All good points! I'll put them in the FAQ. Until then I'll try and address them.

*License plate: The plate is recessed with a flush mount Lexan cover (like an aircraft landing light). Our designer hurt his wrist and was not able to complete the renderings before the press release. Images on the website will be updated in due time.

*Bumpers et al: The Aptera will be treated as a motorcycle in the eyes of the law, but that doesn't mean it's unsafe. On the contrary, it will have the same type of airbag-in-seatbelt technology used in newer light planes. Additionally, the dirver and passenger sit in a 'crashbox' thats underneath the aeroshell...or body. There's crushable/absorbing material between the aeroshell and body as well. The crashbox design, still being modeled and simulated, offers much more protection than most car doors/pillars.

*cold weather: Since the core material of the crashbox sandwich has a very high 'R' value, the Aptera should lose/gain heat very slowly. Meaning, it doesn't take much energy to heat or cool.





Thanks for the update! There are so many rumours and hear-say kicked around here it is nice to have someone who knows. I have a few questions though. We have debated the value of a three-wheel vs. four wheel before. The only advantage we could see was legislation. If that is the case I think we should push to change the legislation. Is that it or do you feel there is much to be gained by dropping the fourth wheel?

People complain alot about the big three and their "fuel hogs", but as soon as someone comes out with a fuel miser suddenly reality sets in and people want A/C, safety, passenger room, etc.

Thanks for all the ideas!



Question: Ppl will definitely save on fuel costs using this vehicle, and how about motorcicle licence and MORE importantly INSURANCE for the vehicle treated as a motorcicle? Basically they will save on one thing just to loose on the other (maybe I am mistakening here).
Btw does this car have a metal frame? I think it could serve as a safety element (not sure though).
Otherwise looks very futuristic. Younger audience might like it.


I'll buy one. Let me know when it's ready.


Just the thing for me, can't be more dangerous than my bike. But I would like just a low lift ejection seat and a quick parachute, if you don't mind.


I'm pretty sure that to qualify as a "motorcycle" you need to have 3 or less wheels and weigh less than 1500lbs. Check out for another interesting 3 wheel kit "motorcycle". My initial reaction to the rendering was that it has a pretty high center of gravity. What kind of handling will this vehicle be expected to have?

Jesse Jenkins

Thanks for the comments, Steve.

After reading more of your press release, I see that the safety issues seem to be addressed. The PR reads:

"The Aptera© is made almost entirely of lightweight composites, making it one of the lightest cars on the road. Yet this savings does not come at the cost of safety. In fact, the construction of the car is based on the driver-protection “crash box” found in Formula One race cars. “Composites are enormously strong and lightweight,” says Fambro. “That’s why all the aircraft manufacturers are switching to them.”

It truly seems like Accelerated Composites is designing this thing with mass production in mind - i.e. thinking about not just pushing fuel economy to a new level but also about performance, safety, regulations, and simple things like liscence plates.

When's the four seater that gets 180 mpg come out (it seems like a similar radical redesign could yield a compact-sedan equivalent that gets amazing mileage)?

John W

This vehicle is incredible and revolutionary. Period. And I could even live without A.C on this vehicle if I had to. I'm sure it will have some sort of window/vent configuration too, and these compact constructions can be very strong/safe/lightweight.

I have been thinking how to make something like this, since no manufacturer will produce such a hard-core efficiency machine. E.g., Ridge Runner makes a 900lb all terrain vehicle that I was thinking of modifying to be a hybrid, but this means I might not have to do all the work. Steve and his company should be awarded, recognized by the industry, and heavily subsidized. But I actually expect to see a concerted effort by the big auto makers, in conjunction with the oil companies, to try to shut this down in anyway they can, including buying it out. This represents serious competition for them! But I knew it could be done!

Steve Fambro, I hope you guys can stick it out and can make it to production, and please put me on your list of those you give updates to. There are many suggestions that could be made to improve this already great vehicle too. SIGN ME UP.

John W

Mike GR

This vehicle would pass safety regulations if other vehicles on the road were like it. That's the real problem, isn't it? How to phase out of the big vehicle into smaller ones without having the two kinds share the road..


mike: If you want to phase out larger vehicles you will first have to phase out children.

Stay away from mine.


Listen Nordic, how about those who can't afford to buy large cars to protect their children, at the expence of others (who drive smaller ones)? Or you think that driving a butt around in a 2 tonn vehicle is good for grandchildren?


Interesting to hear confirmation that they are going the motorcycle licensing route. I hope that works, demonstrates the value of lightweights, and leads to expansion into the 4-wheel market.

BTW, I've had some fun surfing for the last half hour.

Don't Feed The Troll

Thank you.


This would be a great work commute vehicle.
If you want to bring the kids, uswe the other car.
Could you make it narrower ? higher so you could see when in traffic ?
If you made it narrower, it would work better in city traffic (in Europe with old, narrow city roads).
Could you put a periscope (really) or sensor bump on the top ?
What happens when you try to cool it inside ?
What is the braking like ?
What about a single seater ?
A 2 wheeler with some kind of stability ....


330 MPG 2 seater! And 0-100 in 11 sec. Now this is something worth experimenting about. Would put those 65 MPG concept to shame.

Mike GR

Nordic: I'd like to phase out selfishness, but I doubt it will happen.

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