Robert Q. Riley Enterprises: Product Design & Development

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Urba Electric on Cover of Mechanix Illlustrated

UE Chassis
Chassis of Urba Electric

UE With Clam Shell Canopy Open

UE On Lawn at Nearby Park
Urba Electirc on lawn at nearby park.

One of Peter Gowland's models brought along to pose.
A toothpaste model brought along by Peter Gowland leans on Urba Electric

Editor Bob Beason & Peter Gowland
Peter Gowland and Editor Bob Beason get ready to photograph the interior of Urba Electric.


Plans Include..
  14 - 17 x 22
    inch drawings
  32-page book

Price... $75

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The World's Finest Plans-Built Projects

Urba Electric...

A Classic EV Design With Advanced Features

MI Editor Robert G. Beason holds reflector for Peter Gowland's cover shot.

MI's Editor, Robert G Beason (above), holds reflector while Peter Gowland snaps cover shot.
Featured on the Cover of Mechanix Illlustrated Magazine

Order Plan Now
- $75
Plans include 14 - 17 x 22 inch drawings & a 32-pg booklet


order nowUrba Electric was introduced on the cover of Mechanix Illustrated magazine in February, 1977, long before the automotive world began thinking about manufacturing electric cars. Urba Electric's introduction was a landmark in EV development for a number of reasons. First, the car was ahead of its time simply by having been built at a time when EVs were considered non-starters by car makers. Secondly, MI readers collectively purchased over 20,000 sets of plans, which sent a strong message about public enthusiasm for EVs. Third, it was designed and built outside the automotive industry, and its development was entirely financed with private funds. And finally, although the car's 48-volt battery pack was little more than a copy of those used in golf cars, Urba Electric utilized cutting-edge composite technology in its construction, and it pioneered an innovative new concept in EV speed control and power system strategy. The car's technical innovations inspired engineers at Delco to purchase a set of plans and build one for testing. The Delco car later became known as GM's Drive I.    

         Urba Electric's main technology breakthrough was the Electromatic Drive Transmission, developed and patented by Darrell Hillman and Foster Salsbury of Salsbury CVT fame. This ingenious electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) let the motor run at a steady speed while the transmission's shift-position provided control over the car's speed from zero through 60 mph. The accelerator pedal was connected to a device that varied a low-voltage shift-position signal to the CVT. This caused the shift-position to track the degree of depression of the accelerator pedal. As the accelerator pedal was depressed, the CVT smoothly up-shifted causing the car to accelerate in unison. Meanwhile, the compound-wound dc motor ran at a constant speed - its most efficient speed. For regenerative braking, the driver simply let up on the accelerator pedal, causing the CVT to downshift to a lower ratio. Downshifting at cruising speeds forced the motor to spin faster, which reversed the direction of current flow and delivered a charge to the battery (due to counter emf) as it slowed the car. No traditional electronic speed control was necessary.

         Urba Electric's chassis is not from an existing car. Instead, it was designed from scratch in order to keep weight down and efficiency up. The battery pack is arranged in a reverse "T" much like the battery pack of GM's EV1. Half of the car's eight 6-volt batteries occupy the space in a tunnel that runs between driver and passenger, and the other half runs transversely just behind the passenger compartment. The frame is made of rectangular steel tubing. A jackshaft coupled to a differential with a simple chain drive makes up the final drive, which is contained in a sealed oil-bath housing and suspended from the frame at the rear. The body is made of FRP/foam composite.

        Today, the Electromatic Drive Transmission is no longer available, and plans include an alternative speed control system. Also, the trend today is toward much higher system voltages. Urba Electric's performance and efficiency would be enhanced by upgrading to a higher voltage. The most simple way is to switch to12-volt batteries. And the new Lithium batteries will significantly increase the vehicle's range. 

        Urba Electric plans provide a technical insight into one of the most innovative and cutting-edge EV designs ever developed outside the mainstream automotive field.  Although the Electromatic Drive Tranmission is no longer available, an innovative machinist coud undoubtedly build one from patent drawings.  That would probably require a physical search for the patent at a Patent Depository Library.

         Photography for the MI feature was done by the consumate professional (the late) Peter Gowland.  Peter was always relaxed and casual.  You could hardly tell he was working.   Peter did all the Mechanix Illustrated MiMi shots.  The model in the photograph was doing toothpaste commercials at the time.  But she should have been doing eyedrop commercials.  She had the most gorgeous eyes ever created. 

          For more information on the Electromatic Drive Transmission, please see the linked page.


Front Track:
Rear track:
System Voltage:
Maximum Speed:
Body Construction:
130 inches
53-1/2 inches
43 inches
50 inches
50-1/2 inches
72 inches
48 Volts
Jack & Heinz #G23 aircraft generator
Contactor controller
60 mph
60 miles
Fiberglass/Foam composite


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  • Order by Phone:  Weekdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm MST):   480-685-3225.

              Shipments to U.S. destinations go by First Class or Priority Mail (depending on weight).
                     Shipments to destinations outside the U.S. go by mail: "Airmail, Letter-Post."
                     Arizona residents, add 10.2% sales tax.

Robert Q. Riley Enterprises, LLC.
P.O. Box 14465
Phoenix, AZ 85063
Phone:  480-685-3225


Robert Q. Riley Enterprises: Product Design & Development
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P.O. Box 14465, Phoenix, AZ 85063
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