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World’s “greenest” passenger car designed by alumnus

December 3, 2012 — 

It’s estimated there are 1 billion cars currently on the road across our planet. By 2050 there will be 2.5 billion. The rampant consumption of fossil fuels by these automobiles is an unsustainable drain on the world’s energy, and the resultant dumping of carbon into the atmosphere comes at a grave cost to the environment.

If you are an electric vehicle enthusiast, you’ve probably already heard of URBEE. This exciting made-in-Manitoba “green” vehicle has been making headlines due to its unique design approach. Built right here in Manitoba, URBEE is the prototype for a 21st century approach to automotive design that redefines energy efficiency and minimizes impact on the environment.

There is much about URBEE that is highly innovative. However, the innovation does not lie in expensive start-of-the-art technology, the use of expensive materials, or complicated manufacturing processes. URBEE’s innovation is that it uses widely available materials and components in original ways.

The designers of URBEE have attempted to maximize the distance that can be traveled per unit of energy consumed by minimizing seven important properties of the car: weight, coefficient of aerodynamic drag (Cd), rolling resistance (Crr), frontal area, maximum speed, and maximum acceleration.

The Coefficient of Drag (called “Cd”) for a vehicle is one of three things that affect how much energy is required to overcome aerodynamic resistance. It is a number that describes the ‘slipperyness’ of a shape as it passes through the air. Urbee is being designed to have a Cd about half that of a traditional sports car.

The coefficient of rolling resistance of URBEE is as low possible by using large diameter motorcycle tires inflated to high pressure. As well, the cross sectional profile selected for the tire has a very small contact surface with the road.

The frontal area of a vehicle is approximately equal to its width multiplied by its height. The roof of URBEE is as low to the ground as the lowest production car ever made, the Ford GT-40, which was 40 inches above the ground. The width of the vehicle was mimimized by placing the two occupants as close as comfortably possible to each other.

Finally, by reducing the maximum speed and acceleration of Urbee compared to what many other cars are capable of, the maximum horsepower required to power the car can be dramatically reduced. The smaller motor/engine size in turn decreases the weight of the vehicle and increases the range.

If you haven’t heard of URBEE, or would like to know more, there’s now a documentary on the team and the vehicle. The URBEE documentary (found on MTS on Demand) is the story of the building of the urban vehicle of the future. URBEE is arguably the world’s “greenest” passenger car, and it’s being built in Winnipeg!

URBEE is designed and constructed by an elite group of Winnipeg engineers, industrial designers and environmental enthusiasts led by Jim Kor (M.E./74).

For more information on URBEE go to

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