The American road trip has enticed adventurers and vagabonds since the car was first invented. And while the lure of the open road may never lose its appeal, what continues to change is the kind of vehicles we take on these trips. Tyler and Cody Kor, Canadian brothers who share a love for engineering and motor adventures, plan on paying homage to the great American road trip in 2015 by taking the same trip that Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker, the first folks ever to drive across the country, took back in 1903. The difference is that the Kors will be driving the URBEE 2, a 3-D printed car.
The Kors have decided to really throw down the gauntlet on this challenge, though. They claim they’ll make the same 3000-mile trip that took Jackson and Crocker 63 days in a mere 44 hours. They also claim that they’ll do it on 10 gallons of ethanol fuel, which would get a normal car about 300 miles. The Kors boast that the URBEE is the “greenest car on Earth.”
The URBEE 2, which looks like a cross between a beetle, a space capsule, and a car, has a shell, interior, and parts of the frame 3D printed from plastic, which makes the car much lighter than conventional ones. The aerodynamic design has a drag coefficient that is about .15 — some fish get more draft than that.
URBEE’s power comes from a single-cylinder engine that can run on diesel or ethanol. Instead of the engine directly turning the wheels, URBEE’s engine charges batteries which are networked to the car’s 16-horsepower electric motor. While 16 horsepower isn’t much, it’s enough for this vehicle to drive at 70 mph. The URBEE 2 has three wheels — two in front and one in the back.
The Kors are funding their journey via a Kickstarter campaign for the book they plan to write after they finish, which they believe will be available in 2015. With four days left, they’re only about 20% of the way to their goal, so they need a little bit of love (and financial backing). Their big-picture goals are laudable. They project that the 1 billion cars in the world today will jump to 2.5 billion by 2050, and “if these are similar to today’s cars, this spells disaster. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2050, unless 2/3 of all known fossil fuel reserves stay in the ground, the climate would move the world to a non-habitable state. How these future 2.5 billion cars are designed is serious business.” They want to rethink auto manufacturing at a fundamental level, which makes all kinds of sense to me.
Despite our investment in an auto industry that revolves around more conventional, gas-guzzling cars, I hope the URBEE catches on. Whatever happens, this probably won’t be the most comfortable ride — with two guys and their dog, Cupid, the inside of the car will be pretty cramped. That’ll just make it sweeter when they set the world record by reaching California in record time with a thimbleful of fuel.