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A Climate Change with Matt Matern
Climate Podcast

147: Steve Fambro's Aptera: Pioneering the Future of Solar Electric Vehicles

Guest Name(s): Steve Fambro

Matt Matern talks with Steve Fambro, CEO of Aptera, about the company’s innovative approach to electric vehicles (EVs). Aptera, relaunched in 2019 due to growing interest in EVs, distinguishes itself with solar-powered, aerodynamically designed vehicles that promise a 1,000-mile range per charge.

Their collaboration with Italian firm, CPC, enhances their commitment to sustainability through the use of lightweight carbon fiber parts. Fambro discusses Aptera’s goals, including securing funding and starting production, to revolutionize the automotive industry with a focus on efficiency and environmental preservation.

Aptera Motors >>

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Matt Matern talks with Steve Fambro, CEO of Aptera, about the company's innovative approach to electric vehicles (EVs).
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The founders of Aptera, Chris Anthony and Steve Fambro, helped to create the electric vehicle market in 2006 with an idea unlike any other. It was the first to achieve 300 mpg and it got a lot of attention, landing on the cover of dozens of magazines and even appearing in the movie Star Trek. However, funding didn’t exist for EV programs like it does today and Aptera faced challenges. Even with the support of thousands of fans around the globe, the team realized the time was not right for Aptera to fulfill its mission of creating a healthier world and a better way to travel…
Episode 92: Steve Fambro

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host I’ve got Steve Fambro. CEO of Aptera on the show, Steve, thanks for joining us.

Thanks for having me. Well, I want to just, you know, we’ll back brown for the listeners as to what app terror is. It’s an electric car company that has been going for a while. And I got interested in it, when I saw the cars that you had developed and that they could be charged directly from the sun and that they had the photo voltaic cells on the car, and it kind of looks a little like a spaceship.

And then, then I read further and saw that you are shooting to have batteries that have a charge that could last for 1000 miles for one charge, which also is kind of that revolutionary. So tell us a little bit more about this revolutionary car that’s that you’ve been developing at Aptera. And when are we going to see it on the road?

Sure, just to set the timeline. So Chris, and I actually restarted the company in 2019. We had started up here originally back in 2006. And we raised some money brought in a professional management team. And it just didn’t work out. So we left the company. And he went on to start a battery company flux power and took it public. And I got into farming because I love food. And that took me to the Middle East, where I did some work for one of the big families there. And came back to the US with my family in 2017.

And we restarted up there a couple of years later, because we saw that the market had changed that electric vehicles were just a curiosity that everybody wanted them and they couldn’t make them fast enough. And we got the 1000 mile idea was after we did some analysis on sales of electric vehicles, we saw that, among several factors range was one of the big driving factors in sales volumes. And so we thought why not maximize the range as much as possible. And we did some calculations and determined that with some of the newer battery formats, the larger 4800 series cells that we could pack in enough batteries, about 100 kilowatt hours to go 1000 miles. So that’s about half. So

Where where are you at currently in in development, and when can we expect to see the first kind of cars out on the road for purchase.

We’ve just finished a major design lock down on basically every subsystem, but most importantly, the body and carbon. And that’s key because it’s the largest, most expensive tooled surface of the vehicle. Lots of other things can be adjusted after the fact you know, if a bracket doesn’t fit, and we can make a new bracket or adapt it somehow. But getting the suspension, the closures as they’re called doors, windows, that kind of thing. And the body incomplete design lockdown is that’s what we’ve been working on for the past year, we just passed that milestone.

So now we’ve got by, say six months ago, we purchased some very expensive blocks of tooling steel from Germany. They’re massive, you know, they’re, they’re bigger than, than people. And the steel is going to be machined into tools in Italy, in our supplier CPC. So those blocks had to be purchased about six months ago, because of how long it takes. They’ve just been delivered a couple of weeks ago. And very soon they’re going to start machining those tools to begin making the body structure. And we expect the first test bodies to roll off the line mid year, this year, and production vehicles ready to be sold by the end of the year.

Wow, that’s that’s moving fast. In comparison to the in the car world it takes years to kind of design and create a new car from my understanding. You know, it’s tell us a little bit about the photovoltaic cells that are on the car and and how those work and, and how much electricity is likely to be generated from them so that this car can go without plugging in to operate.

Yeah, we use Maximian cells. And when we first when we restarted the company in 2019, the state of batteries and solar cells had made massive improvements. These cells didn’t exist back in 2006 When we first started the company. And so once we discovered these cells, and once we figured out a way A to bend them in part of a structural panel. We calculated, you know, what, how much energy we could get just from having the roof solar.

And Chris and I were, you know, I had MATLAB on my computer and we were doing these calculations and simulations. And we said, you know, we could get a couple of miles extra range a day, if we have the solar roof isn’t that great? And then the light went on or ahead, you know, our, our body surface is so smooth, why not put how much? How much could we get if we cover the whole body and solar cells. And so that was the genesis behind that.

And we determined that we could get a peak solar power of about 700 Watts, and over a period of a day, about four kilowatt hours. And because our vehicle so efficient, you know, we use 100 Watt hours per mile, compared to like the new Hummer, I think it uses seven or 800 Watt hours per mile. Because we’re so efficient, for kilowatt hours, translates easily into 40 miles. And so that’s how we came up with that.

And once once we committed to that the solar actually is solar actually became the largest part of our IP portfolio. It’s, it’s the most research intensive part of our business, because nobody’s doing what we’re doing, the way we’re doing it. There are some other companies with solar cells on the vehicles. But our panels are, I think, the lightest weight, probably the lowest cost most robust, they’re very damaged, tolerant, you can put a bullet through it, and it’ll still produce power, it’ll just be reduced by a little bit.

You can hurl ice cubes at it, and soft balls, and it still keeps functioning. So developing that and then making it manufacturable at high scale, and then making it into automotive standards, where it’s going to last for 1015 years, vibration, salt, snow freeze thaw cycles, that’s been a large part of our R&D effort.

But that is a fascinating possibility to get 40 miles from just sitting in the sun. And obviously, there are certain parts of the country in the world where we get a lot of sun and you could do almost all your driving without ever plugging the car in just having it sit in the driveway and or, you know, on the road picking up energy. So that that could be revolutionary, I assume, you know, this is just the start in terms of, you’re at 40 miles now I assume it’s going to go up over time.

Yes, the the solar cells are going to get more efficient. We’re also going to have different models with different amounts of surface area. And we’re also working with some other companies to commercialize sort of a fledgling solar, solar mobility business, leveraging our technology for other customers, and looking to monetize that.

So it’s not just our vehicle, it’s other vehicles, it’s other applications that are solar, can really help lower the impact of electric vehicles on the grid. You know, by doing this, we’re able to deploy lots of electric vehicles and electrify lots of things, without necessarily having to worry about bringing the grid along to modern standards. Sure, we need a modern grid, of course, but not having it is not a reason to, to wait on electrification. And that’s, that’s really one of the benefits of Aptera.

So in terms of financing a car company like this, I understand there’s a tremendous amount of capital that’s required to launch this. Where’s the company at in terms of its current capital and what its needs are going forward?

We, it I mean, Elon Musk, I think said he called his factories, money furnaces, or something like that. We’re not at that stage yet. I don’t think ever will we ever will be because our vehicle is fundamentally different than a car. A typical car, body or body white as it’s called, and has 200 structural pieces that don’t have to be fixtured and welded together and held dimensionally constant during that process. Our structure has six pieces.

So fundamentally, we’re just clicking six pieces together, as opposed to trying to hold 200 pieces together and keep them aligned. So our development time for the body is shorter. Our assembly line cost is less. Our tooling cost is less. Everything is different, because of what we call the new steel you know the the pressed carbon. We’re not you don’t have any labor in this part. You’re not having to put fiber in the thing.

You basically just put a block of carbon paste in the mold, it squeezes shut with 5,000 tons force add some heat three minutes later a structural part comes out ready to use. So fundamentally, our costs are different, because they’re, they’re lower because we have fewer parts and fewer tools. That said to date, we’ve raised about $100 million.

And that 100 million dollars has led us develop the vehicle from scratch with all the other attendant technologies, sort of the, the solar, as I mentioned, the solar electronics, the battery, and we made an acquisition last year of a company that makes displays and the software. And because they did a much better job than we could. And we’ve been able to do all of that on less than $100 million. To get to production. We’re out in a series be raised right now for $150 million.

And we’ve got folks in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Europe and the United States that we’re talking to that all want to be a part of this exciting future that you’re talking about here. You’re listening to A Climate Change this is Matt batter your host and I’ve got Steve Fambro, CEO of Aptera on the program, Aptera new solar electric car company, and we’ll be right back with Steve to talk more about the revolutionary technology that his company is bringing to the market.

So you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Steve Fambro, CEO of Aptera, the newest of the electric car companies, and I think an exciting one.

Steve, you’re telling, telling us about this series B, that you’re looking to fund for $150 million to get you to the next level? How much of that has been funded, if you can tell us and, and how much more needs to be funded to kind of get you to the, to the production phase, or through the production phase?

You know, we’ve, I’m not sure I could talk about publicly, but we’ve got, I would say a significant investment from a strategic supplier. And we also have the public. California CEC grant, for 20,000,020 $1 million that we applied for, it was a competition. And we were one of several companies awarded that kind of grants. So that’s a matching grant, essentially.

So every, every dollar that we spend, they give us $1. Back. So it’s, it’s already a big chunk of the raise that’s been helped by these two investments. But I think if we can keep our fundraising on schedule, and I don’t see why we can’t, we should be able to get the vehicle into production, go through all of our validation, crash testing everything next year, and hopefully out to the market.

That’d be great. Well, I think from a public policy point of view, I certainly endorse the state of California and other governmental bodies, like the US government, getting money out to market leading tech, or manufacturing type companies to to continue to have California and the United States lead the world and these technologies, and sometimes the market needs a little push and it to take the types of risks that you’re taking in, in starting a new company.

That’s a little bit different than than what we’ve seen in the past. And so all the things that you’re talking about just the manufacturing of the car, could lead to, you know, kind of be revolutionary for manufacturing in general, as well as car companies. Six parts and step 2000.

Is is pretty incredible shift. Is any of that through like 3d printing, or is that is totally different processes is different process. But I I just want to hop back real quickly on on the government funding, in this case, California, looking to keep manufacturing in the state of California. So we’re very, we’re very proud and thankful to be able to compete and have won that that grant.

But, you know, as, as a free market capitalist myself, you know, you’re often our first reaction is, hey, we don’t want government involvement at all. But when you look at the competition, and you look at China, you look at Germany, Korea, those, those countries are heavily subsidizing those industries. So if we want to compete, we have to compete at that level. There’s just no other way around it.

Tesla is a great example of a company that I think flourished from the original loan and then they paid it back ahead of schedule. And now how many billions of dollars of wealth has been Created by them how many jobs have been created? So I think that’s a great example of how that kind of government assistance can work.

Your question after that, give me oh, well, in terms of revolutionising the, the manufacturing, I think you kind of answered it and saying you don’t use the 3d printing. But you know the other, maybe you could explain to us a bit more about this manufacturing process of pressing the carbon and and is that really that new of just for the car industry? Or is it? Is it new in general?

It’s new for the car industry. And this particular process is new. In general. Let me just give you a brief background. So when Chris and I first met, you know, I was working on composites to build the first Aptera, he was using composites to build his his wakeboard boat, he had a wakeboard boat company at the time. And we’re using a resonant views, sandwich core composite structure.

So there’s there’s layers of fiberglass in the foam like a PVC foam, and then another fiberglass layer. It’s all infused with the resin. But we had since optimized that process, using very fast UV curing resins, so that we can make a structural part in minutes, we could make an entire body part and structural part in several minutes. But there’s two big drawbacks to that it’s great for lower volumes, I’d say, between 100 and 1,000 per year. Beyond that, it just doesn’t scale. And so this was a process that we were thinking of using, we first restarted the company, because we did not believe we would get more than 1000 pre orders per year.

So we got 1,000 pre orders in the first day or two. And now we’re almost 40,000. And so a year ago, we had you know, we’re scratching our heads to say we can’t scale this process, even as fast as it is with the UV cure resin, and everything else. It just It can’t scale the way it needs to scale. And so we we dispatched our VP of engineering Aakash fer to find us a process that was scalable. And he went around the United States and Europe and brought us this company. And he called me on the phone, he said, he said they won’t let me take pictures.

But you gotta believe me. You have to come here and see this, you’re just not gonna believe it. This is everything we wanted. So Chris and I took a flight the very next day, got to Italy saw it and we were blown away. And the process is is a it’s a form of carbon SMC, a sheet molding compounds, but it’s carbon fiber and a resin matrix It’s looks like black playdough or paste and they simply just put block seven in the mold and the the tool squeezes shut and a couple of minutes later the structural part comes out.

But what they do see PC or partner that no one else does, is they make the structural parts for cars for Mazda Rottie for them your Gainey Ferrari and they design them for them and they do all of the analysis for them. And so they have this whole ecosystem of not you know, they’re not making SMC trash cans or SMC other stuff. They they have this entire ecosystem of of design, testing, stimulation, validation, everything for these car carbon composite structural parts that nobody else in the world has. And on top of that, they can then take those parts and build them into the vehicle so they’re actually contract building these vehicles just like how Valmet is I think building for light year.

Magnus Dyer is building for Fisker CPC builds vehicles for other companies. I can’t mention them. That’s company confidential, but they do the same thing. And they have the skills in house to take it from end to end. So it was transformative for us. Because we have this carbon composite process that we love. We fell in love with it we created but it just couldn’t scale because of labor in all the paint and sanding and things like that.

And with this new process with CPC, we’re able to just produce as many as we could, as if it were a steel part we call it the new steel because it’s better than steel, you know, it’s lighter, it’s stronger. It’s, it’s recyclable as recyclable, I think up to five times as a structural part. So it’s unlike any other composite that people are familiar with.

Wow, that does sound revolutionary in terms of how it’s made, is it you’re talking about being made out of carbon? Is it taking carbon you know, atmospheric carbon or how What carbon is it using? Is it kind of sustainable, more sustainable than say steel?

Well, to date, most carbon fiber is actually the precursor compounds pan come from oil. So the way we think about it is, this is just like plastics and Tupperware and things like this, this is another use for oil. That’s not burning oil. So by using oil for this, we’re taking it out of the market and using it for something that is other than burning.

And so that’s that’s how we look at it from from that perspective, you’d have to do an analysis of you know, what it takes to mined or to begin making the whole steel, it’s like the whole steel process and compare it. We’ve done some of that. And I still think that this carbon is, is very competitive in terms of overall carbon footprint compared to in steel footprint. But I don’t have anything that we can share with the public right now.

You know, we, before we put numbers out, we’d like to be very, very sure and careful that numbers are correct. But most carbon fiber does start its life as oil in the future. Could that change? Could it be extracted from the atmosphere? Who knows? That’s, it’s a great possibility. I would love that. But at the moment, we’re starting from oil.

Okay, well, I guess, you know, you’re working with a company CPC that’s working with Lamborghini and Ferrari, those are good, solid car company names. And in your car has a very sleek look, it’s kind of spaceship X. How did you ask? How did you come up with that design, and why the kind of pod shape look of, of your vehicle.

When I wanted to build an electric vehicle back in California, I did some initial calculations. And I talked to people that have converted some electric cars, which was a thing to do, you know, 15 years ago, you couldn’t buy one. And I discovered that most of them don’t go very far, they went 30-40 miles on a charge. And when I started doing the analysis of where the en ergy goes, I saw right away, well, half over half of the energy goes to just to push the air out of the way, just the shape of the vehicle.

You know, pushing the air is what uses most of the energy at highway speeds. So I just I asked this, I had this thought exercise where I said, Well, how do we lack in engineering, you’ll make a variable go to zero or infinity. And so So how do we make the drag go to zero? What does that shape look like? And that started me on a path of discovery which resulted in in this camera body?

Well, it’s a beautiful looking car. We’ll we’re talking to Steve Ambro, CEO of Aptera, we’ll be right back after this break. You’re listening to A Climate Change and got Steve Finborough, CEO of Aptera exciting new car company.

And Steve, you talked about the 40,000 pre orders that you have for the vehicle, I have to disclose that I am one of those pre orders. So they told me Yeah, I really liked both the design of the car and I love the fact that it can charge can kind of go off grid, as well as the 1000 mile charge, all those things are amazing and, and it’s kind of challenging the status quo in so many different levels. I

t’s it’s a fantastic kind of revolutionary vehicle. Tell us a little bit about more about the design and how you came up with it. You know, you were telling us a bit before the break, and I’d like to hear more about that.

So when, when, when the light went on in my head, I mean, I was an electrical engineer at the time, I worked for a biotech company here in San Diego, Illumina. And when the light went on, that if we can make the drag somehow go to zero or or lower it by an order of magnitude, then we could have you know, we can increase the range by a factor of 10 of an electric vehicle on the highway. And so that, you know, I’m also a pilot, and I was looking at different kit airplanes to build so I’m, you know, I’m somewhat aware of aerodynamics.

So I, I bought all the books I could buy on aerodynamics and aerodynamics for vehicles, ground vehicles. And I started looking at the books for solar, the solar racers, you know, the the ones that are the Eco Marathon, the Shell Eco Marathon, where they they go like 1000 Miles 2000 miles on a gallon of gas, these little aerodynamic coffin looking things, people lay down in them, and they go around a track.

So I started looking in that direction. And I realized that the vehicle aerodynamics for something in the air, and what they call the freestream, is very different than, than when you approach the ground, that’s an in ground effect. The air behaves differently. And the vehicle has to be designed differently to take advantage of that. And that, that’s really the genesis of of how we got started. We started with a cambered body, which originally was developed by Dr. Murali in Italy.

And we took that camera body and started working with our designer said, how do we make this into a road vehicle? How do we fit two people side by side in it? How do we change it to make it more stylish, but not increase the drag? So we started using computational fluid dynamics. And we needed to validate the design, we needed a stamp is something that when we were talking to investors that they would believe us and so we hired NASA Langley to simulate our vehicle and their low speed, wind tunnel, CFD processing center back then CFD was a really big deal required lots and lots of computers now can be done on desktop, or Amazon servers.

It was the first check we wrote and starting the company has like $15,000, NASA to do this study, back in 2006. And they they said there’s some problems, and they wanted to get us on a call. And so Chris and I were on a conference call with like, ten NASA engineers, and they said, Hey, what wizardry? Are you guys using? How is this possible? We, there’s no way the drag of this vehicle can really be point zero 0.12, or whatever it was at the time.

And we saw what your NASA, you’re the expert, you tell us, you know, that’s why we hired you. And it was, it was one of those aha moments where we said, you know, these guys were very smart. I don’t mean that in a negative way.

I mean, they’re NASA, right? They can put people on the moon. But we realized that as a company, this was something we couldn’t outsource, we had to own it, we had to have aerodynamicist in house, we had to build a cluster, you know, Linux servers to run the CFD software, because we had to, because NASA was so perplexed, we said, we have, we just have to know everything about this, we have to own this segment, we did the same thing with solar, you know, basically creating this entire department for solar electronics and everything else.

But that that efficiency, the lightweight composites and also the low drag, it means that our vehicle uses, you know, a third, maybe a fourth of the power for distance of a typical electric vehicle. And that’s better for everybody. Because it’s fewer batteries, that’s less cost. It’s fewer mining resources that have to be used, means it’s more affordable. So this, this relentless, you know, almost like dogmatic pursuit of efficiency within our company really enables the vehicle to go a long way with very little batteries with a fraction of batteries that any competitor product test.

Well, I think that’s a real revolutionary kind of concept, which is to have vehicles that are, you know, more commuter vehicles. I mean, this is a commuter vehicle. It’s not hauling a lot of stuff. But I mean, probably what 90% or 95% of our trips as drivers are spent in solo trips, or maybe with two people. We’re not hauling a lot of bags or anything like that. That’s why this technology is so useful for us. We’re wasting a lot of energy by driving big cars that are not aerodynamic, correct?

Absolutely. You know, the, the Evie truck wars, I don’t think is where the environment needs to go. We don’t need mining batteries has a cost. You know, there’s environmental costs with everything that humans do. So we have to be mindful of it. And, and steering the technology to use fewer and fewer resources is really how engineering has been done.

Electrical Engineering, especially transistors get more efficient, they get smaller. That’s just that’s the natural progress of things. So to see, you know, 910 1000 pound vehicles full of batteries just so they look like a regular truck or SUV that people are used to. I don’t think this is the way I don’t think this is sustainable. It’s going to require extraordinary amounts of power to be brought to the front charging locations, it’s going to take a long time to charge, it’s going to use a lot of batteries.

It’s just, it’s, it feels like the wrong direction to us. And so that’s why we’re going in the opposite direction, or direction that uses fewer resources that uses them wisely, it stretches them out over a really long distance, and gives a customer I think, a really good value.

So in terms of the CPC, the company that is making these new carbon fiber parts for you, what, where do you see this going? I mean, is this new process that they have? Is that something that any other company on the planet can do? Or is it kind of a patented technology? And and where do you kind of see this going? You know, in the future, and why? Why did they pick you to work with when their normal customers are Lamborghini and Ferrari.

CPC has been growing their business, it’s one of these quiet companies that people haven’t heard about. And I joke every time we go back there, there’s a new building, there’s a new camp, you know, something is new and bigger and better about them. They just completed a 12 storey tower, which is now the new office. They do supercars well. And it’s made them a lot of money.

And it’s, it’s a great, it’s a great segment that has grown them to where they are. But they are looking at companies like Capterra, or Tesla, and seeing this growth in electric vehicles. And they’re saying, wait a minute, you know, electric vehicles really have to be mindful of weight. Because they’re all trying to lightweight, you know, they’re making structures out of aluminum, they’re starting to use composites.

And they’re saying we’ve been doing that all along. So we want to go after this new industry. And our technology, I’m using CPCs voice, CPC technology lets them gives them the ability to scale at really high volumes, unlike composites has been able to do so in the past. And so the relationship between Aptera and CPC lets them really demonstrate that at scale, you know, they can talk about it all day long.

But if they can, if they can produce an affordable electric vehicle that’s extremely lightweight, that is indicative of the process or representative of the process that they would use to do other vehicles for other companies. That’s what they’re also trying to achieve. You know, they’re, they’re gonna have a lot of business with AppleCare. And they’re gonna make a lot of money with that tariff. But they’re also looking, you know, beyond who the other companies, they can continue to grow their business with even higher volumes. Aptera even at 40,000 units a year is still low volume compared to Detroit standards.

There’s lots of vendors in Detroit, that wouldn’t even take meetings with us because our volumes are just too low, you know, they don’t do anything below 100,000 a year. So that’s another reason why we ended up going to Italy is there is this ecosystem of suppliers, whose volumes are right around our sweet spot, you know, their sweet spot is right around our volumes, I should say. But CPC is instrumental in that.

Because there’s nobody else in the world that can do high volume, automotive composites the way they do. These parts have fasteners that are built in them, they come out, ready to be covered with the vinyl wrap, they don’t have to be treated or sanded or polished or anything. They are really I would say their their tribal knowledge and their trade secrets and whatever other IP they have. Let them make these automotive parts in a way that nobody else in the world from my knowledge and my research can do.

That’s pretty fascinating. Certainly the Italians are masters at design and, and have built some of the best cars in the history of car making so great partners to have on any project. You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Steve Fambro, CEO of Aptera on the program, and we’ll be back in just one minute.

You’re listening to A Climate Change and I’ve got Steve Fambro, CEO of Aptera. Steve, exciting times for you in the company. How many people are currently working for the company and and how many people are you going to need as the company goes into production of the vehicles?

Here in the US, we have about 100 folks under our roof between our two, our solar facility just a couple miles down the road and here at the headquarters. Overseas, mostly in Italy, we have probably another 20 to 30 people maybe 50 or so through various vendors that we’re working with. So suspension, lighting, aluminum castings, that kind of thing. To get the vehicle in production, the team in Italy will grow by about 30, folks.

And our team here will grow a little bit less than that, for the final assembly, because we’re going to be doing the body assembly in Italy first, and shipping the bodies over here. Probably with the suspension wheels on it, where we will put on the glass, we’ll put on the solar panels and that kind of thing, that final balance of what we’re going to do in Italy, versus what we’re doing in California hasn’t been decided yet. But our original plan had us only hiring about 40 people for the factory here, it’s gonna be a little bit less than that. At a 12 minute, tack time and 40 vehicles a day. It’s just there’s not a lot of people that are needed.

Most of the engineering, engineering increase for validation and testing, etc. Some of that will be outsourced through our partners that do that kind of work at Roush, etc. But some of those engineers will be full time in house. So you’re probably going to see that climb up to about 300. That and if you tell if you tell that to anyone in the automotive or startup electric vehicle industry, they’ll they’ll say they’ll laugh, they’ll say there’s no way you can do it without you know, it’s so, so small.

But again, we’re not building a traditional car, we’re building a much simpler vehicle, it has fewer parts, a lot of our partners are, are validating these various systems for us. So there’s, there’s much less work that we have to do the typical company who says, I don’t want to, there’s other AV companies who maybe they’ve hired 1000s 10s of 1000s of people to do all of these tasks in house, we just don’t have to do that we have competent partners that can do that. Some of that stuff better than we can and we leverage that.

So in terms of vehicle production, you had said 40 vehicles per day, I’ve just doing the math that’s about what 1,200 vehicles a month 14,000 vehicles a year, is that your target? Where do you see this going in the future?

It’s 40 vehicles a day per shift for this building. The decision and what that gives us is it gives us a starting framework that we can demonstrate here, and then either copy or scale, you know, it remains to be seen based on all the different economic variables of energy, labor, everything else. If the optimum assembly for this vehicle is two or three facilities around the United States, or one big facility somewhere Central or on the East Coast, that calculus isn’t clear to me yet, which one of those are better, I know the way the industry goes, industry goes for a single facility.

And they do that because it’s highly capitalized. And they can’t afford to distribute to copy that capitalization everywhere. But our, our vehicle doesn’t have that it’s a symbol very differently. I, I think about it, when the parts come in from the suppliers it it’s almost like taking flat packs of Ikea furniture. And just deciding where you’re going to put it together. You probably want to put it together really close to where you’re going to use it you know like in your living room or in your kitchen or wherever you don’t want to put it together some distance away in the ship that product to there.

So that’s that is our strategy is to have the sub assemblies kitted and packaged from the vendors so that we can literally bolt this thing together anywhere in the world. There’s all kinds of advantages and reasons why you’d want to do that. Not the least of which are tax tax advantages depending upon the country that you’re either building in or importing into etc.

That is That is fascinating, because that is truly revolutionary to put together kind of a car like a piece of Ikea furniture. I realize you’re simplifying it quite a bit. But still it’s to say that stand up a manufacturing facility of a vehicle is usually a multibillion dollar equation. And to do it for Far, far less than that is revolutionary, it’s expending a hell of a lot less in resources.

And if we’re talking about sustainability that that goes a long way. As we were kind of discussing when things kind of off air was using less of this carbon fiber than you would have steel because it is stronger and a magnitude of 234 times stronger so you using less material Ariel is well, in making in making the vehicle.

That’s right. And I think that’s most engineers, most companies that make products to engineer product, you know, they, they really only want to use the amount of material or the amount of stuff that’s necessary. They don’t want to overdo it. Nobody does. But in our case, we, we could have made our original Alpha vehicles that you’ve seen driving around here, those are all, those are 100% structural composites.

So there’s, there’s no steel or metal coming from front to back in the vehicle, it’s the entire composite structure carries loads. And there’s, there’s pluses and minuses of that there’s reasons you know why you’d want to do that. Or you wouldn’t. In our case, what we found is, although we could make a lighter, technically lighter part, their sandwich core process, I mentioned to you earlier, it wouldn’t scale, that’s a big reason.

The second thing is that you can’t accurately model it in, in a finite element analysis, you can kind of model it. But because it’s the material is discontinuous, using gene term, you’ve got sort of hard interfaces of fiber and resin, and then a core and in those are all discontinuous, it’s very those. And those are all the edge effects and finite element analysis.

And it’s very difficult to model that. So what it means is you have to do a lot of destructive testing to characterize a part and companies do that all the time. But the advantage of going with CPC is that their material is homogenous. And so it’s well characterized, it’s isotropic, it has the same reactive nature with force in any direction, as opposed to a composite panel, which is stronger in one direction versus the other.

So we give up some of that weight benefit, to have something that can be modeled easily. And that lets us really fine tune and reduce the amount of materials that’s needed. And then we can start playing little games where you say, Well, what if we, what if we make the battery pack structural, and instead of having that structure in the carbon, then we can make the carbon tub thinner and make it cost less, because that was the most expensive part of materials.

So we’ve really, we’ve used aluminum, we have castings that sort of connect the vehicle and the structural battery pack together. And we’ve been able to do that to lower the amount of carbon that we make the vehicle out up to lower the overall cost, we can make more, we can make it out of more carbon, and get really aluminum, it’d be a little bit higher cost.

And we don’t want to do that. So we were trying to have the optimum of performance, weight and also cost and this material and CPC in their process lets us do that in a way that we could not do it with sandwich core composites.

Compared to start, sorry to interrupt you, Steve. But tell us about the say the three main objectives of the company over the next three to 12 months as to the challenges you face to kind of get the vehicles out the door and into the hands of the public.

It’s the three big milestones, I would say our wrap up our series B fundraising. Again, kicking off some of the high expense tools, both for the body and the motor, we’ve got to get in the order queue for some of the battery welding robots. So we’ve closed around a funding, we can make all those orders, and then start getting body panels off the tools about mid years to July maybe.

And then once we’re once we’re getting body panels. Off of the tools, we will have already had our castings and all that other stuff done, we can start testing the vehicle, sort of privately, not in the public, but you’re doing the brake, brake validation, crash testing that kind of thing, because we’ll have a manufacturing representative product structure body that’s made off the production tools made with production processes.

And that’s what we can characterize and validate. So I would say wrap up the series be placed the big purchase orders that that were waiting to do and then start getting body panels off the tooling about mid year July sometime that timeframe, so that we can start doing some of the final validation.

So how much are these high expense tools that you’re you’re buying?

Oh, not as much as a regular car company. But you know, a battery, let’s say an ultrasonic welder for the battery cells is about 250 $1,000 a piece and the best companies in the world that make them are German. And so everybody wants them. And so there’s there’s a queue. And we need, you know, we need several of those, I see several I’m being a little bit cheeky Morion, probably ten.

But, you know, that gives us the ability to make 40 packs a day, per shift. All of these tools also can run multiple shifts so that the 40 a day really comes from one shift. So the easiest way for us to scale is simply to start a second shift, because the tooling is that’s why car companies have to in three shifts to so they get maximum return on that capital equipment. So by going into second shift will double the output.

Right, so you could maybe take the 30,000 and then maybe 45,000 cars per year, which would be great.

Well, Steve, great talking with you. Steve, running the car company Aptera, Steve Fambro, thanks for being on the show.

It’s a it’s been a pleasure.

And I look forward to having you back sometime later this year to hear good news about where the company’s gone. I look forward to it too.

Okay, well, you’ve been listening to A Climate Change, please tune in next week.

(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)

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