Back in 2010, KOR Ecologic unveiled their 3D printed car URBEE to much fanfare. Built around a 5hp hybrid engine, the aerodynamic vehicle was capable of achieving 200mpg and helped spark considerable interest in 3D printing.
Building on the success of their original design, KOR Ecologic is teaming up with RedEye On Demand and Stratasys to create a second generation URBEE that looks to push fuel efficiency even further.
The premise behind URBEE 2 is simple: Create a car that is so efficient it can travel across the United States on only 10 gallons of bio-fuel. As with all ambitious engineering projects, however, it’s the getting there that’s hard.
To design a car that can make the nearly 3,000 mile (4,676 km) journey from New York to San Francisco, URBEE 2’s designers have had to shed nearly 1/3 of the original URBEE’s 1,600lb (726kg) weight and tweak the aerodynamics of the car’s 3D printed body. Even after those significant changes, however, Urbee’s engineers were far from finished.
To bring the car to peak efficiency, URBEE’s engineers designed the car to be a series-parallel hybrid. With two energy sources powering the vehicle, the URBEE can cruise using either its battery powered, front wheel drive electric motors or it’s 7-8HP single cylinder diesel engine. To charge the vehicle’s batteries, URBEE recaptures a good deal of its kinetic energy using regenerative braking systems. Energy captured in this way is stored in ultracapacitors that can hold 0.5HP-hours each. Additionally, if URBEE requires a quick boost of power both the diesel engine and the electric motors can run simultaneously. According to KOR Ecologic, URBEE will be capable of cruising at 70mph (110km/h), which should allow it to keep pace with most highway traffic.
Although URBEE 2 will likely be remembered as one of the most fuel-efficient cars ever made, it should also be lauded for its use of 3D printing. "Everything you typically see and touch on the car, as you drive the car, will be 3D printed." Said Jim Kor, chief designer at KOR Ecologic. “With Urbee 2, more than 50 percent of the car will be 3D printed".
While I do have questions about how safe URBEE might be on the highway, the simple fact that a 3D printed car exists is pretty incredible. If URBEE can complete its 10-gallon trip across the US, it’ll have successfully pushed the fuel-efficiency envelope far beyond what many thought possible. Whether its design will ever be commercialized, though, is a completely different story.
Images and Video Courtesy of Kor EcoLogic