With Aptera's 2e electric vehicle headed into the lab for final validation testing in the Automotive X-Prize's side-by-side class (against only four other vehicles), the company's latest newsletter is looking to the recent past and the future. Sure, there's the obligatory X-Prize update, but the more interesting bits of information come from an interview with Dave Oakley, Aptera's VP of Manufacturing.

Apparently, Aptera used the somewhat controversial Six Sigma method to optimize the new composite material on the 2e. Oakley said the original material on the 2e wasn't perfect in both appearance and consistency. He told his in-house writer:
We applied Six Sigma to optimize the materials we started with, which led us to change those materials to make them more production-worthy... The new material is made of sandwich core construction, which is a combination of several dry reinforced materials molded together using a resin. This construction gives us a material with a form similar to an I-beam running the length of the surface. The result is a material that is three to four times as strong as steel, yet the body is so lightweight a couple of people can lift it.
Another benefit, Oakley said, is lower cost, which is always a good thing. Read the entire piece after the jump.

[Source: Aptera]


Aptera Newsletter

Interview with Dave Oakley: Aptera VP of Manufacturing: Six Sigma Helps Optimize Composite Material of the 2e

One of the fundamental tenets behind Aptera's vehicle design has been the use of composite materials, which offer light weight, strength and affordability. Additionally, another goal has been to make the overall body lighter, stronger and more affordable.

"In the beginning we had a very good starting point with materials, which were used for all the pre-production vehicles," said Dave Oakley, Vice President of Manufacturing at Aptera. "But we had some issues with the cosmetic appearance and part dimensional consistency."

Oakley and his team decided to improve the materials using Six Sigma, a methodology that utilizes data and statistical analysis to measure and improve operational performance by identifying and eliminating "defects."

"We applied Six Sigma to optimize the materials we started with, which led us to change those materials to make them more production-worthy," said Oakley, who saved Callaway Golf millions of dollars by using Six Sigma practices before joining Aptera in 2009. "We now have better consistency from part-to-part, better surface quality and improved chemical stability. We achieved these gains while preserving all the positive qualities like strength and light weight of the previous material.

"The new material is made of sandwich core construction, which is a combination of several dry reinforced materials molded together using a resin. This construction gives us a material with a form similar to an I-beam running the length of the surface," said Oakley. "The result is a material that is three to four times as strong as steel, yet the body is so lightweight a couple of people can lift it.

"Surface quality is a key factor in automobiles. Every automaker in the world wants the vehicle to have a smooth glasslike surface when it is sitting in the showroom. Our changes improve the surface quality, which makes it easier to finish and improve the cosmetic appearance. We've also enhanced the part-to-part consistency. This is a critical element in controlling to cost of a composite body vehicle because it drastically reduces the amount hand-finishing that is required after the part is released from the mold. That was a significant driver of cost and assembly time with our previous material system.

"The coolest part of the Six Sigma process is that we've optimized the performance while driving down the cost, so we're able to get the most out of the materials and produce the 2e more economically
."