With a bulbous nose and a long, tapered tail, the three-wheeled Aptera 2e is like no other car on the road.
Some say it looks like an egg on wheels. Others think it’s a plane without its wings.
"The shape is what you need to make a highly efficient vehicle,” said the auto industry veteran, who once headed up product planning for Chrysler.
The Aptera 2e is a composite-bodied vehicle powered by an 82-kilowatt electric motor. But Wilbur says that is enough to power it up to 90 miles an hour and get the equivalent of 200 miles to the gallon.
"It’s less than two cents a mile," Wilbur says of the tiny, two-seater. "That’s about four times more efficient than a (Toyota) Prius."
While the outside of the Aptera is exotic, the interior has all the comfort and safety features of a modern car. There are air bags, air conditioning, a navigation system, even a rear-view camera to avoid blind spots.
The Aptera is one of seven finalists for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-prize, a $10 million competition to design a practical and producible 100 mile-per-gallon vehicle.
A prototype Aptera is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry, but a production model is being tested by the scientists at Chicago’s Argonne National Laboratory to see if it can really do everything its creators say it can.
The results of those tests, and track previous tests at the Michigan International Speedway will determine which of the finalists will win the Automotive X-Prize.