Reborn DeLorean unveils composite-bodied EV, startup Aptera drops EV bid

Epic Electric Vehicles and DeLorean Motor Co. report that Epic has been selected as the composites manufacturer for the new DeLorean Electric Vehicle slated for production this year.

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Remember the all-aluminum bodied DeLorean sports car that was made famous as Marty McFly’s time machine in Back to the Future? Although the progressive automaker later went defunct, aluminum auto body parts today are common. Now, the DeLorean is back: Epic Electric Vehicles (Vista, Calif. and Vivian, La.) and DeLorean Motor Co. (DMC, Humble, Texas) report that Epic has been selected as the composites manufacturer for the new DeLorean Electric Vehicle (DMCEV) slated for production this year. Epic and DeLorean have unveiled a new, lightweight resin-infused composite body for the DMCEV. “It was important for the DMCEV to not just have an advanced drivetrain but to also decrease the weight and improve the safety of these new vehicles,” says DeLorean CEO Stephen Wynne. “We had aggressive targets for this new body structure and Epic EV exceeded those by a wide margin.” Wynne also notes that the original DeLorean cars can be retrofitted with this new composite body.

Epic EV’s composite body is lighter than that used on the original internal-combustion-engine car, with a much increased safety factor and greater battery capacity, increasing the car’s range. “The original DeLorean was 30 years ahead of its time in the 1980s, so I felt that the composites that the new DMCEV uses today should also be well ahead of their time,” says Epic EV founder Chris Anthony. “We have achieved 200 lb [91 kg] of reduction in weight …. The roof-crush and side-impact strength is greatly improved ....”

DMC acquired the original company’s name in 1995 and now owns the largest remaining factory-original parts inventory. DMC services, restores and sells DeLorean automobiles, parts, accessories and merchandise to customers around the world, and assembles cars to order, featuring parts or designs from the original DeLorean, with modern engine and suspension technologies.

In sharp contrast, Aptera Motors (Carlsbad, Calif.), a startup that had planned to manufacture a composites-intensive EV, announced on Dec. 2 that it was closing its doors. Paul Wilbur, president and CEO, explains that “Aptera executives had been engaged in exhaustive due diligence with the [U.S.] Department of Energy (DoE) pertaining to an ATVM (Advance Technology Vehicle Manufacturing) loan. Our business plan was examined from top to bottom by internal agency representatives, independent consultants and experts in academia. They did an amazing job of vetting us and they tested every possible weakness in our plan. And after nearly two years of discussions, we had recently received a Conditional Commitment Letter for a $150 million loan.” The ATVM loan would have provided funding for the development and commercialization of a five-passenger midsized sedan (similar to a Toyota Camry), base priced at less than $30,000 with more than a 190-mile-per-gallon equivalent (mpge), says Wilbur. “We were so optimistic that the company would move forward that we were in discussions to reactivate a mothballed automotive plant in Moraine, Ohio.” Aptera, however, was unable to find the required matching funds.

The Aptera car, originally a three-wheeled vehicle, was to make extensive use of composites via a patent-pending manufacturing process that enables surface finishing without manual labor and the capital cost of a typical automotive paint shop (see “Quiet revolution: Composites in EVs” link at right). Although the three-wheeler delivered 206 mpge in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tests, it failed to attract investors. Aptera then focused on the four-door sedan. Wilbur remains confident that Aptera has contributed new technology to the auto market. “All that remains is for someone to grab it. We still believe it will happen.”