Aptera's new car is incredibly efficient, but the solar panel on it is convenient, not green


Aptera, which has been trying for many years to make a successful efficient electric car, is now taking orders for a vehicle which uses only 100 watt-hours/mile to travel, compared with 250 for a Tesla Model 3 and more for others. That's a big deal.

They also have put solar panels on it, and have made a marketing pitch of calling it "Never Charge" since in theory the panels can generate enough electricity for around 10,000 miles of driving a year, which is just a bit below average usage. This can add a lot of convenience if you can't charge at home or the office, though it won't quite be "never." On the other hand, many people think that makes the car green, but it doesn't. If you are paying for solar panels, it's much greener to put them on your roof or in a solar farm than to put them on a car.

I outline all the reasons in my new Forbes site story at:

Aptera Electric Car Is Incredibly Efficient And Green, But “Never-Charge” Solar Panels Are Not


It seems to me the compromises to achieve high efficiency are most likely to be felt on the highway. 3 wheels, skinny tyres?, limited load carrying ability, safety in high speed collisions.
Given that city travelling is more common, would it make sense to make it a dedicated city car. That would allow the designers to concentrate on light weight, maneuverability, accessibility, and less on aerodynamics and high speed handling.
Of course this would be more attractive if the purchase came with a subscription to hire a highway version for longer trips.
I guess this sort of specialization and Transport as a Service really requires a robocar fleet to be truly practical though.

I might have something for you at some point. A city car doesn't need a 1000 mile battery, though it does mean that with the panel you would only need to charge it every couple of months which could be of value if you can't charge at home or work.

Brad, you missed the point. The solar panels, regardless of how many miles they put in per day is like getting FREE GAS every day that you can park the car in the sun.
Sure, I might rarely use 1000 miles of range, "But I could!" It might take two or three months, but it's there if I need it. NO vehicle has a 1000 mile range, but I have driven KC to Seattle enough times that it would have been handy.
Even if I get 10-15 miles a day of free juice, that's still energy I don't have to pay for.

Perhaps people are tricked into thinking it's like free gas. Or rather free electricity. But it's not free. It costs $1,500. In fact it's double the cost of the electricity coming from panels on your roof, not free. Double the price -- and conversely, offsetting only half the fossil fuel emissions that you presumably want to stop if you are doing it for green reasons.

$1500 in rooftop solar should generate around 150,000 miles of range for the Aptera at 100 wh/mile. $1500 in a solar farm would produce 300,000 miles of range if you didn't have grid costs.

To get the full power out of the panels on your car it must always be parked in a clear sunny location and must never be full. If you ever charge it up full, you either throw away the panel power, or reduce battery lifetime by overcharging the battery.

Of course you had to pay for it. You just paid for it, overpaid for it, up front. Similar to panels on your roof which you pay for up front, but not as good. (You can also get panels on your roof and rent them, so you don't have to pay up front, but you are really paying up front it's just better hidden.)

You do realize that there are times when the grid is "full" and has to throw away generated power too, right?

Where do you get "offsetting only half of the fossil fuel emissions"? Are you talking about fossil fuels from manufacturing the panels? There are no fossil fuels emitted from operations.

If you can mostly charge your car during the day, it's probably greener to use the grid. If you can only charge at night, it's probably greener to use these solar panels.

If you could plug this car in to a solar power farm during the day, and suck juice out of it to power your house at night, you'd reduce CO2 emissions even more, but unless you occasionally need the incredible range of a large battery, you'd probably be better off buying a powerwall for your house and solar panels for your roof.

Using power from the grid at night is generally not very green. It's usually cheap, but not green.

Certainly there are occasional times when there is excess power on the grid, do you have a figure on the percentage? My understanding is it's not giant. Mostly with wind farms who get a bit more surprised by their output, but who also factor that into their costs.

I mean that if you pump your solar energy into the grid, then that causes fossil plants to dial back (as well as hydro but that remains stored.)

Being able to power your home from the vehicle would help but v2g is expensive at present. And unreliable. You must have your car plugged into v2g any time there is excess power, and know you don't need the power to back to the grid from batteries.

The percentage depends on the area, but as renewable energy goes up, so will the percentage.

It's much more complicated than "if you pump your solar energy into the grid, then that causes fossil plants to dial back." Sometimes this is true, sometimes it isn't. During the peak generation times for solar, it probably isn't, especially in places where subsidies for solar are enough to have caused buildouts sufficient to meet demand or even to exceed it. When green power is sufficiently subsidized by governments, there's no benefit to individuals providing their own. If you don't do it, some investor will.

Being green is expensive. If you use energy from the grid at a time when fossil fuels are making up the excess demand, then you are causing fossil fuels to be burned. If you're okay with that, fine. If not, batteries are probably the least expensive of a host of expensive options. But as I said above, "unless you occasionally need the incredible range of a large battery, you'd probably be better off buying a powerwall for your house and solar panels for your roof."

Unless and until renewable energy credits vary based on time of day, they'll only hide the difficulties we're going to having eliminating fossil fuels for electricity generation. Sucking up energy from the grid during times when green energy generation is at its peak, storing it, and releasing it to the grid when green energy generation is at its ebb, benefits the environment a lot. Giving green energy to the grid when green energy generation is at its peak and taking energy from the grid when green energy generation is at its ebb, hurts the environment more than it helps it.

I agree solar for the house would be better, but 1500 is not worth the cost to install and inverters... now 30K worth of solar, and sure... i would do that, but my HOA will not allow us to put solar on the house, so, i will take the few free miles of range, and i already have my 40K+ saved up, *IF* they really do make this, and when the prior company went bankrupt the founders had already left the company.

Well, in theory if you invest in a solar farm, you are paying for them to put in panels and you will get dividends based on profit. In practice nobody sells it quite like that, but it would be the better thing to do than put them on your car.

Why mis-represent the cost of Aptera solar panels? The full solar, which gives a 700 watt array is only $900. Even in Iowa, where I will probably get around 1/2 the output that I would in San Diego where Aptera is based, it is almost a no brainer and will certainly pay for itself. I like to go camping in Death Valley, and it will greatly increase the range of places I can get to with the 40 kWh battery bank without worrying about charging locations. In small town Iowa,my daily needs are low, and I will be able to make the occasional trip to Des Moines and Kansas City without ever having to plug in.

To pay for itself it would depend on your local electricity price. The $900 is for 400w of panels, not 700 -- you may have been mistaken because the base vehicle has 300. At 10c/kwh $900 pays for 9,000 kwh. What you get from your 400w of panels varies. If you mount them on a sunny California roof, it's about 800kwh/year worth $80. Except with inflation as it now is, that's only a bit more than the interest on $900. But on a car that is sometimes parked in shade and not angled to the sun it's more like 300kwh/year, I would bet. Which can't pay for itself.

But that wasn't my point My point was, whether it was better for the planet to put them on your car (where they make 300 kwh/year) or on your roof (where they make 600kwh) and the answer is on your roof. You put them on your car for convenience of not having to plug in as much, not to be green.

Average cost of electricity in California is 30c/kwh. So…. By your calculation $240/yr in saving, not $80. Upgrade is paid for in less than 4 yrs. Buying the upgraded solar is “greener” than not buying it and plugging it into a coal plant. That’s the correct comparison. $900 would not cover the labor and material cost of putting even 100 watts of solar on a house and hooking it up to the grid, so false analogy.

Solar installs on roofs in California are running around $2.20 before rebates, and my own recent order will be about $1.20 after rebates per watt.

You are correct that off-grid panels can save a lot over grid tied due to the cost of the bureaucracy. But there's a huge gap to cover between a solar panel robust enough to be on a car, curved to fit it, be horizontal instead of tilted south, and be in shade half the time. And throwing away all the energy once the car has reached the desired SoC or close to it. It's for convenience, not to reduce emissions.

Brad, thanks for great summary of the Aptera, and for pointing out the green fallacy of those panels. They are a "neat" feature, but are a poor use of expensive solar panels and really only marginally useful for most people.

I do not believe that Aptera's solar which will power over half of its yearly use of kWh's for most owners is only "marginally useful" as the commenter claims. Solar on the rooftops of those who own homes, with adequate solar exposure is great, but those rooftop generated solar kWh's should help offset the home's energy use. With climate disruption getting worse each year we need to be doining all we can to lower our reliance on fossil fueled energy sources. Most home installations only cover a fraction of that home's electricity, and are outside of the budgets of most people to afford.

I seriously doubt that. Aptera cites the maximum number for the panels, but in reality, cars are not always parked in the open sun, pointed the right way, and nor do you want to (it heats them up and you have to then run AC.) Better to put the panels on your roof.

So if you live in California or Arizona and always park your car far from shade, you might get some value.

If you can't charge at your home or office, then the panels would mean you hunt down a charge a bit less often. So that's nice, though not particularly green.

Interesting, I didn't know that this vehicle was still around. I think it's a decade too late though, this type of hyper efficient design would have made more sense back when batteries were much more expensive. I'm also curious how it handles cold weather, the range hit from using cabin heating should be much greater than for regular electric cars.

Well, the old company went bankrupt but the design and team are similar to the old.

Efficiency is always good, though, if the compromises are not too many. The main compromise here is the back seat not existing. May not be great in snow.

More efficient means less battery needed and lower cost, and it means it charges faster (in miles gained) from the same charger. For most EVs, level 2 charging stations are useless for a short stop. For this one, you could pick up probably 70 mph from a level 2 station, and if they wanted to they could make it pick up 150mph from a high current level 2 station which is not much below fast charging on a Model X. (80 amp charging stations are quite rare, only cars like the model S and X can use them.)

Aptera did not go bankrupt the first time. It was liquidated. Pre-order deposits and vendors were all paid off and the employees were given severance. The only ones who lost money were investors who voted the founders out of control of the company.

Aptera will probably make use of up to 50 kW DC charging stations, which would add 500 miles of range in an hour of plug time, depending, of course on the battery pack size.

It all sounds good. Hopefully this isn't another Elio Motors story.

Everyone bare in mind this is considered a motorcycle platform and comparing it to ANY 4 wheel vehcile (regardless of practical use) isn't a fair comparison.
They did this intentionally after previous/new management wanted to push for a 4 wheel variant. They ended up pushing forward and canning it, they maintained the 3 wheel design specifically to trend in a niche market and that they knew back then wasn't the best time to release their vehcile.
I do agree however that the solar panels are gimmicky and not necessary if the range is as high as it is. But, I see the practical use for many who can take advantage of that depending on climate. Here in Canada, might not be as useful but whatever.
I love Tesla, what they do and who they provide to with their vehciles and advanced autonomy. But cmon these comparisons are dry and so unbelievably tiresome its been almost a decade can we move on already.

Most likely they kept the 3-wheel design to avoid a lot of onerous government regulations.

Looks like a motorcycle

An average car is a 2-tonne chunk of metal carrying a single 80kg person 99% of the time (4% efficiency). Infortunately, the alternative, a motorcycle, is riding a naked engine exposed to the elements with a helmet the only safety.
In a parking lot, usually not in a shady grove, on a sunny day a car gets hot as an oven and that lasts for hours if you are at work - all that energy being wasted.
That car ticks all the boxes (provided the body gives reasonable crash protection). I want it. Please bring it to New Zealand.

On much heavier vehicles like the Tesla Model 3, the kind that use two and a half times as much energy per mile as the Aptera, having solar panels on the car does make no sense. With Aptera's much greater efficiency, solar panels on the vehicle do make sense, perfect sense. Yes, solar panels and batteries are much cheaper nowadays. You can get to the trailhead with an Aptera and have a "full tank" by the time you finish your hike. That's golden.
Most of us can't afford houses much less solar houses, and Aptera's solar supply is not only affordable, when it saves you miles of driving to find a charge, that's fewer miles on your vehicle.
It's a cheap car, too. With Biden administration incentives it will be cheaper still. With maintenance and fueling costs minimal, it will earn more in net present costs unspent than the vehicle itself costs over its lifetime. If you could have a beautiful new car for free and you just had to buy gas, grease jobs, and oil changes, you'd take that deal, right?

Certainly the Aptera makes the panels more useful. But for convenience, not for being green, that's the point. And no, you won't fill up your "tank" on a day hike. Even on the best day with an all day hike in a sunny spot don't expect more than about 30 miles gained range, and on a shorter hike, quite a bit less. If the trailhead parking is not among trees. This is not nothing, of course, though with the range of the Aptera it's almost never going to be "necessary" in terms of needing it to get back home.

Which Biden incentives will apply to the Aptera? As a motorcycle it will not qualify for any car incentives, I believe.

Right? None of the cool kids live south of Kansas or East of coastal California. For the rest of us, with a black car in direct sunlight in the summertime, all the solar power will go to air conditioning, and not add to range at all.

That said, if other colors are available, and if it has enough luggage space for six bags of groceries, and if it can keep up with 80mph turnpike traffic, I could be in the market for one.

They claim the car is insulated to avoid getting hot, but a white car would be better to avoid that. Yes, it apparently has lots of cargo space and should be nimble on the road, or so they claim.

Thanks for this article, it was very informative. However, a few very important points in your discussion about the "green" impact of solar auto energy were completely overlooked.

The argument seems to be that this route is not "green" because placing solar panels on one's home, for example, would more greatly reduce greenhouse emissions than placing them on one's car. This argument fails to address 2 important pieces, and is therefore misleading to the reader.

1. Many folks may opt to utilize solar energy on their car AND their home
2. Solar automobile energy is produces less greenhouse emissions than electric or fossil fuel-based energy.

The more important argument against it's being "green" lays in the lithium ion battery
(as with much of modern tech and EVs), which must be mined at horrific costs to human and environmental livelihood.

The home is the easiest place to put a solar panel instead of the car. However, you can also put it in a solar farm by buying shares in a solar farm company. That does more for the planet with the same money (again, at least twice as much) as putting them on the car, if you have no room on your roof. The main advantage of your roof is you feel good, and you provide the real estate for "free" which the solar farm has to buy. It has economies of scale, though.

I don't understand point 2.

Buying shares in a profitable solar farm company does absolutely nothing to help the planet.

Putting solar panels on your roof (of your car or your house or whatever) does, if it reduces what you take from the grid during times when dirty energy is making up the marginal demand (minus any pollution caused by making/operating/maintaining the panel).

If a group of investors get together and pool their money to build a solar farm, that helps the planet and gives them return on their investment if it's profitable. The main question is whether that is better than on the roof. On the roof gets free land, and no transmission costs for the part of the power you use. The solar farm has transmission costs but gains economies of scale, and is usually done where land is very cheap. If you have spare roof and will use a lot of the power yourself, roof can win.

Whatever subsidies are being given to solar in order to make it profitable help the planet. But buying shares in a profitable company does nothing. If you didn't buy them, someone else would.

Lowering your consumption of grid power, on the other hand, clearly helps the environment. Putting panels on your roof (of your car, house, or whatever) does that.

It's really simple: If you increase demand for energy, for example by plugging your car into the grid, more energy needs to be produced by the grid. The large majority of the time, that means burning fossil fuels, because other forms of energy generally can't be ramped up quickly.

The grid is dirty. It always has been, and maybe always will be. Adding clean power to the grid at best waters things down. And buying shares in a company doesn't even add clean power to the grid.

Reducing consumption, on the other hand, directly reduces demand for grid energy, and since burning fossil fuels is usually what makes up excess demand, you are directly reducing demand for burning fossil fuels. One rather convenient way to reduce demand for grid energy is to use solar panels. Solar panels plus batteries can reduce your demand for grid energy even more, possibly even to zero. (And note that I'm not talking about net demand. You can't net demand from different times of the day when it comes to measuring environmental impact, as fossil fuel burning is more prominent at certain times of the day than at others.)

I would think for people who drive longer distances the range of this car would be a real draw card. I personally drive from my home to the nearest city once a week, a 750km round trip. With the current range of EV's on offer that is a difficult thing to do, especially since recharge locations are few and far between. If this car ever comes to Australia I'm in.

A super long range (highly efficient) car is indeed good for somebody who takes long trips all the time. That's a fairly rare user but there is no problem with niche markets. Recharge locations are constantly growing because electricity is already almost everywhere, and all that's needed is the plug.

The 'greenness' of vehicle mounted solar cells depends on your baseline for comparison. The net emissions from an Aptera with solar cells will probably be lower than any ICE vehicle, or grid charging where fossil fuel generation is in the mix. It is probably less 'green' than a grid connected solar array. The net balance will vary depending on time, location, the alternative grid generation mix on offer, and the amount of curtailed solar generation. The reality is therefore more nuanced.

Also, thank you for the interesting article.

I don't think there is a circumstances where total emissions to the atmosphere are lower with a car with $1500 of solar panels on it, vs. a car with no solar panels and $1500 of panels put on the roof or in a solar farm. I'm not sure it's possible, or if so, it's in an extremely unusual situation. The dirtier the grid, the better it is to put the panels on the grid. If you live in a place with a 100% green grid, then you could put them on the car, where it would just be a waste of money for some convenience, not extra emissions as there are zero either way.

I don't think there is a circumstances where total emissions to the atmosphere are lower with a car with $1500 of solar panels on it, vs. a car with no solar panels and $1500 of panels put on the roof or in a solar farm.

I'm not sure what your comparison is, exactly, but if you charge your car exclusively from solar panels, your emissions are zero. You agree with that, right?

And if you plug your car into the grid, your emissions are almost certainly more than zero, because you will inevitably plug in at a time when fossil fuels are being burned to make up the marginal demand, right?

So the only question is if you can somehow cancel out those emissions that you are inducing. There might be ways to do that, but buying shares in a profitable company is not a way to do that. If you don't buy the shares, someone else will.

The dirtier the grid, the better it is to put the panels on the grid.

Buying stock in a company does not put panels on the grid.

Moreover, by putting panels on the grid you're also lowering the incentive for others who care only about profits to put panels on the grid.

When it's profitable to put panels on the grid (perhaps because of subsidies), putting panels on the grid dies little to nothing to help the environment. You're just displacing other investors.

Also, the dirtier the grid is during times when solar power is generated, the better it is to put the panels on the grid.

If you live in a place with a 100% green grid,

No such place exists, though there might be places that are 100% green during the daylight hours. In such places, adding more panels to grid accomplishes nothing, but charging up your car at night causes fossil fuels to be burned.

If you want to create a place with a 100% green grid, charging batteries during the day to be used when it's night or cloudy can be a big part of that. That could be done with car roof panels and an oversized car battery, though house roof panels and house batteries are probably more efficient. Grid panels and grid batteries would work too, but there's no real incentive for the grid to do that, since green energy credits aren't time-specific (that I know of).

If you charge a car exclusively from solar panels, your emissions from driving are indeed close to zero -- though emissions were generated in the manufacture of both.

However, if you put your panels on the grid, your emissions are negative which is much greener than zero. That is to say, as you feed your extra solar power to the grid (rather than just discarding it as is the case with panels on a well charged car) then the demand for gas peaker plants and other fossil plants goes down, those plants dial back and emissions are reduced. Your charge your car from "your" panels (be they on your roof or panels you own a share of the output of in a solar farm) and that's zero just like panels on the car. But all the rest is negative. And it's a lot, as you get twice your panel per dollar in the solar farm than on the car.

The grid is close to 100% non-emitting in certain places, like Quebec, which is 99.8% renewable power, mostly hydro. I would say Quebec exists, since half my family was born there.

But even there, you could put up solar panels on the grid, because Quebec sells its excess power to the US Northeast, where it reduces fossil emissions.

Now, one thing that disappoints many is that though you must connect your panels to the grid to be green by getting those negative emissions, it does mean that (outside of places like Quebec) that if you buy grid power with fossil in it, that every mile you drive causes more fossil to be burned, and that's just the hard reality of it. People imagine if they disconnect from the grid they can stop that, and they can in a technical sense, but by cutting off their nose to spite their face. They do it by throwing away the power they could have used for negative emissions just so they can feel good. They should feel bad.

Do you agree with this statement? "By selling the RECs (renewable energy crefits) instead of keeping them for yourself, you could just be helping the utility meet a goal it was already mandated to meet—thus helping excuse it from building more solar capacity itself. In other words, your direct net contribution to reducing greenhouse gas pollution is nil." https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/01/green-energy-rec-rooftop-solar-panels/

I have not examined that in detail. Certainly government regulations can muck anything up. My preferred regime is to not have any regulation, other than making people pay for the externalities of their emissions. This would cause everybody to want to not pollute and to be efficient.

It's not about your preferred regulations. It's about how you can best reduce CO2 emissions given the regulations we have.

If you haven't examined the details of how RECs work, consider that maybe you're wrong when you discuss the benefits of hooking solar panels up to the grid compared to using an off-grid system.

It is possible to hook your panels up to the grid but still never use grid power.

It's even easier, though expensive, to hook your panels up to the grid and buy a large enough battery so that you almost never use grid power.

Yes, it's expensive. Guess what. There's no such thing as a free lunch. If you want to save the planet, it ain't gonna be free.

Yes, when you put panels on the grid, your emissions are, in effect, negative. However, two factors make it so that it's nowhere near a one to one relationship.

First of all, depending where you live, emissions during some parts of the day might already be zero. So you are not lowering emissions at all then. Secondly, and this is by far the biggest factor, when you generate solar power you are also "generating" green energy credits. If you sell those credits (or if you let the electric company sell them), then you are selling the right to pollute, and that cancels out a lot of the good you might think you're doing. So if you actually want to have negative emissions, you have to generate green energy at a time when the grid is relying on fossil fuels, and you have to make sure the green energy credits you are generated are being thrown away.

Most people don't do that.

Yes, you can put panels on grid and almost never use grid power though that is not generally an economic thing to do. The grid is a great "battery." It's cheaper and has arbitrary capacity the 99.9% of the time that it's up. (Around here)

It is the cheapest way to reduce emissions. Not feeding the grid is more expensive (in places with proper net metering that is) and does better. What matters is that for each dollar you spend, you reduce emissions, if reducing emissions was your goal. It is silly to deliberately do a worse job of that so you can feel good.

In the places with plenty of fossil on the grid, it is rare for the grid to go 100% green. However, that will become more common in time. If the grid can store that extra renewable power, however, you are still reducing emissions. Your extra power may pump water uphill or go into other storage, and come out at night or even better at 6pm which is the fossil peak.

In fact, if the grid truly can't use your power, it should not take it, though in reality it doesn't have easy means to shut off household generation.

It's not about doing the most economical thing. The most economical thing, in a great many situations, is to burn fossil fuels.

By the way, it's generally only more economical where governments have forced utility companies to provide the service of time-shifting energy for free.

It is the cheapest way to reduce emissions.

What is?

I'm not sure how to calculate the cost, but one excellent way to reduce emissions is to demand less from the grid.

I don't think that demanding 100 kilowatt-hours of energy from the grid at night and then providing 100 kilowatt-hours of energy to the grid during the day reduces emissions in most situations. I think that generally increases emissions compared to just not using the grid at all.

What matters is that for each dollar you spend, you reduce emissions, if reducing emissions was your goal. It is silly to deliberately do a worse job of that so you can feel good.

Again I'm not sure what you're referring to.

If the grid can store that extra renewable power, however, you are still reducing emissions.

The question is, which is more efficient, sending your energy to the grid so water can be pumped uphill, or storing it in a battery in your car or house?

I suspect that local battery store is more efficient. Sure, residential customers don't directly have to pay for transmitting energy long distances, using it to pump water uphill, then generating it again by letting water flow back downhill, and transmitting the energy back. But it's a lot of overhead.

Edit: It looks like the Tesla Powerwall is about 90% efficient. Compared to a loss of about 10% transmitting to the grid, 20% using pumped water storage, and 10% transmitting back.

So if you have solar panels on your roof, it's significantly greener to store the energy in your home's powerwall.

It's also significantly more expensive to do this, because Tesla Powerwalls cost you money, while most of the cost of the grid is passed on to someone else (if your utility is forced to offer net metering).

How expensive depends on how much convenience you're willing to give up. If you're willing to reduce your energy consumption on days when less energy is available, you don't have to oversize your battery too much.

I think it makes sense to try to use the grid as little as possible. This is especially true in places like California where the grid is responsible for so much death and destruction, but it's really true just about everywhere. (Maybe not Canada!)

What I am saying is that if you wish to do the most you can to reduce emissions given a certain budget -- and this is what you should want -- then panels on the grid are better than panels on a car or off the grid. In fact, panels on the grid in New Mexico would be the best choice probably. However, there are better things than that even. Just giving your neighbours LED bulbs scored much better when I analysed this a few years ago, if they still have incandescent ones. Buying new fridges is also good.

Using energy at night and providing it by day does do something. Even without storage. If that's when you were going to use the energy anyway. There is not a solar surplus in the day. Once there is a solar surplus in the day, moving your energy use to the solar surplus time would be a good thing.

The batteries vs. pumped storage question is a bit more complex. Batteries have environmental costs, so does pumped storage. Losses in transmission vary by distance but 10% is high but valid for some. The night grid is also not all fossil. In many places there is a fair bit of nuclear, and more would be good.

The other factor is that there are economies of scale. So a big neighbourhood battery is probably more efficient than one in your house. However, I believe the batteries also cost more money per round-trip kwh than the pumped storage and other storage tech in production. In fact, every tech in production knows it has to do better than batteries, though some only work at scale, while batteries can be distributed.

Not saying batteries are bad or that storing by day and using by night is bad. Just saying it is expensive. Should make a spreadsheet again of "dollars per unit of emissions eliminated."

What I am saying is that if you wish to do the most you can to reduce emissions given a certain budget -- and this is what you should want -- then panels on the grid are better than panels on a car or off the grid.

And I think I explained why that's not necessarily true.

Using energy at night and providing it by day does do something.

Yes, it causes fossil fuels to be burned.

Let's say you start with no panels, using energy night and day like most people. Your day and night use cause fossil fuels to be burned. Then you put up panels and feed power to the grid in the day. In the day, the fossil fuel burned is reduced. In the night it is not reduced, unless you move some stuff to the off-peak part of the day (where I live night rates go until 3pm) in which case your night burn is reduced too.

So yes, it does do something.

In the day, the fossil fuel burned is reduced.

Maybe. Maybe not. If the utility company has a certain percentage of kilowatt-hours of clean energy it has to use (which is common), the cheap clean energy you provide might just displace more expensive clean energy the utility can get elsewhere. This might happen in the near term (e.g. it might be accounted for monthly), and in the aggregate it is highly likely to happen in the long term (as contracts come up for renewal).

Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that providing X kilowatt-hours to the grid is never as beneficial as reducing X kilowatt-hours of demand from the grid (unless the benefit in both cases is zero, because the grid is perfectly clean). There are always at least some inefficiencies.

In the example where the utility company has a certain percentage of kilowatt-hours of clean energy it has to use each month, and it adheres to that percentage exactly, the environmental benefit of providing clean power to the grid is zero, and for each kilowatt-hour of energy you take from the grid you cause pollution equal to the percentage of dirty energy the utility is allowed to purchase.

If the percentage is 50%, then you get twice the benefit to the environment when you use the energy you produced yourself rather than giving it to the grid.

It's usually difficult and/or expensive to set things up so that you never have to use the grid and never have to throw away excess power, so the grid can be useful. But to the extent you can avoid using it, to avoid sending power to it and to avoid taking power from it, you're helping the environment.

If you've got solar panels on your roof and a really big battery in your car, you should generally charge up your car's battery with your solar panels before you start selling that power to the grid, if you want to help the environment. Ditto with a powerwall, but that can be automatic since the powerwall, unlike your car, is always plugged in.

The fact that a homeowner could maybe get more solar for the money does not mean this car is "not green." Also, apartment dwellers exist. A lot of them.

To be green, you want to make sure your efforts reduce and do not increase emissions. People who want that should understand that putting the panels on the car is a poor way to do that. That's important because people have a psychological feeling that it's a good way to do it, that it gives them some sort of solar powered car and that must be good. It's not what they think.

As for apartment dwellers, yes, the article says it adds convenience for them. That's what it does. It's OK to buy convenience, but it's not necessarily a green thing to do.

Brad, you sound like a typical POTEC (Prisoner Of The East Coast). I was one in my youth but now enjoy my freedom in a flyover state (Nevada). The 1000-mile range Aptera offers owners the freedom of planning cross-country trips based on route efficiency, not charger location. Most of us who live in the desert already have roof-top solar, so that is a moot point...I do not understand why so many POTECs do not use roof-top solar, not even a small solar hot water heater. For us desert rats (DR), an EV top-off charge every month will be great. The majority of us DRs have no worries about solar panels on our vehicles being blocked by shade trees--the $900 solar option is the best way to go. It provides enough energy for most people 40-44 miles per day, out here in the desert. I foresee many Aptera owners using these super-efficient 1000-mile range vehicles on long trips--that is what I intend to do. Enjoy...

While I doubt most would buy the 1000 mile range, I do say the efficiency and range of the Aptera are great. I live in the west and take long drives.

If your roof is maxed out, put more solar panels on a rack out back rather than on your car. It's still a win. Or buy some shares in a solar farm -- it's still a win, green-wise. The panels add convenience for those who can't plug in at home. That's what they are for, not to be green.

As I see it if solar panels are able to provide a significant of your daily milage are a game changer for people without a convenient access to home charging (I own an ev but I have to plug a power extension cord into amy home's 110V outlets,run it through the front yard to the lvl 1 charger, and plug the car curbside). it means potentially multiplying your ev's effective daily range by a large factor.it means you can maybe pick a less expensive, lighter battery. for raid trips, it won't change anything , the added range while driving at highway speeds will probably hardly offset the added weight of the panels and maybe a couple of additional miles at most.

For solar panels to do that, you need a car covered in panels and you need an ultra-efficient car like the Aptera. It's not going to do it for you on an F150 lighting.

If you want to solar charge, you want a larger battery because that lets you tolerate variation a lot more. A larger battery can be down 150 miles with no big issue, and can use all the sun you give it.

I agree that if you can't charge at home or work, it's a hassle and solar could make it a bit easier. It's just not a green choice, it's a convenience choice.

Alternatives to this (and necessary for the less efficient cars) are:

  • Plans to put fast charging at many of the places you visit in cars (shopping centers, restaurants, gyms etc.) And of course offices and commuter lots.
  • Plans to put in parking along the street, and in apartment buildings lots.
  • Faster charging batteries so you can use it a bit more like gasoline

Another option I have considered which might be workable for people who do own a parking space but can't put wiring in it (like outdoor apartment spaces, some driveways) would be a solar carport. A carport could have 20 m^2 of solar, which is a real amount, tilted to the sun and of course it has to be in a sunny spot. You could equip the carport with enough battery to collect a day's sunlight -- maybe about 20kwh or so. (The more you get, the less risk of wasting energy, particularly if you are away for a day, but the higher the cost.) That's not cheap, it will cost $3K-$4K, but some people pay that just for electrical install.

Drop to 10kwh and it will fill up most sunny summer days and waste energy but cost less. It won't meet all your needs but you might have to scoot off to another charger a few times a year.

Not very green because of the wasted energy. Of course you can't grid tie it, or you could just plug your car into the grid. Could be better if several car owners shared it over several spots.

With the Aptera, which in theory only needs under 5kwh per day, you could make this a fair bit cheaper.

Not only ecologically, but also economically. When I think of the Aptera I think of all of the students living on meager sums. They might be in college, living in dorms. No way to put solar on their roof. No way to plug in in the parking lot. They don't drive much but every time their Aptera is retrieved from the parking lot (where it has been charging for free) it is ready to go. They don't need to go to the gas station, the auto mechanic for oil changes (yes some of them might know what that is) or a charging station for a fill-up. They don't have a lot of spare cash so buying stock in a wind farm would be out of the question. They would prefer thinking they are self sufficient and not ask mom and dad for more money. If they live off campus in an apartment, same thing goes. Their car was out on the street charging until they drove it to school, where it will continue to charge while they are in class. I can easily see this as a never charge vehicle, even with the lower range battery (250 miles). Most people probably would not get the 1,000 mile range model, but for some there are good reasons. Fuel, whether used to drive the vehicle or charge it, will always go up. The value of self charging will always increase. The less things we burn to continue our lifestyles the better. To me, the answer is as clear as black and white and there is no gray area, although Apteras are going to be produced in all three colors.

As I said, the solar panels can offer some convenience to those people who can't charge at work or home. The point is it's not a green choice, it's a convenience choice. The green choice would be to charge from a charging station that buys its power from renewable sources.

Brad, a correction is in order. Continued misrepresentation of the previous iteration of the Aptera company is disingenuous at best. Aptera did not declare bankruptcy. They simply closed the business because they couldn't get the funding they knew they would need to make it to production. There is a huge difference in the minds of consumers and clearly in your mind.


Several sources online report a bankruptcy, and further that this is a new company with the same people which bought the name, rather than a restoration of the old company. The Reuters article simply says "closed its doors" which is a common way to say bankruptcy, but if you have an authoritative source, happy to correct things.

if the (small) investors didn't get any money back, I don't think it matters what you call it to them.

if the (small) investor didn't get any money back, I don't think it matters what you call it.

Read your article twice. Very good points.
Comparing solar panels on the Aptera to house panels is apples and oranges. Aptera is efficient and green transportation.

Aptera is (or will be) efficient green transportation. That has nothing to do with the solar panels. The solar panels don't affect the efficiency at all. They produce green electricity, though sadly they only put it in the car batteries, and don't feed it back to the grid to offset coal plants as would be desired if green is your goal.

What is not green is a 15-20MPG SUV / luxury car. The debate between the efficiency of solar on a house vs. a car is only a debate between shades of green.

No, it's more just to be clear that there are two things and they are almost orthogonal when it comes to reducing emissions.

  1. Efficient EVs -- these are great.
  2. Solar panels -- these are also good, but putting them on the car makes them worse, not better.

So buy solar panels, it's the green thing to do. But why are you doing the green thing? Don't you want to reduce emissions as much as you can for your money? Then you would not put them in a crappy place, and throw away any power they generate when the battery is closer to full.

You can do that for convenience of plugging in, which is fine, but that's convenience, not green.

As far as I know, the original company didn't go bankrupt, but was liquidated after they couldn't secure a government loan that they needed to start production.

Interesting article, but I'm throwing something else into it.
They say they want worldwide sales. I live in the UK and in fact an acquaintance has put down a deposit a while ago. So I got interested, it looks great and 'green', though heaven knows how much it will cost after shipping and all the Government taxes like VAT.
Then I noticed the width. 88" !! That is 24 " wider than my Skoda!
Good luck driving that in most of our cities and NO chance in a great many rural areas.

I did not notice that. That is for US roads for sure. You can check out a vehicle I have been working at at https://try.nimbus.green which is very narrow.

First, I appreciate the tone of the article.
That said, I think the "not green" has some evening out factors:
1. not everyone can install solar. EG Renters, a target market.
2. You can move a car, you can't move a house, and many residential solar installs have shade.
3. Most roofs are not optimal tilt and adding tilt is $$$.
Flat is 10%-20% less efficient in the continental US. (Check pvwatts)
4. V2G is one solution to overcharging. Also, most drivers start with a morning commute. Many stop at 70%-80% charge as NMC Batteries are best at 70% charge.
5. In the northern US you park in the sun to heat the car as often as the shade to cool it.

The Aptera's panels are not flat. The question is can you control the angle of your parking spot. They might be angled better or worse. They will underperform any south roof, though, even one not at the ideal angle.

Not everybody can install solar but anybody could invest in a solar farm. V2G adds a lot of extra cost but it it's a modest solution. I don't know if the Aptera will have a bidirectional connector. Only the Leaf does at present.

But that only works if you park the car in the sun at home next to your v2g connector and your home parking spot has good sun exposure. If your battery is fairly full when you are out and about, not plugged in, the power is wasted.

It would be good to get real world data on how much of the power from these panels is actually usable.

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