Automotive

Let’s Check In On Nobe, Everyone’s Favorite Estonian EV Maker


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Image: Nobe

I first wrote about Nobe, the small Estonian company attempting to make what appears to be the most retro-cool three-wheeled EV I’ve seen exactly four years ago, so it seemed like a good time to check in on them and give a bit of an update. They’re still hanging in there, making some progress, and they’ve got a little EV truck now, too.

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Last year I got to see an actual Nobe prototype in person for the first time at Munro, who was working with the company to develop a production version of the car. In person, it didn’t disappoint, and felt a lot like an old Karmann Ghia or Alfa Romeo, which I think very clearly was the point.

On the technical front, Nobe has been working with UK-based Far to develop a carbon fiber chassis for the car, which you can see Roman, the company’s founder, proudly showing off here:

I spoke to Roman about the progress, which has been slow but steady. I think one of the things that makes me think perhaps Nobe might end up getting a product to market when so many others have struggled is that they seem to know their limitations, and are seeking good partners to help. First Munro, now Far, for example.


Image for article titled Let's Check In On Nobe, Everyone's Favorite Estonian EV Maker

Image: Nobe

I was also told that the Nobe 100GT will have a switch on the dash that reads “NORMAL” and “CRAZY,” similar in concept to Tesla’s Ludicrous mode, that unlocks more power from the drivetrain.

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A physical switch you can just set to “CRAZY” seems fun, strangely even more so than tapping an option on a touchscreen.

Nobe is also building an unashamedly retro little electric pickup truck, this time a four-wheeler.

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Nobe is planning to bring both of these cars, the three-wheeler Nobe 100GT and the Nobe 500 truck, to America, and are in the process of founding a Nobe USA.

Now, bringing a three-wheeler to America is much less of a big deal than a four-wheeled vehicle, because a three-wheeler isn’t technically classified as a car, and as such is exempt from many of the more difficult regulations, like crash testing and that sort of thing.

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Image for article titled Let's Check In On Nobe, Everyone's Favorite Estonian EV Maker

Image: Nobe

I talked to Roman about this, but he assures me the truck will be completely street-legal, not just some low-speed neighborhood electric vehicle, but an actual truck capable of carrying real weight and maintaining highway speeds.

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That sounds like a tall order, but what the hell—he’s seemed quite confident, and I’d love to see these on American roads, so I’m going to let myself be hopeful here.

This is a little company that hasn’t had the best luck in the past—aside from the usual funding and setup issues that plague any startup automaker, they had a fire in 2019 that destroyed their workshop and their two running prototypes.

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This would have spelled the end for many startups like this, but they kept at it, and while they’re still a ways away from getting cars on the road, it looks like real progress is being made, so I think they’re worth keeping an eye on.

I know better than to make predictions about any of these things—well, except maybe for Elio, where I’m not holding my breath—but I like what Nobe is doing, so even if I can’t predict eventual success, I think it’s okay to hope for it, a bit.

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