Aptera promotes itself as an SEV, a Solar Electric Vehicle. Which it is.
However, in my personal opinion, the solar is “just a feature”. Don’t get me wrong; I am thoroughly impressed by the innovation of adapting the solar cells in such a way that they follow the compound curvature of the vehicle and can withstand harsh conditions. But my point is that Aptera is still a great vehicle without its solar panels. What makes Aptera so awesome in my opinion is its excellent efficiency. As more or less of a bonus, solar panels on the vehicle can trickle charge the battery to a very usable daily range. Depending on how sunny it is, how you park and where you live.
So, if solar panels give Aptera significant range, does that mean that choosing the full solar option is a no-brainer? Well, I think it highly depends on your use case.
A no-brainer “yes” situation
Let’s say you are full time employed, living in sunny San Diego. Every work day, you park your Aptera at the office on a sunny parking lot, where no charging infrastructure is available. You live in an apartment and are unable to charge your vehicle at home. Public charging is expensive in your neighbourhood.
Of course, in this situation, the panels would be extremely useful and choosing the full solar package is a no-brainer. The alternative (charging by plug) is expensive and cumbersome, while the integrated panels on the Aptera will have a very high yield due to location and parking habits.
A no-brainer “no” situation
Let’s say you are Batman. You keep to yourself and don’t want others to see when you are at home. Alfred needs to install lasers on your wheel covers and they need to be inspected regularly to ensure functionality. So you keep your Aptera in your Batcave, shielded from the sun. You mostly drive your Aptera at night. You never leave Gotham City.
Of course, in this case, the solar panels have zero added value.
I realize this might be a bit of a specific scenario, but there are plenty of (potential) customers who might want to park their Aptera in a garage. Shielding their vehicle from weather influence, vandalism and theft isn’t necessarily a bad idea. The vehicle could also be charged with roof top solar on their home for instance. It might be slightly less efficient due to the extra conversion steps, but the roof top solar will usually have better positioning, less shade and it will be cheaper for the same amount of power.
If I were to have a garage, I would opt for roof top solar and I would take a pass on the additional solar on the Aptera itself.
You might think of choosing to go full solar, just because it’s cool and you don’t mind spending the money. What I’d like you to factor in though, is that manufacturing solar cells requires energy and is not free of environmental impact at the production location.
This article gives us some quantitative information on the energy payback time of solar panels. Meaning: When will the solar panels have generated more energy than the production of the panels has cost?
Of course, this number highly depends on how the panels are produced and on how much sun the panels are subjected to. Still, it gives us a ballpark idea on what the payback time could be. Since I personally live in a relatively cloudy climate, not too close to the equator (the Netherlands) and since I expect the Aptera solar panels to have a slightly larger foot print than standardized panels that are easier to manufacture, I estimate an energy payback time of 3 to 4 years in my use case. I intend to park my Aptera outside, but there will probably be some shade during parts of the day.
Again, if you park in a garage, I’d advise against getting the full solar. Just because the net result on the environment would probably be negative. We should realize that solar panels are not “good for the environment”. Just much less bad than most of the alternatives.
Deciding based on cost
So, what if you do decide to at least have your Aptera out in the sun for a significant part of the day, but you’re not sure if you’re willing to fork out the additional $900 for the added solar? How long does it take to earn back your investment?
I’ve seen people making this analysis in all sorts of weird ways. For instance by comparing what they are paying for gasoline now and comparing that to the solar mileage. This makes very little sense however, because the only two scenario’s that need comparing are driving an Aptera with additional solar and an Aptera without additional solar.
The payback time is determined by:
- The solar yield of the additional solar in your specific situation
- The electricity price you would be paying for the additional charging if you don’t choose the additional solar
According to the configurator on the Aptera website, the basic solar yields 16 miles of solar per day. Full solar costs an additional $900 and would bring you 40 miles of solar range per day. Full solar means 700Wp of solar cells according to my latest information (October 2022). The additional solar is thus approximately (40-16)/40*700 = 420Wp.
I don’t live in sunny San Diego and therefore I don’t expect to achieve 40 miles per day. I do however have solar panels on my home and therefore have a realistic idea of how much 420Wp of additional solar yields.
The panels on my roof are 1500Wp combined. They produce a little over 1600kWh per year over the last 3 years. Since my Aptera won’t always be parked in the perfect orientation and fully subjected to the sun, I would be very happy to reach 1kWh per Wp per year. So, I don’t expect to exceed 420kWh, or 4200 miles of solar range per year from choosing the additional solar. That’s about 11.5 miles per day on average.
Electricity prices have varied tremendously in the last few years. This is mainly due to our dependence on Russian heating gas and its price skyrocketing due to international conflict. Last year, prices were around $0.25/kWh, but currently we’re around $0.70/kWh…
If the prices were to go back to a “normal” $0.30/kWh, it would take $900/$0.3=3000kWh of solar charging to earn back the investment. This means, for me, it would take more than 7 years to earn back the additional investment.
In reality, I think the solar yield might be an optimistic estimation and my electricity price is actually around $0.12. That’s because the solar panels on my roof produce more than my home consumes, thus the cost of my charging would be defined by the price I’m getting from my power company for delivering my excess solar to the grid. I don’t have a driveway to charge my Aptera though and I intend to keep my Aptera for a long time. I also don’t expect energy prices to drop significantly. So I opted for the full solar.
In the below graph, you can find the time it takes for you to earn back your investment. It features 3 lines; one for 10 miles per day, one for 17 miles per day and one for 24 miles per day solar charging. The worst case line is close to my situation of parking outside in Northern Europe. The best case scenario is based on the 40 miles/day estimate of Aptera. Choose whichever line corresponds best to the solar yield expected for your personal situation.
Some people have commented that the resell value of a vehicle with full solar is much higher. I think that’s hard to assess for now. If Aptera proves successful and delivers on its promise of upgradeability, I expect the solar panels to be outdated once I sell my Aptera. The solar is also expected to drop in efficiency over the years.
However, if Aptera sadly needs to close shop after some years, or decides not to supply (upgraded) spare parts, the value of the solar panels might even increase. Time will tell.
While the above analysis helps in making an economically and environmentally logical decision, I do realize that some might choose the full solar package for different reasons.
Not having range anxiety as long as you have time for instance. With the full solar, it’s easier to just wait a day and continue your journey. To experience that sense of freedom has value. A value that’s difficult to express in dollars. The decision of getting the additional solar or not will therefore always be a personal one. After reading this blog, I hope yours is an informed one as well.
Did you appreciate this information and did you not yet reserve your Aptera? Please consider using my referral code to get a $30 discount on your reservation fee and help me get a discount on my Aptera as well. Or read a bit more on ordering here.
9 thoughts on “Do I choose full solar?”
Good and interesting article 👍🌞
Thanks for reading and leaving your comment!
Really wonderful post. I live in cloudy Iowa and plan to leave my Aptera in my West facing driveway on sunny days. About 57 % of our grid power comes from wind, so I won’t feel too guilty from an environmental perspective for times I think it prudent to pull it into the garage or plug it into my grid power.
There are a couple of other factors that will be good for my use case. When I am going on long trips – something I plan to do with my Aptera – It will extend the range of my 40-some kWh battery pack.
I plan to camp in places such as Death Valley. This is something that I have often done by motorcycle. There were places in the park that I didn’t have the range to reach by motorcycle that an Aptera with full solar panels will allow me to visit because of the ability to recharge itself.
Even if camping is not an every day use, it will be a very enjoyable one that will likely also fit my budget.
Yep, I agree. The freedom to not have range anxiety in the middle of nowhere as long as you have time is also one of the reasons why I opt for the full solar.
I added a small paragraph at the end to incorporate that sentiment. The blog needed a better ending anyway ;-).
Convenience of not having to plug in is also a consideration. For a garaged vehicle, not much of a time saver but on street parking and running extension cord a different story. Also, in the event of total power failure you still have transportation available. Good article.
Valid reason for sure. Also a factor in my personal decision.
Thanks for reading!
Another point in favor of full solar is better battery and cabin temperature conditioning which could extend the life of the battery, car electronics, and cabin materials. This could save thousands in repair costs over the life of the car.
One of the nightmare scenarios for electric vehicle designers is what happens if you leave the car sitting in the sun at the airport or train station for a 2 week summer vacation. The base solar will struggle with this, but the 700W of full solar should do much better.
As car options go, it is a great deal.
I don’t expect it to be an issue in my home country, but it is certainly a valid consideration in warmer climates.
Thx Sies/all for all you bring to conversations! And sharing what makes “ you” excited about Aptera.
“ For Len”….
It comes down to personal needs/ money best spent for them.
I am a reservation holder in an~solar eight zone, so….
Some EV brands have wheel cover
, vehicle color options, dealer add ons, etc… that cost $1,000-$2000. The max Aptera solar option with added range is only $900. https://share.icloud.com/photos/0550wTufJcJMFzvHpWTdw_4FQ
Solar roof and dash is standard ( no extra cost) Besides the solar trickle charge…. I believe it even helps with powering the interior temperature ventilation ( like the old 2e).
🤔 I wonder if that possible daily gentle solar trickle charge to the batteries is better for the battery vs faster charging over battery life(?)
And “ for me” there is:
I believe I will enjoy caring/ maintaining the encapsulated solar top ( vulnerable ) surface vs a vinyl wrap in those areas. I deal with this cleat resin surface substrate now in our solar zone, cleaning and with UV protectant with success.
Aptera has shared a little of how they are bombarding the coated solar surface during testing, in their solar updates. I am glad the Aptera’s aerodynamic shape will minimize direct blows by debris/ bugs….
I have mono crystalline PV solar cells on my homes for twenty years with no maintenance/issues.
Granted those are in home PV panels …
My all electric home’s PV solar over produce our home’s power needs and powers our other non solar EV…. I have not had the need to add extra PV panels. Aptera’s “ on board solar PV array” intrigue me.
The other EV we had chosen for our solar region, did not have a full glass roof, like so many are forcing buyers to have…. Here glass just means the vehicle is heated and the battery power is used to cool. So “ for me” a full opaque solar vehicle top is welcomed.
So rather than “trying to find the limited shade here in the southern desert…. I will just leave/drive the sEV Aptera “ under the sun” and realize “ my benefits” .
My garage will protect my Aptera in the evening/night from our active wildlife!😉
I have learned to cope/ live in the SW desert…. Looking forward to the sEV Aptera!
Could a sEV “ someday” realize the 30% Federal Solar incentives? 🤞 Aptera it starting the solar movement!
Maybe I would add “sun rays” around the circumference of that Aptera GlowGo logo!
Our state has a beautiful Alternative Fuel Vehicle ( Clean Air- Blue Skies ) license plate… Aptera’s Solar Fuel brings this plate, which my Aptera will wear proudly”…. to a higher meaning!
We are told we have an option to change/ upgrade the solar cells in time.
Some may like “ the look” of the solar array, whether it ends up to be the dark monotone black or with copper connectors.
The Aptera us Unique… around every curve.