Urbee’s approach to maximum miles per gallon starts with lightweight construction – something that 3-D printing is particularly well suited for. The designers were able to focus more on the optimal automobile physics, rather than working to install a hyper efficient motor in a heavy steel-body automobile. As the Urbee shows, making a car with this technology has a slew of beneficial side effects.

(Jim) Kor and his team built the three-wheel, two-passenger vehicle at RedEye, an on-demand 3-D printing facility. The printers he uses create ABS plastic via Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The printer sprays molten polymer to build the chassis layer by microscopic layer until it arrives at the complete object. The machines are so automated that the building process they perform is known as “lights out” construction, meaning Kor uploads the design for a bumper, walk away, shut off the lights and leaves. A few hundred hours later, he’s got a bumper. The whole car – which is about 10 feet long – takes about 2,500 hours.

Besides easy reproduction, making the car body via FDM affords Kor the precise control that would be impossible with sheet metal. When he builds the aforementioned bumper, the printer can add thickness and rigidity to specific sections. When applied to the right spots, this makes for a fender that’s as resilient as the one on your Prius, but much lighter. That translates to less weight to push, and a lighter car means more miles per gallon. And the current model has a curb weight of just 1,200 pounds.

To negotiate the inevitable obstacles presented by a potentially incredulous NHSTA and DOT, the answer is easy. “In many states and many countries, Urbee will be technically registered as a motorcycle,” Kor says. It makes sense. With three wheels and a curb weight of less than 1,200 pounds, it’s more motorcycle than passenger car.

Kor already has 14 orders, mostly from people who worked on the design with him. The original Urbee prototype was estimated to cost around $50,000.

via Wired

Engineer Jim Kor and his design for the Urbee 2

Urbee 2

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