Urbee: The 3D Car That Could Soon Be Coming to a Road Near You

Posted on February 28, 2013

Additional hybrid and electric vehicles are seen along the highway every year.  Regular automobiles are getting better gas mileage than ever.  The newest vehicles on the road are equipped with safety systems that do such science fiction-seeming things as hit the brakes to avoid a crash or alert the driver when he or she is drowsy.  Google is even testing a squadron of self-driving cars that could completely turn travel on its head.

We’re truly living in an era of innovation when it comes to vehicles, and a new article shows us that we might be just beginning.  The subject of that report is the Urbee 2, a vehicle which its makers believe could make it to New York from San Francisco using only ten gallons of gas.  But before that benchmark is reached, designers have some work to do, and they need an investment to do it.

Some information is in order.  The Urbee would be the first vehicle consisting of 3D-printed materials.  A printing facility is responsible for creating microscopic layers of molten polymer that are painstakingly heaped on top of one another, with overseers able to produce additional rigidity and thickness where needed.  It’s all part of a process known as Fused Deposition Modeling, and when each part of the vehicle is complete, a process which can take hundreds of hours, it can be added to the main body of the car.

All in all, it would take about 50 3D-printed pieces and 2,500 or so hours to make an entire vehicle.  But the Urbee would necessarily have a couple parts consisting of metal.    The chassis would be metal, as would the hybrid engine that operates off of a 36 volt electric motor.  A fuel tank will take over the operation when the vehicle reaches 40 miles per hour.

Once the vehicle is done, engineers explain that there’s a good chance operating it will require the same license one would need for a motorcycle.  Its three wheels and lightweight structure (1,200 pounds) mean that it has more in common with that than your standard automobile.

But this lightweight nature, combined with a preponderance of components made of plastic, means that safety concerns might arise.  To that end, designers have been putting the Urbee through rigorous simulation testing, but they’re waiting on investors before they take such tests further.  The team will also place a metal cage in the vehicle in order to encase the driver safely.  The vehicle will also come equipped with all those things we take for granted in regular automobiles:  headlights, turn signals, and more.

There’s no word on when the vehicle will be available to purchase, but there’s already a short list of ready buyers.

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