Monday, September 14, 2009
Is a three-wheeled vehicle an automobile? That question is at the center of a vigorous lobbying effort in Washington. The vehicle in question is the Aptera 2e, a machine that looks like a cross between a Cessna plane and a tricycle. It's the brainchild of Aptera Motors Inc., a three-year-old, closely held car company in Vista, Calif.
Interesting visual simile: a single-engine plane and a tricycle.
Aptera wants to borrow $75 million from a Department of Energy program created by Congress in 2007 to speed development of fuel-efficient cars. Aptera's backers include some big-money donors to the Democratic Party, and its quest for help has received a boost from a group of mostly California lawmakers who want to help a home-state enterprise. Allies of Detroit's big auto makers are lined up against them.
Detroit versus California.
Aptera's quest for federal help raises a bigger question about Washington's effort to subsidize fuel-efficient vehicles: How much of the money should go to traditional companies with the most customers, versus start-ups with unorthodox ideas?