You know it's going to be good when the pitch video begins with "Meanwhile in Sweden..."
Uniti is a Swedish car startup with rather modest ambitions. The team only wants to reinvent the city car, and to save the world. That's not too much to ask, is it?
Moving toward a more sustainable and sensible transportation system, in light of the issues of dirty fuels, rising fuel costs, congestion, and the rather startling reality that most of our current vehicles are overweight, overpowered, oversized, and under-occupied, and which spend more time parked than being used, could yield a wide range of benefits to individuals, communities, and to society at large. And with the tremendous upscale electric car buzz that Tesla Motors has been building, coupled with the launch of the Bolt, an affordable small EV from Chevrolet, it's not hard to see why electric mobility innovations are the goal of so many companies (and the seed idea for many a startup).
While Tesla's current models are fast and sassy, they're also incredibly heavy (a lot of batteries and electric motors will do that to an automobile), are easily as large as a full-sized gas car, and are rather expensive, to boot. Tesla owners are a happy bunch, and the car looks like a dream to drive, but it's not the 'people's car' - at least, not anytime soon. The Bolt, on the other hand, is a smaller and lower cost option with a lot less of the bleeding edge gadgetry and software, but the car is still easily identifiable as a standard vehicle design that's had an electric overhaul. It's really not that different in appearance from current small car designs, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it's apparent that, other than the autonomous driving efforts from Tesla, neither of those vehicles are really reinventing city driving. And that's really the idea behind Uniti's efforts, which aims to lead "the most deliberate reinvention of the automobile in modern times."
"This Swedish electric car is coming to save the world."
That's the tagline on Uniti's website, and while it's a noble goal, it might be a while before we get saved by the Swedish electric city car. That said, I like what I see so far with the Uniti, even though it's still at an early stage, and it appears as if the team's open-source technologies could also help inform the future of other vehicles. Uniti is currently in an equity crowdfunding phase, which allows individuals to buy shares in the venture, with the intent of being able to continue to move the car closer toward the goal of mass production.
The car itself is a two-seater weighing about 400 kg (~880 lb), with a 15kW AC electric motor, an 11 kWh Na-ion (sodium-ion) battery, with an estimated top speed of 90 kph (~56 mph) and a range-per-charge of 150 km (~93 miles). The Uniti, at a target price of 200,000 SEK (~US$23,000), is aimed clearly at "high-income urban millennials between the ages of 25-34" who are looking for an "unusual driving experience," and is intended to classify as an EU L7e, which is for "heavy quadricycles" (very small city cars.) According to the website, the Uniti will be "predominantly" made of biomaterials, although the details are scant on that aspect.
Here's the equity crowdfunding pitch video:
The idea of going completely back to the drawing board and removing "all unnecessary features and attributes" of current cars, and designing an appropriate city car based on the requirements and strengths of a small lightweight electric vehicle, seems to make sense, as does the desire to stick with the standard four wheels instead of removing one for a more futuristic look.
Uniti has developed a few technologies that will be key the future car's performance, including a full-screen augmented reality heads-up display (complete with head- and hand-tracking) and a "triple redundant" steer-by-wire system that looks more closely related to a gaming device than to a car's steering wheel, but which is said to be both safer and more fun to drive. The team is also developing its own open-source autonomous driving technology, as well as a controller board, the ARC, which is an open-source, Arduino-compatible development board for 3-phase motors, and a critical component for anyone who wants to prototype and convert their own electric vehicles. According to the company's crowdfunding page, it intends to generate short-term revenues from the licensing of some of its proprietary technologies, while working toward the long-term goal of manufacturing and selling (or leasing) Uniti cars.
Here's a little deeper look at the company and the car, from CEO Lewis Horne:
And as a plus for its millennial target group, the car's cockpit is promised to have "batshit crazy gaming and entertainment options," which would probably come in handy once we finally get to fully autonomous driving (it might be a while). Find out more at Uniti.