aptera.jpgWe’re entering electric car mania, now that global warming has become an increasing concern.

Things will get crazier still, now that California’s politicians are talking about slapping a $2,500 new tax on gas guzzlers, and giving consumers who buy fuel-efficient cars up to $2,500 in cash (see story here in Mercury News).

Indeed, we wake up to news that Carlsbad, Ca. start-up Aptera Motors has raised “under $20 million” in a new round of financing to build out its three-wheel hybrid vehicle. The car can get up to 230 miles per gallon when it goes on sale next year. The price will be about $20,000.

The funding comes from Pasadena, Ca.’s Idealab and an undisclosed angel investor.

The sci-fi like vehicle, built by founder and chief executive Steve Fambro, was profiled a year ago here, and most recently shown at the TED conference last month. It may look light, but Fambro claims it can reach 90 mph — enabled by its composite materials that are similar to the aerospace industry. Southern California is quickly becoming a hub for clean technologies in part because of the advances made there by the aerospace industry over the decades.

venturevehicles.jpgVentureWire reported the Aptera funding news (sub required) today. The backing comes as a host of other companies unveil new prototypes or race build competing cars. One is Venture Vehicles Inc., which is building a tilting three-wheeler (see image), in both hybrid and all-electric versions, and which will sell for less than $20,000. Another three-wheeler is being built by Volkswagen, was recently scrapped for legal reasons, a reader points out in comment below also for less than $20,000 (image below).

volkswagon3.jpgMeanwhile, PG&E is showcases a converted Toyota Prius today in Sunnyvale, Ca.. It can be fully powered overnight via a power outlet at home (called a plug-in hybrid; it runs on both gas and electric battery) and, in a bit of marketing hype, is said to be the first to be able to power the average home for several hours, because of the stored power in its battery (this is unlikely to be of any practical use, except for in emergency power outages). There’s a good overview of PG&E’s plans and the overall market outlook in the Mercury News today (graphic here). There’s no date for when this will be available. GM expects to have one ready for sale in 2009.

Finally, Popular Mechanics demonstrates the Hybrid Technologies L1X-75, which goes from zero to 60 in just 3.1 seconds, has a top speed of 175 mph and a maximum range of around 200 miles. (The all-electric Tesla will do zero-60 in 4 seconds). See demo below.


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