A bubble for two

2017-12-22 06:00

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SWEDISH startup company Uniti on Tuesday unveiled the Uniti One, a friendly little tandem-seat bubble car that it says “completely reinvents the modern city car”.

Lewis Horne is the CEO over 45 staff members at Uniti. He describes the Uniti One as “a high end electric city car designed for high performance in an urban environment with a focus on sustainability and a futuristic user experience”.

He said safety, sustainability, and scalability are the group’s primary focus areas. Their unique selling point is the Uniti car’s recyclable carbon fibre body and organic composite interior.

While pioneering, Uniti is not the first to use composite materials. That honour goes to Henry Ford, whose chemists combined 50% pine, 30% straw, 10% hemp and 10% ramie — a plant in the nettle family — to create body parts that did not even dent when Ford enthusiastically hit it with an axe to show the strength of composites over steel.

Ford said his agricultural plastic aimed to help U.S. farmers by buying their produce during the depression in the 1920s.

Horn said the Uniti One aims to use composite plastics to save the Earth.

“It is a huge challenge and a very very large ambition, but everybody here is highly motivated because we know the planet needs this change so we are giving it our best shot,” said Horn.

Despite its Noddy Car looks, Horn said the Uniti One is optimised for high performance and agility in urban environments, with a user experience that replaces “press and pull” with “touch and swipe”.

“High performance” means 0-80km/h in 3,5 seconds. and a class-leading 300 km of range from the 22 kWh battery pack, which can be recharged via induction or from a household socket.

The little car can stay ahead of trucks on the highway too, with a top speed of 130 km/h.

“By combining new safety innovations with automotive fundamentals, we aim to uphold the tradition of world-class Swedish safety with a five-star NCAP rating,” said Horn.

Buyers can choose between two steering options.

The first is a familiar-looking steering wheel configuration for those with a hankering for some traditional functionality, and the other is a centre pivot joystick control system with a tablet-like touchscreen display in the middle.

Horn said Uniti will start delivering the first one-seater bubble cars by 2019.

The bubble car project is being crowd-funded at the moment, with discounts for early bids,

Once in production, Uniti will be sold directly online and delivered to buyers’ doors.

Horner said the company plans to also offer two-, four- and five-seat premium electric vehicles, and the One is now up for pre-order, with prices starting at €14 900, which translates to some R238 470 before import taxes.

- Alwyn Viljoen

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