pelle242 wrote:what is an ATV legally? In EU its a motorcycle... Or cant you register an ATV for road use?
Alan B wrote:If you are going to make it bike legal with pedals, that means 15-20mph and 200-250-750-1000 watts max too. Subject to lots of varying regulation. Not much of a vehicle.
These posts raise an important, and mostly overlooked-in-this-thread, point: Whatever is built must comply with relevant US regulations in order to be both legal and relevant. (I'm being US-centric here and assuming we're the still the market that counts.)
As I see it, there are several major classes of vehicles of varying street-legality:
1) Low speed electric bicycles. The Federal limits are 750 W and 20 mph top speed, and most states adhere to this definition. Some allow for slightly more power (e.g. 1 kW) and Florida is the outlier by far, allowing 5 kW and 60 mph (!) top speed. Given that they only carry one person and the vast majority of states limit the vehicle to 20 mph and 750 W, I don't see how an e-bike, e-trike, or e-velomobile in this class could potentially even be considered as an Aptera substitute.
2) Low speed vehicles/medium speed vehicles. I refer the reader to the linked thread, in which I look at the relevant laws, etc. The gist of it is that Low Speed Vehicles, which are electric by definition, are limited to 25 mph top speed in the majority of states, and aren't even legal at all in some states. A handful of states allow for 35 mph operation but no commercial products to fit this niche exist. This is a potential category where an Aptera clone would fit, but then one must shoot for a lower price point. On the upside, 4 wheels are legal in this category, and that'd make engineering much simpler.
(Or one could just spring for a Polaris EV LSV and call it a day.)
3) ATVs. As I found out through my own research detailed on Google+, ATVs are not street legal in almost every state. A few Western states are the exception, sure, namely Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. Therefore a street legal ATV-classed product wouldn't be commercially viable and this category is a non-starter.
4) "Motorcycles" that really aren't. To start with, let's define what a motorcycle is. This varies a bit by state, but in Washington it's as follows:
RCW 46.04.330 wrote:"Motorcycle" means a motor vehicle designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, on which the driver:
(1) Rides on a seat or saddle and the motor vehicle is designed to be steered with a handlebar; or
(2) Rides on a seat in a partially or completely enclosed seating area that is equipped with safety belts and the motor vehicle is designed to be steered with a steering wheel.
"Motorcycle" excludes a farm tractor, a power wheelchair, an electric personal assistive mobility device, a motorized foot scooter, an electric-assisted bicycle, and a moped.
Note the "not more than three wheels in contact with the ground" and requirement for either a handlebar or an enclosed seating area + steering wheel + belted seats. This is the legal grey zone that Aptera hoped to exploit.
5) Full fledged cars. "Real cars" need to meet the NHTSA's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, of which there are a metric shit-ton. Read 'em here. I don't think meeting them is a practical goal for a homebrew project unless one starts from the shell of an existing, licensed and registered, vehicle. That idea, in turn, seems like a bad idea because most cars are quite heavy beasts indeed.
Here are TD's stated goals for this proposed vehicle:
TylerDurden wrote:I also reckon for the sake of the discussion, that concepts emulating Aptera design goals are fair game: roadworthy, four-season, stylish, high efficiency and advanced technology.
I will add practicality to the list: If an octogenarian can't easily get themselves in & out, or if it can't carry two people and a week's worth of their groceries, it's off my list.
The only ways to do this are approaches 4 and 5, of pseudo-motorcycles and full-fledged cars. I'll wager that it's not possible for a private builder to replicate the capabilities of, say, a Nissan Leaf for under, say, 75% of the Leaf's MSRP - tax credit, so that leaves just pseudo-motorcycles as the default. (I picked 75% arbitrarily, as I'd certainly spring an extra 33% for a warranty, local dealer support, etc. There has to be some incentive to doing it "off the grid," as it were.)
This means that all 4 wheel designs should be off the table, as they're neither here (4 wheels precludes classification as a motorcycle) nor there (full-fledged cars meeting all FMVSS regs or LSVs), IMO.