October 27, 2011
Chances are reasonably good that you have read about the Urbee car. It is the brainchild of Jim Kor, an intriguing individual that I had the privilege of meeting two weeks ago in Winnipeg, Canada. He gripped my attention, from start to finish, as he presented the history of Urbee at a special conference organized by the Industrial Technology Centre of Winnipeg. It was not difficult to notice Jim’s passion for designing what could become the most energy-efficient car on the planet. With a drag coefficient of 0.15, it is quite possibly the most aerodynamic. A third-generation Toyota Prius has a drag coefficient of 0.25.
As a mechanical engineer, Jim designed farm machinery for Winnipeg manufacturers before starting his own firm, KOR Product Design, 30 years ago. Urbee was conceived 15 years ago as Jim’s third vehicle project. Today, a core team of a dozen people make up KOR EcoLogic, a Canadian company that is wholly owned by them, with a goal of getting Urbee into mass production. I was struck by Jim’s obsession with Urbee.
Just days before meeting Jim, he had driven the car some distance as part of an open highway test. The two-passenger vehicle is designed to be exceptionally fuel efficient, safe, and inexpensive. It uses electric motors and is capable of 200 mpg when running on an 8 hp ethanol-powered engine, which serves as a backup. The car is expected to reach 70 mph.
On September 21, 2011, the BBC reported that Urbee had been in development for many years, but its finished 3D-printed body had never been seen in the public. That was true until its unveiling at TEDxWinnipeg a month ago and again two weeks later at the Winnipeg conference. About 100 people in attendance got to see it and two of us were invited to sit in the driver’s seat. With the support of Stratasys, FDM additive manufacturing technology was used to produce the entire body of the car, which looked fantastic. The Urbee team did an outstanding job with the finish of the body.
I truly hope that Jim and his team can secure the investment needed to take the car into production. Urbee deserves a chance in the marketplace and I suspect it will get it. The car has received an impressive amount national and international press, so it may be only a matter of time before the right people come together. Jim’s best-case scenario would make the car available in 2014. The price might be $50,000 in limited production, but it could drop to $10,000 in mass production.