We first saw the URB-E electric vehicle three years ago, when the company debuted a prototype at CES 2014. We got a chance to take the first production model for a spin in December of 2015, and came away impressed. Today the company is unveiling four new units and a range of accessories that extend its capabilities beyond simple transportation.
The most interesting of these new vehicles is the URB-E Sport. It costs $899, including shipping, which means its about 40 percent cheaper than the model we reviewed, which retailed for $1,500. The URB-E sport is also 15 percent lighter, weighing in at 30 pounds instead of 35. It has given up a little range and speed, dropping to 16 miles of range on a single charge, and a top speed of 14 miles per hour. But a new pushrod suspension system makes for a much smoother ride.
Those are the big new features for transportation. The other major change is to the charging system. The original had a USB port you could connect in order to charge your phone while you were riding. But the new models let you pop out the battery, providing you with four USB ports, a USB-C port, and the option of two AC power slots. Millennials just love their gadgets! If you’re using URB-E to work outdoors, the battery provides enough juice to charge a MacBook five times or an iPhone 40 times over, and it can charge up to five devices at once. Just make sure to leave enough power for your trip home.
The Sport model may broaden URB-E’s appeal by cutting the price and weight. For customers that want to go in the opposite direction, URB-E is also releasing its Pro edition. This model has bigger 10-inch tires which the company says can handle off-road conditions like wet grass, loose gravel, and dirt. It also offers more torque and changes the design from front to rear-wheel drive, making it far easier to control. The URB-E pro retails for $1,699 and the more powerful Pro-GT costs $1,999. The Sport edition also comes in regular and GT flavors.
URB-E puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that it designs, manufactures, and assembles its products entirely in the US. It’s headquartered in Pasadena, California, an area that has deep roots in the aviation industry. All its new vehicles are made of 6061 T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, milled and molded in a factory that also makes parts for the likes of Boeing. “Having our design, engineering, and manufacturing all in one place allows us to push a really aggressive pace,” says CEO Peter Lee. “We took feedback from the thousands of customers who purchased our first unit, and rolled that into six new products over the course of this past year.”
Along with the new URB-E vehicles the company is also introducing a foldable trailer you can hitch to the back of your ride. It can carry up to 300 pounds and be configured as a flatbed, three-quarter pallet, or four-sided cart. URB-E says its first unit got a lot of use from production crews working outdoor events who wanted something smaller than a golf cart. This accessory is meant to give those users a way to add serious towing capacity if they need it.
URB-E is backed by a group of private investors and so far hasn’t disclosed exactly who that group is or how much money has been put into the company. Lee said that sales have helped it start to generate serious cash flow, and that the company is looking into strategic partnerships with car companies. It is also hoping to find commercial partners to buy URB-E in bulk, for example theme parks who want to offer guests an option for getting around quickly. At this year’s CES the company partnered with Pandora, crafting a massive speaker system that hitches to the back of an URB-E to become a mobile party patrol.
It’s been fascinating watching the URB-E evolve over the last three years. The prototype I rode on the show floor at CES in 2014 felt like a nice idea that was too silly to actually catch on. The production model managed to step things up to the point where I could see how owning one would be useful for certain urban commutes. But the price tag made it a tough sell. The Sport edition seems like a strong next step, a unit that’s lighter, cheaper, and easier to drive. I still have a hard time imaging this product becoming a mainstream success, but the company has a history of exceeding my expectations.