Jim Kor has high hopes for the Urbee 2, the 3D-printed, super light three-wheeled car he hopes to begin production on soon. If Kor's plan comes to fruition, the Urbee 2 could revolutionize how we build cars, as well our perception of what a car is.
The three-wheeled hybrid Urbee 2 weighs only 1,200 pounds, and was printed at RedEye's 3D-printing facility using a process called Fused Deposition Modeling. FDM works by laying down hyper-thin layers (0.04 mm) of melted plastic filament, slowly constructing a piece of the Urbee. The resulting piece, a bumper for instance, is just as strong as its steel counterparts in standard cars, and much, much lighter.
RedEye's printers are also highly automated. So automated that, after inputting the designs for a part, the team can take advantage of the company's "lights out" construction, and just leave the printers to build the part. As Wired reports, an entire Urbee takes about 2,500 hours to print.
The precision used in 3D-printing plastic means that a car can be made with much fewer parts than in bolting together and welding heavy pieces of steel. "The thesis we're following is to take small parts from a big car and make them single large pieces," Kor told Wired. "By using one piece instead of many, the car loses weight and gets reduced rolling resistance, and with fewer spaces between parts, the Urbee ends up being exceptionally aerodynamic."
The 10-foot Urbee, in addition to being featherlight, is also incredibly aerodynamic. The two-seater boasts a 0.15 coefficient of drag. For comparison, a boxy Jeep Wrangler has a 0.58 coefficient of drag.
Kor also has high safety hopes for his Urbee: "We're calling it race car safety. We want the car to pass the tech inspection required at Le Mans." Le Mans safety means the car needs all the things that a production car has, like high-beam headlights and turn signals. The Urbee also has a tubular metal roll cage surrounding the driver.
The team is not just making the Urbee match up with other cars' safety. "Our goal with the final production Urbee is to exceed most, if not all, current automotive safety standards," Kor said.
To government bodies, though, the Urbee will not be a car, according to Kor: "In many states and many countries, Urbee will be technically registered as a motorcycle."
The original Urbee prototype cost $50,000 to build, and the company has already accepted 14 orders, mostly from people who helped design the car.
Check out a test drive of the Urbee prototype below: