Aptera Stock: Are Solar Cars Finally Here?

Our paying subscribers make every word we type possible. In an era where great customer service has gone the way of the dodo, we believe it’s time to double down on accessibility and responsiveness. Anyone who pays our bills is a client, and consequently has access to our brightest – and sometimes sober – minds by simply clicking “reply” to any email. That’s what one paying subscriber did – let’s call him James – who emailed us about a firm called Aptera that he says is peddling the most sophisticated solar-powered electric trikes you’ve ever seen.

Our initial response was that we’d tear the company to shreds, just like we did recently in our analysis of Atlis Motor Vehicles, a company that’s waving more red flags than a DPRK military parade. But as our client pointed out, that’s hardly fair to the company.

It deserves an honest evaluation, and your support within the standards of objective journalism. I put myself through college working for a newspaper. I know the value of great public information.

Nanalyze Subscriber, James

Notice how James hustled like a champ to pay his way through college. He’s now a particularly articulate architect who spends his money on subscription services wisely, and passionately believes in Aptera’s product offering. But as we always say, a great idea and $4 might get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks, especially when the idea failed its first time around.

Electric Three Wheelers

Portland is weird indeed. The streets may look like scenes from the apocalypse as the city’s drug abuse problem stares every commuter directly in the face, yet a small number of people insist there’s nothing wrong. It’s a city in which you can actually smell the stench of American politics. On those same streets, you’re likely to see something else unique to the Portland area – a three-wheeled electric vehicle from a company called Arcimoto.

Something unique to the Portland area - a three-wheeled electric vehicle from a company called Arcimoto.
It’s all fun and games until someone sideswipes you because your future ex-wife wasn’t watching where she was going – Credit: Arcimoto

It’s been nearly four years since we wrote about ElectraMeccanica (SOLO) and Arcimoto (FUV), warning investors to stay away from investing in these companies, one which graduated from the OTC market and one which was peddling Reg A+ shares in hopes of making three-wheeled electric vehicles ubiquitous. (All Reg A+ offerings should be avoided like the plague.) Those who didn’t heed our warnings would have lost 67% and 76% respectively since our article was published, but that’s not considering dilution. With neither company managing to achieve meaningful revenues, the only way to come up with the mountains of cash they’re burning through is by issuing more and more shares.

Bar chart showing typical pre-revenue dilution by FUV and SOLO
Credit: Nanalyze

When we factor in dilution, the returns are much worse. Shares of ElectraMechanica and Arcimoto have lost 75% and 81% of their value respectively compared to a Nasdaq return of +42% over the same time frame. A cursory look at the latest financials for these two firms shows that they’re in no danger of achieving meaningful revenues anytime soon.

Bar chart showing FUV and SOLO earnings
Credit: Yahoo Finance

As the bear market claws its way into everyone’s wallets, it’s unlikely these firms will be selling electric vehicles profitably when we check back with them four years from now. It’s equally unlikely that any of the other companies out there trying to peddle EV trikes will have become “the next Tesla.”

Other companies out there trying to peddle EV trikes
Sources: Various autocycle manufacturers

That brings us to, perhaps, the biggest problem. No, it’s not the fact that these things will likely disintegrate upon impacting a Honda Civic, it’s that someone you know might see you driving one of these hideous contraptions.

The reason that so many three-wheeled cars are being peddled to the masses is because they were meant to skirt the definition of a car. They’re not a car, they’re not a motorcycle, they’re something in between referred to as an “autocycle.” At the federal level, regulations around autocycles are vague following the Autocycle Safety Act which ended up going nowhere. Today, autocycles are regulated at the state level, and not overly popular because cars work just fine. That brings us to the topic du jour – the three-wheeled electric vehicle on offer from Aptera.

The three-wheeled electric vehicle on offer from Aptera.
Credit: Aptera

About the Aptera

On paper, this vehicle looks really slick. James said it best:

This is an “Edison Moment” when a needed new technology is arriving on the market. The Aptera could reduce our dependence on imported oil, which is being threatened. It is picking up where Tesla left off & is carrying the ball to the goal line. This car flies through the road-air like no other car before it (lowest coefficient of drag in history). This car can be afforded by a college student working his way through school; and by many other buyers. This car is truly “Off-Grid” (40-100 miles/day with no charge) changing our dependence on not just oil but also electricity.

Nanalyze Subscriber James

There’s every reason to believe everything that James has said, maybe aside from the price being affordable for college students who should be driving cheap used Toyotas and trying to avoid going into debt. The entry-level price for an Aptera trike is around $25,000, about the same as a new Toyota Prius.

Whether or not you find the futuristic design appealing, this vehicle is an engineering marvel based on everything we’ve read on their website. And for us, reading the company’s marketing collateral is something we never do. That’s because almost nothing about the likelihood of a company succeeding comes from learning about how great their product is.

Aptera the Company

This isn’t Aptera’s first rodeo. An article by Green Car Reports titled Aptera Collapse: How & Why It Happened details the company’s first attempt at launching an electric vehicle which largely surrounded attempts at pandering to the Department of Energy (DOE) over its advanced technology vehicle manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. Founded in 2006, the company started with three wheels and then pivoted to four when their loan application was denied. In 2010, they tried again with a four-wheel vehicle and three-wheel vehicle. After that didn’t work, the company shut down in late 2011 after trying to chase down the 5,000 people who plunked down $500 as a deposit for a vehicle that was never realized.

The Aptera prototype from 2011
The Aptera prototype from 2011 – Credit: Green Car Reports

Today, Aptera tells us that back then wasn’t the time to launch an electric vehicle. “Funding didn’t exist for EV programs like it does today,” they say, which is hardly true. In 2009, Tesla and Fisker collectively managed to collect over $800 million from the DOE program Aptera was chasing. Now, Aptera is back trying to fund their operations via a Reg A+ raise (essentially, a larger scale form of crowdfunding) that doesn’t offer investors any liquidity for the shares they’re buying that value the company at an incredible (checks notes again) $783 million.

A company with a gamma version of their product that has less than $25 million in assets, and which spends its time on things like “brand ambassadors,” isn’t worth a fraction of the arbitrary valuation they’ve ascribed to themselves. It’s characteristic of Reg A+ raises we’ve seen before, and we’d avoid this like the plague. Still not convinced? Check out the $83 million in SAFE liabilities on their balance sheet arising from $2.5 million they took from investors. Issuing shares left and right, offering investors incredibly good terms on funding, and ascribing ludicrous valuations are all red flags which mean we wouldn’t consider Aptera for a second, regardless of what engineering marvel they’ve been wheeling out at trade shows.

Failing to launch an EV the first time around, and then coming back with one that’s even more complex, isn’t a compelling value proposition. Besides, it’s not the first time we’ve come across the solar-powered car pitch.

Promises of Solar-Powered Cars

Half a decade ago, we posed the question – When Will We Have Electric Cars with Solar Panels? In that piece, we looked at two European firms trying to make solar cars a reality. Lightyear, a Dutch company founded in 2016, says it would deliver its first model, Lightyear One, in 2020. That time has come and gone, and the latest news last month was that they’ve built the world’s most second-most aerodynamic car with a drag coefficient of 0.175 which plans to “start the first deliveries of the car in November.” (Marks calendar.) If that happens, they’ll have bested the other European company we talked about in that article, Sono Motors (SONO).

Screenshot of The Sion

At that time, a European firm called Sono Motors had taken in 7,000 reservations for their solar-powered car that was to be released “as early as 2019.” They then raised 54 million euros (52.6 greenbacks) in one of the largest European crowdfunding raises ever, 75% of which came from reservation holders. A January 2020 piece by electrive.com announcing the funding said that “production of the first vehicles will be postponed until September 2021.” Now Sono says, “we intend to begin delivering cars in the first half of 2023 and thereby fulfill customer reservations.”

Following their IPO in November 2021, shares of Sono have lost 94% of their value. It’s just another example of how difficult it is to bring an electric vehicle to market using trickles of funding from retail investors around the globe who don’t seem to realize that they’re pissing their money away on risky EV companies that are simply trying to survive, not thrive.

A Fair Shake

It takes a while to realize that investing isn’t about finding great ideas. There is no shortage of great ideas being peddled out there by any number of publicly traded companies. Execution is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Perhaps the best rule we ever added to our tech investing methodology was that we don’t invest in pre-revenue companies. Also, having a living methodology document is critically important so you can remain objective when analyzing any given firm. Here are some of the red flags we’re seeing with Aptera:

  • Seeking funding using Reg A+ mechanisms
  • Previous track record of failure
  • No meaningful revenues

When we evaluate companies, we apply the same methodology. Our skeptical tone comes from years of watching great stories never come to fruition as management teams pursue the ultimate goal of every business – survival. As risk-averse investors, we’re not here to fund feel-good pipe dreams, we’re here to realize a return on our capital. Our analysts said it best a few years back in our piece titled A Warning About Electric Vehicle Stocks:

Unfortunately, it’s quite common now to hear electric vehicle companies comparing their businesses to Tesla when they haven’t even broken ground on a factory.

Nanalyze

An article by Electrek last month says the company “remains on track to begin ramping up scaled production in 2023.” When they’ve sold $10 million worth of these vehicles in a single year then maybe we’ll come back around for another look. Until then, this company should be avoided alongside every other aspiring autocar manufacturer out there, solar-powered or not.

Conclusion

Aptera is dabbling in an extremely capital-intensive and competitive niche which is littered with failures and bankruptcies largely consisting of companies that had great stories and little else. You’d have to have brass cojones the size of grapefruits to put down a real-money deposit on one of these contraptions, much less be seen driving one.

Investing in any electric vehicle company trying to peddle a three-wheeler to the masses is a bad idea, no matter how superior a product they’re trying to sell. Today, we reached the same conclusion as we did four years ago – it’s a David and Goliath story, and as prudent investors, we’re not interested in it whatsoever. 

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18 thoughts on “Aptera Stock: Are Solar Cars Finally Here?
  1. I’m an Aptera fan, but I see the points you’ve made. I gave them some money because I like the concept, but this is about as far from a “prudent” investment as you can get. A few points in the article bothered me though:
    – I see their previous failure a decade ago as a way to learn to do it right the next time, which I think they are doing.
    – They aren’t stamping steel and building a big paint shop, so yes, they still need capital, but far less than a traditional car company.
    – Bringing in Sandy Munro early shows they are thinking about production, and not just building fancy prototypes. One of the companies you mentioned, Arcimoto, has squandered their opportunity by never being able to get to volume production.
    – As for the Reg A+ stuff, what was the alternative? Beg Elon Musk for cash?
    – I actually like the looks, maybe I’m not alone 🙂

    I’d say there’s at least a puncher’s chance that you’ll be writing about them again in the future, with something less negative.

    1. They’ve tried to spin their previous failure as if funding wasn’t available when literally 100s of millions were available. Not a good look. They then made their vehicle more complicated by adding solar panels and decided to go the crowdfunding route which is littered with failures.

      What was the alternative to crowdfunding? Maybe raising money from institutional investors like most all startups do? The reason they can’t is because no institutional investor would want anything to do with this. A $783 million valuation? What are these people smoking?

      You gave them some money? If you’re in the giving mood still, we’ll take some. 😉 Not interested in any of these autocycle companies, solar powered or not. All they’ve proven capable of is spinning wheels – or not spinning wheels as it were.

      1. I appreciate your skepticism, in the positive sense of the word. I want them to succeed, because I want one, and I feel that they doing the right thing in trying to make a highly-efficient vehicle. Which is why I gave them some money — neither of us would call that an investment. Thanks for your article.

        1. If you’re giving away money, we’re always keen 😉 We assess investments with a critical eye, thus the piece. We want them to succeed as well because a lot of people have invested in the company with high hopes. Let’s hope they do!

  2. The only thing that bothers me about Aptera is not about Aptera but about US Congress. Other EV’s get a substantial tax credit but Aptera is not on this list – yet. With the recent proliferation of EV’s, if ANY EV deserves this tax credit it’s Aptera because it’s solar powered and this will have less of an adverse impact on the grid which is the biggest obstacle to EV’s in the US. Wake up US lawmakers! How is this not blatantly obvious to you?

      1. Your sinicism with your article content truly gives off a signal of just being biased. If I see fact based numbers and or stats that an investor can actually gauge or at least form an educated opinion, it would have greater effect. Your article doesn’t really inform, it just gives personal bias.

        1. It’s spelled cynicism, and unfortunately, you’re confusing proper due diligence with personal bias. We’ve evaluated more than 400 stocks over the past decade and the same consistent methodology was applied to Aptera.

          What facts presented in this research piece do you disagree with?

  3. Thank you for spell check.
    APTERA’s design with 3 wheels was not decided on skirting federal laws that are in place for 4 wheeled vehicles. It has to do with efficiency when eliminating the 4th wheel and the saving of weight and much less friction. Crash testing will be part of the safety protocol as many reservation holders placed their order based on this information alone. This is not an open air vehicle, but an in enclosed composite body that in essence is a role cage that will also have air bags.
    I believe you clumped all 3 wheeled vehicles as being the same.
    Not sure why you even cover companies like APTERA if your advisement is to never invest in a company that is not in production yet…what’s the point?

    1. Cool. Let us know when they have meaningful revenues.

      Anything to say about the ridiculous valuation? The fact no institutional investors want any part of this so they have to go after Reg A+? The fact that shares have no liquidity? The dilution? All the marketing spend to raise those Reg A+ rounds? The failure the first time around? All that you’re just ignoring?

      What’s the point? It’s pretty clear what our point is, and sticking your head in the sand won’t make it go away.

  4. And this is not a startup. Startups are backed by institutional investors. We invest in startups. We don’t invest in $783 million valued companies, a ridiculous number these supposedly competent individuals pulled out of their asses. Shares have no liquidity and they are worthless. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and consider the validity of what professional investors say about this company.

  5. I wouldn’t call Nobe Cars an EV startup. You only put their car in a picture but you don’t need to legitimize them by including them with the real EV makers. See http://www.nobecarsinvestors.com They still don’t have a prototype they will let the real press drive. This looks like another Dale Car scam. Something that can barely move under its own power with nobody left in the company who knows what they are doing. Looks like Munro and many of the other support companies they contracted with to buy credibility won’t touch them anymore.

    1. We’re not legitimizing Nobe, we’re simply showing people how many firms out there are building three-wheeled vehicles that are ugly as sin. So they contracted with Munro to buy credibility? Sounds familiar. Wouldn’t touch any of these firms. Also wouldn’t call them startups either. A startup is typically backed by institutional investors or bootstrapped with a meaningful amount of money from the founders – skin in the game. Thank you for the comment!

  6. Well the news reported that Nobe sent Munro an inoperable car that they then tried to cover it up by SAYING it just needed batteries, but Nobe sent it back here to the UK to get it fixed up enough so it could run so it wasn’t just that. Heard Nobe owes Munro like a half mil or so. That’s fact. Rumor is that their CEO sent it to Munro for marketing and was mad he didn’t pull in investors for him. The Nobe 100GT was nowhere near ready so there was no other reason for Munro to even look at it. These guys have NO idea what they are doing whether with making cars or making a business.

    1. Thank you for the added info. We can’t include links in comments but people can research this firm if they so desire. Looks like Nikola founder was charged with fraud so hopefully the SEC clamps down on EV companies making promises hey can’t keep.

    1. Aptera is a solution looking for a problem. And we’re being very generous by calling it a solution given they haven’t manufactured any hideous three-wheeled contraptions yet. Not to mention safety concerns. These things look like they’d be demolished if bumped into by your average Smart Car.

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