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Electric automaker, batterymaker score Google funding

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(Read caption) The battery-powered, three-wheeled, two-seater Aptera Type-1 is capable of speeds up to 80 mph and can travel almost 100 miles on a single charge.

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Google's philanthropy arm,, announced that it is investing $2.75 million in electric vehiclemaker Aptera and batterymaker ActaCell.

Aptera Motors of Carlsbad, Calif., makes three-wheeled two-seat vehicles out of composite materials with an ultra-aerodynamic design. The company is developing an all-electric version that it says will travel 100 miles on a single charge, as well as a plug-in hybrid version that they claim will get the equivalent of 300 miles per gallon. (Google says that a prototype achieved 230 m.p.g.)

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Aptera says that its all-electric version will go into production late this year, and will cost less than $30,000. California residents can reserve one for a $500 deposit here. The hybrid version will be available in early 2010, the company says.

According to C|NET, the vehicles can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour within 10 seconds. Aptera says that the top speed of production models will exceed 85 m.p.h.

With its three wheels, the vehicle is classified as an enclosed motorcycle, but the company's FAQ page says that California drivers will not need a motorcycle endorsement on their licenses, nor will they be required to wear a helmet.

According to the green investor group Cleantech, Aptera received about $20 million in financing last year from Idealab and an undisclosed angel investor.

An ad for the Aptera on YouTube shows the vehicle in action.

The Austin, Texas, batterymaker ActaCell seeks to develop longer-lasting and safer lithium-ion batteries that can be used in plug-in vehicles.

The funding comes from Google's RechargeIT program, which seeks to spur plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology. As part of the program, Google has modified some of its fleet of Toyota Priuses so that their batteries can be plugged into the electrical grid. According to Google, their plug-in Priuses can average 93.5 m.p.g, compared with 48.4 m.p.g. for a conventional hybrid.

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[via Treehugger]