Artist's rendering of the Urbee, an environmentally friendly car that will be featured at an international design competition in the U.S. next spring. The design team is from Winnipeg. ((CBC))

An upstart Winnipeg engineering team's idea for the world's most energy-efficient — but still practical — car of the future has been shortlisted to be showcased at a major international design contest.

Their vehicle design, called the Urbee, short for Urban Electric Car with Ethanol backup, is currently just a wooden model.

But by next spring, the first working prototype of the three-wheeled, two-passenger car will take to the road to be judged against 42 other entries at the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize competition in the U.S. Five are Canadian.

Winners will share a $10-million-US prize purse, organizers said.

The Urbee team describes the three-wheeled vehicle as a pure electric city car capable of cruising at speeds up to 64 km/h in the city and 112 km/h on the highway.

The car's two front wheels are driven by electric motors that get their power from onboard internal batteries. A single-cylinder piston engine is used for backup power on short trips or to extend the car's range on longer journeys.

Designers said the car is at its greenest when its batteries are being recharged by power produced from renewable energy such as solar power, wind, or hydroelectricity.

Other features of the green vehicle will include:

  • Rear-wheel steering.
  • Use of carbon-neutral fuel such as ethanol.
  • An aerodynamic design with large-diameter, narrow tires.
  • A 30-year lifespan before needing to be rebuilt.

Urbee team leader Jim Kor told CBC News on Tuesday the design is intentionally opposite of what's available from major automakers today.

"It's just they're feeding a market that wanted large cars and high horsepowers," Kor said, adding he feels most modern vehicles are environmental disasters when it comes to fuel use and the carbon footprint they leave behind.


Urbee design team leader Jim Kor says his goal is to advance a greener car industry. ((CBC))

Kor said the Urbee team wanted to leave a different mark on the planet with their design, which has been under development for more than a decade.

"We rolled up our sleeves and are trying to do something about it. Because we are designers, we are able to design these kinds of things. … It's [doing] our part, if you will," he said.