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This article was published 15/9/2011 (3609 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of Winnipeg inventors is one step closer to fulfilling a 15-year dream of building an energy-efficient passenger vehicle that could remain on the road decades after the use of fossil fuel becomes impractical.
On Thursday night at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, mechanical engineer Jim Kor unveiled a nearly complete prototype of the Urbee Car, an electric-ethanol hybrid vehicle he and 11 other engineers and designers have been hoping to take to market since he first hatched the idea in a St. James coffee shop in 1996.
The ultra-lightweight, two-passenger car was designed from scratch to require one-eighth the energy of a small, conventional passenger vehicle. It has a single-cylinder, eight-horsepower engine, a body manufactured with the use of a three-dimensional printer and is intended to last up to three decades, Kor said before he was scheduled to talk about the car at TedxWinnipeg, a presentation of made-in-Winnipeg ideas.
On display in the WAG lobby, the low-slung, pill-shaped Urbee Car prototype bears little resemblance to existing subcompacts. For starters, it doesn't have a trunk.
"We believe one day all cars will be shaped like this because they will have to be shaped like this," said Kor, a 59-year-old former farm-equipment designer and now president of Kor EcoLogic.
The principle behind the Urbee Car is to rid passenger automobiles, which often transport only the driver, of their unnecessary power and carrying capacity.
"True progress means using less horsepower," Kor said, noting even the smallest conventional passenger vehicles have 68-horsepower engines.
To whittle down the energy needs of the passenger car, Kor's team started by coming up with a way to reduce resistance. After crunching the numbers and getting them reviewed by peers in the engineering world, they built models, conducted wind-tunnel tests and are now in the midst of test crashes to ensure the Urbee Car is safe to drive on the road.
Considerable hurdles remain before the vehicle can go to market. Kor's team must raise at least $1 million to build a second prototype before they carry through with a plan to build 12 working cars -- one for each project member.
Kor said the vehicle would cost $30,000 to $50,000 in limited production and even less if it's mass-produced, partly because three-dimensional material printing is faster and cheaper than building body moulds. He also surmised consumers will get a better deal out of the vehicle because of its lengthy intended lifespan -- a feature intended to reduce the use of materials.
The Urbee Car was one of eight concepts presented at Thursday night's inaugural TedxWinnipeg, a concept based on similar presentations in other cities.
"There are some fantastic ideas in this city that nobody knows about," said Jamie Townsend, organizer of the sold-out event, which may move to a larger venue in 2012.