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Riding in a Solar-Powered Electric Vehicle That Doubles as a Camper

With gas prices soaring to record highs, a vehicle powered by the sun could eventually be quite appealing.

Seeing an Aptera vehicle in the wild is like seeing a spacecraft driving down the road. The unique, three-wheel setup makes a lot of sense considering that both spaceships and Aptera are designed with aerodynamics and efficiency top of mind. Yet despite its space age looks, it's actually an electric car that you might even want to sleep in.

An Aptera vehicle

An Aptera cruising along.

CNET

Efficiency is key for Aptera's vehicle. Its solar panels need to deliver enough energy to propel the EV down roads and allow it to compete against traditional gas-fueled cars and newer electric-only cars. Aptera's full solar package, as it now stands, can get up to 40 miles worth of extra charge into its battery each day, a figure that the folks at Aptera hope will attract commuters.

Aptera vehicle prototype

One of Aptera's Alpha prototypes.

CNET

Solar isn't the only fuel source that powers the Aptera, though. For longer drives, the car can be charged like a regular electric vehicle. Plugging in can give the Aptera a total range of 1,000 miles with a fully upgraded battery pack, or 250 miles with the base-level battery pack.

Aptera vehicle camper

Aptera's camping configuration.

CNET

Aptera also showed us a camping configuration that turns the trunk space into a covered tent for campers, and the vehicle itself can double as a solar-powered charging station for devices.

I had the chance to ride in one of Aptera's alpha prototypes, as well as its beta prototype with improved suspension. The tapered aerodynamic rear has a surprising amount of trunk space, certainly about as much space as an ultralight two-person tent would provide on a camping trip, if not more.

Apteras start at $25,900 and can be reserved now via the company's website. The base model will get you 250 miles of battery range with 16 miles per day from solar charging. A maxed-out Aptera will cost you $57,000 for the full 1,000 miles of battery range, a high-powered drive system and the full solar package providing up to 40 miles a day worth of energy.

For more information and to see what it's like to ride inside one of the solar-powered three-wheelers, check out the video.