Kor was intrigued by the idea, and began sketching on a paper napkin. "It was a side view of a car that looked like a more aerodynamic Smart car, a two-seater," he says. Within days, conceptualization and design work began on a vehicle intended for urban use, powered by electric motors and a small, ethanol-fueled combustion engine.
Those key words—urban, electric, ethanol—gave the Urbee its name, and Kor Ecologic spent more than a decade refining the design.
This was in 1996 by the fall of 2008, Kor and his team had a full computer model and a partial physical model of a hybrid that would get about 300 mpg. The process was smooth—Kor has worked with the same group of designers and engineers for decades—but not without some disagreement.
"There were two of us that knew the aerodynamics really well, and two industrial designers," Kor recalls." The industrial designers kept saying, 'It can't look like a jellybean.' But I was adamant that the design must be efficient first, and then we would design for the look. Most cars are done the other way around—they start with how they want the car to look, and then they try to find ways to make it efficient."
For years, major automotive manufacturers have been using 3D printing for prototyping. However, the automotive industry is poised to begin applying the process to more than just prototypes of small custom parts. The two passenger Urbee, billed as the world’s first printed car created by KOR EcoLogic, dismisses preconceptions about limits to 3D printing sizes.
To be clear, not all parts are 3D–printed — just the shell of this hybrid prototype car — though interior components are planned to be 3D printed . Urbee has planted the seed for mass customization of large-scale car components. Watch for unique car styles, designs and shapes to appear in the near future.
The Urbee (“urban electric”) boasts of the world’s first 3D–printed car body, an ultra aerodynamic design and high energy efficiency. The hybrid car uses renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro) and ethanol (for long distances). Future plans include 3D printing the interior (far below).
In an interview to Wizards Island Mr. Kor said "FDM technology made it easy and efficient to make design changes in the Urbee along the way, It also helped us meet our environmental goals by eliminating tooling, machining and handwork. If you can get to a pilot run without any tooling, you have advantages."
URBEE is a return to fundamentals, and a rethink of traditional automotive design and manufacturing. As a species endangered by our own actions, we must quickly learn to stop burning fossil fuels. Surely, the ultimate goal of Design is to serve the ‘public good’. Therefore, corporations and individual designers have a responsibility to offer products that are not only useful, but in balance with the environment. They have already initiated crowd-funding to create the greenest car on Earth, URBEE 2.
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