The Urbee: just around the corner?

When you wish to engineer a car these days something will inevitably come up at some point. The question of how green your car will be in the end is a substantial aspect of every car’s engineering plan. So yes, how environmentally friendly should it be? You could build it from recycled material or fill it up with energy from renewable sources, for example. However, a shy, modest man from Canada is going for the big leap: Jim Kor and his team are working on building the greenest car in the world. The cherry on cake: a 3D printer produces most of the vehicle!

Astonishing performance predicted

A while back Jim Kor was invited to present his idea at a prestigious TED convention.[1] The buzz surrounding the idea for his prototype is justified: Kor is the senior designer and project leader of Urbee, the name of a car that could revolutionise mobility forever. At first, the design of the three-wheeler looks a bit like a colourful pill. On a second glance, however, it just makes you think that it’s out-of-space. Funny, because the car’s body actually comes out of the printer (so not from space), a 3D printer to be exact. The benefits resulting from this manufacture procedure should be fairly clear: it’s fast and very cheap. The price category hasn’t been precisely calculated for the Urbee but it will be seriously cheap should it ever go into mass production. Further, both a battery and an internal combustion engine propel the Urbee. Because it hardly weighs anything, the Urbee’s performance is said to be mind blowing. Calculations so far predict that it will require 0.8 litres fuel to cover a full one hundred kilometres.[2]

Financial problems

Kor and his team are currently running a promotion: if they get enough funding to actually make the prototype then they will drive it from San Francisco to New York. Estimated amount of fuel required for crossing the entire US: around 38 litres. That’s more than four thousand kilometres on a single filling. It sounds almost too good to be true. And that’s maybe why the reception hasn’t been outstanding. The team is struggling to attract enough investment for their idea. Their pitch on a crowdfunding site will almost certainly fail to reach its goal. The team rejects doubts about safety but officially no one can really say how safe chassis parts from a 3D printer are. That’s simply because no one has done it before. Yet, the idea seems promising and Kor’s enthusiasm is inspiring. What do you think? Does the future of the automobile lie in the hands of 3D printers?

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