From university dream to electric car
A group of young Swedes from Lund University devised what the mobility of the future would look like. The result is Uniti One, a revolutionary electric car that will begin to circulate next year.
“You’re not in this world to get a job, make money, buy things and die. You can do something bigger if you really want to, something that will reverberate all over the planet, which is smaller than we think. Do whatever you like. Lock yourself in a dark room with a computer to create a revolutionary app, or set up a rock band and live by making your own music. We are freer than we think.”
When you listen to Lewis Horne, the founder and CEO of Uniti One, you suddenly understand a lot of things. For example, that a group of young entrepreneurs from Lund University in Sweden would sit down one day to develop an idea to improve the mobility problem in cities, and just three years later have already created an innovative electric vehicle that is different from anything that has ever been done before, which has attracted the attention of the international media, already has investors from more than 50 countries, and will be launched in 2019.
“We came from different sectors, from engineering to design, and passing through business management. We met in 2015 to discuss the mobility problems in big cities,” Horne continues. “We studied many metropolises and analysed both their deficiencies and the opportunities for improvement. It soon became clear to us what was the main challenge to solve. There are too many cars and they occupy too much space, and this is something that afflicts cities around the world, even more so with the population increase that we will live this century, which will result in 70% of the population living in urban centres. Traffic jams are growing bigger and bigger. And there are many cars that are used by only one person at a time.”
A recent MIT study concluded that more people die from harmful emissions from combustion vehicles than from traffic accidents. That was the spur that inspired Horne and his team. “This is something that can be solved with technology that already exists today, and is more accessible than many think. In order to carry out a project of this magnitude, it is necessary to have very strong motivation. And solving this social drama, while fighting climate change, was what pushed us to embark on this adventure,” explains the entrepreneur. “Our vehicle is designed to achieve seamless human interaction, like that of the most modern smart phones, and thanks to its careful design and optimized manufacturing processes, it is extremely light and the vehicle’s carbon footprint has been drastically reduced. This is also the case in its manufacturing process.”
The definitive impulse for this startup came with its first crowdfunding campaign in 2016. In less than 36 hours, they exceeded the EUR 1.6 million required thanks to the participation of 367 investors. Since then, they have created multiple strategic alliances for mass production systems with companies of the stature of Siemens, whose software allows the entire production process to be planned in a virtual environment before deployment in the physical world. By 2020, they expect to have the capacity to produce 50,000 models a year.
What is Uniti One really like?
It is an electric car with a design that does not look like anything seen to date, with extremely compact dimensions and a modulable configuration that will allow purchasers to choose between two, four or five seats.
It has a 22-kWh battery that allows it to travel 300 kilometres without refuelling. Add to this an exchangeable auxiliary battery that can be charged at any normal power outlet, with sufficient capacity to drive a further 30 kilometres.
The Uniti One can attain a maximum speed of 130 kph , and can accelerate from 0 to 80 kph in just 3.5 seconds. It combines amenities that make it suitable for both city and road driving. Safety has been one of startup’s top priorities, and its chassis has obtained the highest score possible in the demanding EuroNCAP crash tests.
The sustainability of the car is also calculated in advance. Its creators have estimated that average carbon emissions throughout its life cycle (including the manufacture of its components, for example) are 88% lower than that of internal combustion cars, and considerably lower than those of many traditional vehicles. For this purpose, they have used recyclable carbon fibre and organic compounds in its structure and chassis. It will be marketed from approximately 14,000 euros upwards, and so will be revolutionary even in its sales price.
Expectations are very high for its launch next year. And all the indications are that Uniti One will give people a lot to talk about. In any case, it is when it starts shooting along our streets and roads, that the real baptism of fire will come for Horne and his team. “We have already fulfilled a dream because in just three years we have gone far beyond what we could ever have imagined,” the entrepreneur confesses, and concludes: “This shows that you don’t have to be such an expert in a given field, or at least not in the way that many people think. The key is to create something new, and to be the first to do so. Then you will be the greatest expert of all.”