Factory fires, 'Foxey Lady' figurines, financial fights - the fascinating story of the Nobe 100

Martin Gurdon

22 Sep 2022

You might expect ‘Nobe’ to be a brand of dental probe or teenage insult, but it is in fact an electric car with a colourful story. The idea originally was that the Nobe (pronounced ‘no-bear’) would be an electric ‘people’s car’ homage to the original VW Beetle, but it has turned into a boutique electric microcar, whose shape was apparently inspired by hotel boiled eggs. The car is Estonian, and its name means ‘agile and nimble’ in its native country.

The Nobe 100 is a three wheeled coupe with cute retro styling that an Italian coachbuilder might have come up with sixty years ago. The end result is tiny, tapered and teardrop shaped with a rounded rump and an extravagantly curved rear window. Beneath this is a single rear seat/luggage deck that would probably accommodate a child who could have fun doing goldfish impressions under the back window – as long as it’s not too sunny.

The interior has a similarly mid 20th century vibe, with wind-your-own windows, chromed switches, and a slim, twin spoke steering wheel with a chrome horn ring in the middle of it. All very Italian coffee maker - and a built in espresso machine has been touted as one of the Nobe’s options. However, airbags don’t feature, although the company claims these will appear ‘in the longer run’. There are mutterings on the internet about inflatable seatbelts.

The trike's path to production has been far from plane sailing

​The Nobe has been knocking around in prototype form for about five years, and is very much Muljar’s baby. An expansive, often charming character who started his career in teaching, Muljar ran a boat building business with (so far unfulfilled) plans to make catamarans. He then moved on to three wheeled electric coupes.

Go online and you will find video of Muljar with a pet dog or making use of a sauna plunge pool located at Nobe’s industrial unit headquarters in Tallinn. This is the company’s second home, as the first one burned down.

It has a small chromium bonnet mascot in the shape of a girl’s head with a flowing pigtail, which the company apparently calls its ‘Foxey Lady’ -a Jimi Hendrix homage- and was created by Reti Saks, Muljar’s graphic designer wife.

He explains: “I said to the team, ‘let’s have a bonnet ornament’ and they all said ‘no! Big cars normally have them but small cars never usually do.’ I said, ‘never mind, we’re going to be big in spirit.’’

There does seem to be a playful element to the car, which in a po-faced world is rather refreshing. Nobe has even designed a giant wall mount so that the car can be winched up the side of your house, presumably because it’s decorative and would be harder to nick.

Although the Nobe looks like it belongs in a 1960s European film being driven by a very young Sophia Loren, the way it’s made should be entirely up to date, as the car’s panel work and sub structure is to be hewn from carbon fibre, according to its makers.

Nobe reckons production vehicles will weigh as little 860kg, and will be ‘cars for life,’ lasting for decades, sustained by a never ending stream of software and hardware upgrades.

Nobe founder Roman Muljar alongside two Nobe 100s at the Tallinn HQ

Motive power is stored in a battery of about 26kw, powering 80 to 110kw (107-148bhp) motors of indeterminate manufacture - Muljar claims there are three ‘major’ potential suppliers, but won’t name them. These drive the front wheels of the 100 GT, but, amusingly, there are plans for a three wheel drive, performance Nobe GTS. Claimed range? Around 160 miles.

“We don’t really have performance figures right now,” said Muljar, although the company website talks about a 90mph top speed. The projected UK price would be around £35,000, so this is not a cheap car.

Nobe claims to still be prototyping and the company is not without ambition, bigging up plans for production facilities in Estonia, the US and, erm, Nottingham. Again, specifics are in short supply, but Muljar is now talking about European production getting underway at the end of 2023, with an initial run of 2,600 units a year and says there are 112 advanced orders.

He describes the Nobe as a ‘happy car’ but trawl the internet and you will find two alleged US-based shareholders who seem anything but, complaining in an Estonian current affairs programme Pealtnägija (Eyewitness) about how the business was run.

“We had a difference in opinions, and at some point, these gentlemen just decided to take over the company and asked me to step aside …and since it was originally my idea… I declined their offer,” said Muljar, who claims new US investors are now on board and $2.1m has been raised. He talks expansively about gaining permission from September to sell shares in America, and raising “$10-$20m by the end of this year, which will allow us to move into industrialisation next year.”

Oh yes, he also said that his company will launch four distinct vehicles, so presumably work is ongoing to develop those too as well as advancing plans to have the car made in Europe so that sales can actually start in 2023.

You’d be hard hearted not find this quirky, original little car appealing as an idea, but will it ever become anything more than that? Watch this space.

The bonnet mascot, called ‘Foxey Lady', was created by Muljar’s wife Reti

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