Q&A

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1) Why is the car called “Urbee”?
2) Are you ready to sell cars?
3) Can you quickly summarize Urbee and your project goals?
4) Why does Urbee look that way?
5) What is Urbee – a car or motorcycle?
6) Can 3D printing really be used to produce cars and motorcycles? What are the advantages of using this technology over traditional manufacturing methods?
7) Is Urbee solar-powered?
8) What are the technical principles of Urbee’s powertrain?
9) How do you charge Urbee’s batteries?
10) What fuel does Urbee’s range extender engine use?
11) How is Urbee contributing to environmental awareness and responsibility?
12) I read that Urbee’s body panels are “printed”. What does this mean and how is it different than what’s on my car?
13) How long does it take to “print” Urbee’s body panels? How does this compare to traditional methods?
14) Are Urbee’s windows also 3-D printed?
15) What kind of ink do the 3-D printers use that make Urbee?
16) Do you see 3-D printing as a viable production method for a commercial proposition, or was that simply used for prototyping?
17) Can Urbee drive in the snow?
18) Where is Urbee’s fourth wheel?
19) How does Urbee steer if the front wheels are covered? Is this safe?
20) Won’t Urbee get crushed in a collision?
21) Who will buy Urbee?
22) Can 3D printing provide more flexibility in terms of design and the materials used to build vehicles?
23) Will next-generation vehicles, perhaps those that use electric propulsion rather than an IC engine, benefit more from 3D printing technology?
24) Will 3D printing tech go mainstream in the motorcycle production context?
25) Can I invest in Urbee / KOR EcoLogic?

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1) Why is the car called “Urbee”?
Urbee is an acronym for URBan Electric vehicle with Ethanol as back-up. It’s catchy, isn’t it?
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2) Are you ready to sell cars?
We are not, as of today, in a position to produce cars. We are only at the start of the second prototype stage. After the second prototype, we would need a pilot-run of 10 or so units, and then an initial production run could be considered. As of today, the project still requires millions of dollars of investment before we are in such a position to sell cars to the public.
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3) Can you quickly summarize Urbee and your goals behind this project?
A desire to make a difference. A dedicated design team. A network of technical support. Fifteen years of R&D effort thus far. Patents initiated, worldwide. Three more years of R&D to go. The only practical car to run on solar energy in the world. Say hello to Urbee. One day, all cars will look like this.
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4) Why does Urbee look that way?
The shape of Urbee was modeled after the water drop which, when falling naturally forms itself into the most aerodynamic shape possible. To save weight and to be practical, the tail is truncated into a vertical rear end with little effect on aerodynamics. The coefficient of drag (Cd) of Urbee is an unprecedented 0.15, compared to 0.26 for a Mercedes-Benz B-Class with eco package.
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5) What is Urbee – a car or motorcycle?
Depending on local regulations, Urbee may be classified as a motorcycle due to its 3-wheel architecture and low weight. In some countries, an under-sized engine may allow further exemptions. Rest assured, Urbee will meet or exceed all safety and emissions regulations for both motorcycles and cars.

In those states or countries where URBEE must be registered as an ‘automobile’, market entry will have to wait until we can pass all the necessary automotive standards (which necessitates airbags). This will require millions of dollars just for the necessary safety testing required. So, the market must be assured within these states or countries, in order to warrant this investment.
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6) Can 3D printing really be used to produce cars and motorcycles? What are the advantages of using this technology over traditional manufacturing methods?
This technology is already finding application in the custom motorcycle business. Volumes are typically low and yet the builder can use plastic production parts for the motorcycle without the need for expensive tooling.

The plastic part that typically holds the instrument cluster comes to mind as the perfect initial application for 3D printing. If this part utilized tooling, the design of the part could not change over time – tooling produces many of the same part, and tends to ‘freeze’ the design, because tooling is typically very expensive. With 3D printing, each part can be different, based upon the design, and this capability closely fits the idea of ‘custom’ motorcycles.

The cost and strength of 3D parts makes this practical, and the process is now called ‘digital manufacturing’ or the making of production parts using 3D printers. Redeye on Demand / Stratasys, located in Minneapolis, is a world leader in the emerging field of Digital Manufacturing.
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7) Is Urbee solar-powered?
We have had increasing interest in the idea that Urbee could be operated from solar cells placed on the roof of the Urbee owner’s garage. This is technically possible, as Urbee was designed on this basis. We are considering offering an entire solar kit that would power Urbee from the home. The solar kit would certainly not be for everyone at the onset, but this is a captivating idea that would assure people that some Urbees were indeed operating solely on renewable energy. It would convince most people that it IS possible to run a practical car on solely renewable energy, without any gasoline. Moreover, photovoltaic cells could be integrated onto the large glass panels on Urbee’s roof and side windows providing energy to charge the on-board batteries.
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8) What are the technical principles of Urbee’s powertrain?
Urbee is a hybrid car, meaning it combines more than one energy source to propel the vehicle forward. Urbee uses electrical energy stored on on-board batteries to power electric motors and chemical energy from ethanol to power the internal combustion (IC) engine. At city speeds Urbee runs on pure electric and the batteries contain enough energy to satisfy most people’s range requirements. In this way, you may never need to use ethanol and Urbee can run on solely renewable energy, as in hydro, solar, wind or geothermal electricity. At highway speeds Urbee utilizes the ethanol-fueled IC engine only, as this is most efficient considering the power requirements at these speeds. When more power is needed, as for passing and uphill stretches, both electric and IC engine are used. The IC engine is also able to charge the on-board batteries through an alternator if they become depleted during driving. Generally though, you will be able to charge the batteries using a standard wall plug at your home or parking lot, if available. Technically this powertrain architecture is referred to as a series-parallel hybrid.
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9) How do you charge Urbee’s batteries?
Urbee can always plug into any regular wall outlet (120Volt, 15 Amp, or equivalent). Urbee uses an ethanol-fueled combustion engine coupled to a generator as back up to charge the batteries, and for range extension and power boosts. However, ethanol use is minimized and most trips over the year are accomplished on electrical power, which then comes from the wall plug or the optional solar array on your garage.
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10) What fuel does Urbee’s range extender engine use? Can another fuel be used?
Ideally, pure ethanol since it is renewable and carbon-neutral. However, since pure ethanol is not yet available at the pumps gasoline will initially be used. One must be careful that ethanol use, in volume, is not excessive (or else it intrudes on food supply) and that the energy audit shows a net energy gain (energy output of ethanol is greater than energy input to grow and distill it). With these cautions, and a few others, ethanol can be a great fuel, packing an equivalent punch to gasoline and burning relatively cleanly in a modern combustion engine.
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11) How is Urbee contributing to environmental awareness and responsibility?
In several ways. The use of 3-D printing to fabricate the body panels, interior trim and possibly structural components holds promise because material is only placed where one needs it. It is an additive process, building the part essentially one ‘molecule’ of material at a time, ultimately with no waste. This process can use many materials, and our goal would be to use fully-recycled or biodegradable materials. Another example is the structural frame of Urbee, which utilizes stainless steel that has a long fatigue life and won’t corrode. Urbee, by design, minimizes the amount of energy required to move forward, through efficient aerodynamics, incorporating three versus four wheels, using narrow motorcycle-type tires versus wide car tires, and by being mainly powered by electric motors with few efficiency losses. All this results in Urbee consuming 1/8th the energy of a conventional passenger vehicle, offsetting CO2 emissions and sipping much less fuel, whether electric or liquid-fuel based. Urbee has been designed to last 30 years and be easily repairable and maintained. Can you say the same for your car?
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12) I read that Urbee’s body panels are “printed”. What does this mean and how is it different than what’s on my car?

In fact Urbee is the first car body to be 3-D printed, in the world! These printers work under the same principles as your home printer, but instead of the printer head depositing ink onto a sheet that is being fed through by rollers, 3-D printers deposit the material (in our case ABS plastic) one particle at a time, layer by layer and “builds up” the overall structure in three dimensions, ultimately with no waste. In fact, complete assemblies with moving parts that are structurally sound can be made this way! Typically to make the stamped sheet metal body panels on your car requires several stages of development and very expensive tooling/molds that are nearly impossible to modify once complete. The panels must then be welded together, treated for corrosion resistance, painted and finally assembled with integrating components. 3-D printing does away with all of this. Once commercialized, it could revolutionize the manufacturing industry and eventually the world.
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13) How long does it take to “print” Urbee’s body panels? How does this compare to traditional methods?
Right now this process is still under development and has historically been used to produce only relatively small parts used for prototyping. Urbee is the first car ever to have the whole body printed, and each part can take anywhere from several hours to several days. Advancements are occurring rapidly and it won’t be long before 3-D printing becomes a viable production option with much quicker throughput times. Comparatively, traditional metal stamping of large body panels takes only a few seconds, but the exorbitant development costs can only be warranted by high volume production.
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14) Are Urbee’s windows also 3-D printed?
For our first prototype Urbee’s windows were also printed, but only to serve as patterns for fabricating the tinted glass windows. These are currently being hand-made by AccuraGlass.
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15) What kind of ink do the 3-D printers use that make Urbee?
The printers don’t actually use ink. The plastic comes in the form of whitish small pellets that are melted to create thin strands of plastic that are then deposited one layer at a time to eventually form the solid part. This part is then “prepared” for painting using traditional methods of sanding, priming, painting, and gel coating. Though we are not the experts, one day it may be possible to 3-D print and paint the components all in one step. Stay tuned!
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16) Do you see 3-D printing as a viable production method for a commercial proposition, or was that simply used for prototyping ?
When we started our partnership with Stratasys (the company that 3-D printed our body), we had in mind that this process would be used only for prototyping, but people within Stratasys have been working very hard at making this process a viable production method (called ‘digital manufacturing’).

We now believe that this is indeed a viable production method. From a design point of view 3-D printing has many advantages. For example, there is no hard tooling required. The designer is essentially free to place the material wherever it is needed, and each production part can be made unique. This process could revolutionize how we make things. Scaling parts is a matter of pointing and clicking. The same computer files that made the scale model of Urbee were used to make the full-size body panels. Might we ultimately get to the point where Urbee body designs could be made available for download then locally produced? This process of 3-D printing turned into ‘digital manufacturing’ would change the way we replace parts within machines. You could have an inventory of computer files on hand, stored somewhere in the world, and utilize the closest 3-D printing facility available to create the part.
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17) Can Urbee drive in the snow?
Yes. In fact narrow tires cut through snow much better than wide tires, as evident in rally car races. A “knobby” winter tire will be available for winter and loose terrain for added grip. Ground clearance is similar to conventional vehicles and will be adjustable for added clearance in winter.
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18) Where is Urbee’s fourth wheel?
Urbee is a three-wheel vehicle. The lack of a fourth wheel reduces frictional resistance and weight through the elimination of a fourth tire, rim, brake caliper and disc, axle, suspension and connecting mounts and hardware.
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19) How does Urbee steer if the front wheels are covered? Is this safe?
Urbee steers using the rear wheel only, similar to street cleaners, some riding lawnmowers and the world-record top speed holder the ThrustSSC. This system has been tested, is safe, and only takes a few minutes to get used to. Urbee was designed this way to reduce aerodynamic drag caused by open wheel wells and to reduce the overall vehicle width resulting in a smaller frontal area, again reducing aerodynamic drag and some weight.
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20) Won’t Urbee get crushed in a collision?
No. Urbee will meet or exceed passenger vehicle safety standards in North America and Europe. Unlike popular belief, the miniature Smart ForTwo is one of the safest cars on the road thanks to clever structural design. And contrary to popular belief, SUVs are not the safest vehicles on the road due to their high center of gravity and roll instability.

Urbee will utilize similar race car technologies that have resulted in few to zero deaths in stock cars and drag racers in the recent past. We plan to design URBEE to pass the official technical safety inspection for the 24 hour Le Mans race in France. This race is meant for cars that could be used to get groceries, as well as for racing. So, they must have turn signals, high and low beam lights, and all of those things production cars must have. This requirement, of passing the safety technical inspection for Le Mans, will (we believe) assure occupant safety and vehicle crashworthiness within URBEE.

We have also started, and plan to continue, using computer crash simulation software, in order to evaluate the crashworthiness of the URBEE chassis structure (and optimize it for crashworthiness).

Our goal, with the final production URBEE, is to exceed most, if not all, current automotive safety standards.
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21) Who will buy Urbee?
The customer we always had in mind was you and I, but on a worldwide scale – people that work hard for a living. Responsible people that have to put up with a lot, have to get things done each day, and need a helping hand from technology. This is the car that, since its inception, we envisioned we would use to do most of our running around in. For families we envisioned this as the second family car. For students, it could be their first car, and for retired people, perhaps their last car. Due to its long-life design, for some people it could be the only car they ever own. We believe Urbee is the perfect urban vehicle for the 21st Century. Every urban centre in the world could benefit from adopting this technology, and would allow shifting towards a more sustainable path.
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22) Can 3D printing provide more flexibility in terms of design and the materials used to build vehicles?
Yes, absolutely. Using 3D printers liberates designers to think of highly complex structures at the concept and design stages, knowing that digital manufacturing can make these parts, which they can visualize, in production.

Opportunities will arise, we believe, in the areas of making of very light and strong parts, utilizing a wide variety of materials (plastics, metals, etc.), and hopefully more environmental materials that are 100% recyclable. Also, this reduces or eliminates waste because this is an additive process that only places material where one needs it, allowing greater customization and flexibility at the production level (due to no need for tooling).

3D printing will also allow easier and faster entry into production by both start-ups and established manufacturers (mainly because no tooling is required) and will allow the integration of many traditionally simpler parts into fewer, much more complicated 3D printed parts. This will be more economical and may also lead to overall better design.
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23) Will next-generation vehicles, perhaps those that use electric propulsion rather than an IC engine, benefit more from 3D printing technology?
We think digital manufacturing will benefit a wide variety of manufacturers and customers. Early adopters will likely be start-ups – possibly such as next-gen electric motorcycles – but the very large corporations that visualize the potential benefits are also using this technology.
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24) Will 3D printing tech go mainstream in the motorcycle production context?
Production parts are being made NOW using 3D printing technology. They are built into production motorcycles and cars that are sold to the public. We have no doubt that these parts will grow in number and in variety as the advantages of digital manufacturing are better understood, and as costs involved continue to come down.
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25) Can I invest in Urbee / KOR EcoLogic?
We are not, as of today, in a position to produce cars. We are only at the start of the second prototype stage. After the second prototype, we would need a pilot-run of 10 or so units, and then an initial production run could be considered. As of today, the project still requires millions of dollars of investment before we are in such a position to sell cars to the public.

We plan to design the second prototype almost exclusively for Digital Manufacturing (3D printed exterior and interior body panels). Most importantly, this will allow for significantly improved design. Also, it does indeed hold potential for ‘acceptable economy’ as 3D printing costs come down dramatically, and we anticipate this downward trend to continue.

Our background is designing and engineering production farm equipment, city and inter-city buses, and automotive components, among many other consumer products. The majority of what our group has worked on in our careers has been ‘new design’ that went into production and was sold to, and used by, the public. Many of the tractors and swathers we designed 30+ years ago are still working within the USA and Canada, and when one is spotted, we stop to look at each one in detail. So, engineering URBEE for a specific market segment is something we can professionally accomplish, given adequate budget and time. However, we realize the overall risk is high in such a start-up venture (here we refer to technical, marketing, and financial risk).

When we have designed tractors, combines, swathers, buses, and car components, it was for companies that already sold into existing markets. We were part of their Engineering Department that designed new machines for existing customers. What funded these Engineering efforts was an existing production line that generated revenue and profits, which became the revenue stream for R&D. The URBEE project has no such revenue stream to fund its R&D. This makes advancing this project very difficult, from a financial point of view.

To move URBEE through the prototype stages, we have been, and continue to be, extremely innovative in how we finance the project. We utilize a combination of self-funding, in-kind support from sponsors, Canadian Government support, and donations from around the world. During the project, at various times, we have attempted to attract venture capitalists. However, we now feel this is not a good fit for us at this time, considering the stage we are at within the project.

The project remains cash starved, but worldwide reaction to our latest announcement has been overwhelming. We now believe adequate funding will develop for us to complete the second prototype (URBEE 2). After the URBEE road trip across the USA, we will likely be in a good position to again look at venture capital or to attract an appropriate corporate manufacturer for URBEE.

We believe the value of the URBEE project will increase dramatically after the USA road trip. We have designed this USA road trip as a test to prove the capabilities of URBEE in using very little energy while safely blending with existing highway and city traffic.

We hope to achieve a Guinness World Record with this USA road trip, which will further validate our claims of low energy. It will take our group enormous effort, personal sacrifice, and financial hardship to achieve this goal. However, once achieved, we believe the media that has always shown an interest in the URBEE project will give this accomplishment worldwide attention. And we believe that will put our group in a very good position to advance this project to a pilot-run stage, and beyond into production. At that point, several years from now, outside financial investment into the URBEE project will likely become a necessity.

Venture capitalists focused on investing in green, sustainable technologies, and with background in funding significant Research and Development, are welcomed to contact us. We will gladly maintain your email on file, and we will be sure to alert you when we feel we are in a position to seriously consider proposals from the venture capital community.
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26) What are the difficulties of sustainable or EcoLogical design?
It is relatively easy to design with lots of power available, with no concern for the environment, and for a brief life (knowing the landfill is there to accept it, and consumers will willingly throw it away). This we could call lazy design.

Sophisticated design is when one strives for:

a) simplicity (it takes w-a-y longer to design a simple product)

b) ecological responsibility (which requires a broad knowledge base, and absolutely limits one to very few energy and material choices)

c) long life (designing durable, lightweight products that can stand the test of time, by being easily maintained, repaired, and rebuilt, is far from easy, …. it requires an intimacy with the product in the real world, over time, in order to make it survive).

So, as we see it, this is the challenge:

Design today is faulty (Ivan Illich said this, and we agree).

Change the design, and things will improve. We believe this is true, with a longer view in mind.
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