This Planned Electric Three-Wheeler Looks Fantastic And Has A Novel Solution
For Charging
Sep 19, 2017  Jason Torchinsky


I get emails about concepts and proposals and grand automotive schemes all
the time. It’s pretty rare that any of them actually come to fruition. But I
was sent one that, while still very much non-existent, was charming and
interesting enough that I want to show it to all of you. It’s called NOBE
(the website doesn’t seem to work yet), it’s Estonian, and just look at the
damn thing.

I’m a sucker for weird old microcars and retro designs, so this thing is
pretty much just a thirst trap tailor-made to rope me in. Whatever; it
worked. I think the design for this is absolutely lovely, and if they can
somehow maintain the look in a production model (I’m told a physical
prototype is about to be built), I’ll be thrilled.

The design is clearly based on a late ‘50 to early ‘60s-era European
automotive design vocabulary. The front end feels a lot like an Alfa Romeo
Giulietta, with the central triangular grille inverted here.

The rear quarter windows and greenhouse profile sort of remind me of a
Studebaker Avanti, and from above the tail-dragging three-wheel design and
overall teardrop shape with the open roof remind me a bit of a Messerschmitt
Kabinenroller. There’s a lot of design references going on here, but overall
I think it manages to work together.

The three-wheel design also gives me some hope for the car, because three
wheels means that it could, hypothetically, come to the U.S. and be free
from all those crash-testing rules that we all know it won’t pass. The one
good thing Elio has done is paved the way for three-wheeled cars to be legal
in most states, so that lack of a fourth wheel is actually what makes this
actually plausible for sale in America.

The proposed specs on the NOBE are that its electric, making a maximum 45
kW, or 60 horsepower, which seems pretty substantial for something like
this. That 60 hp seems to be spread over three motors, I suppose each making
20 hp?
They’re optimistic about the future.

The range is targeted at 160 km, or 100 miles, which, again, would be very
good; that’s about on par with what current Nissan Leafs get, and, trust me,
you’d much rather be seen in one of these.

Technically, it’s an interesting three-wheeler because it’s all-wheel drive;
I guess it’d be a 3x3? I’d only seen that on specialized ATVs, so it’s
interesting to see it proposed here.

What’s most interesting to me is an innovation you can see in that diagram
to the right there. The main battery is that big box up front, but look
right behind it, in the passenger’s footwell—see that little beige box?

That’s a battery, too. This briefcase-mounted battery is designed to be
easily removed and taken from the car for recharging. It acts as a
supplemental auxiliary battery, either providing power for auxiliary systems
or providing up to 40 km (24 miles) of additional range.

I think this is a fantastic solution for how to deal with the
still-very-inadequate charging infrastructure. Even if you have nowhere to
charge your car at your office or home or a friend’s place or whatever, it’s
a great way to be sure you can at least get an extra 20 miles of range to
get home or wherever.

Now, this is all just a concept, but based on some other work I’d done
involving the idea of removable batteries, I think such a battery, with
about 20-25 miles of range, could weigh about 40 lbs. Maybe less, since the
demands of the NOBE are not as much as what I was looking at. That’s
definitely more on the luggable side, but it is possible.

The NOBE people also described a plan to me about a way to tow the car with
a normal, full-sized car to charge it up. Like, you’d tow it like a trailer
to a big city, park the full-size car outside the city, and use your
charming little electric three-wheeler in the dense metropolis, all charged
up from the drive.

I have no idea if this project is likely to happen or not, but I’m rooting
for it. The team is made up of people from Estonian racing car companies
like RSMotorsport and RaceTech, so there appears to at least be some
practical experience behind these charming ideas. I was also told by email
that these guys have mortgaged their homes to get this off the ground, so
they seem to have some skin in the game, too.

Getting into the car business is tough no matter what, and who knows what
will happen? What I do know is that this is an appealing concept, with at
least one actual new idea that feels promising. I’d love to see some of
these things buzzing around, looking all lovely and colorful, and watching
their happy owners’ arms twitch and strain as they lug little leather
suitcases full of batteries into coffee shops and offices.

Best of luck, you crazy Estonians. I want to drive that prototype when you
get it done!

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