Yesterday at Formnext, we witnessed the official unveiling of UILA, a 3D printed hybrid vehicle combining e-bike and electrical vehicle. With the weight of the average man (70 kg), the vehicle measures 230 cm of length, 170 cm of height and 90 cm of width.
Created with the goal of providing a mobility solution to climate change and energy crisis challenges, UILA is the second prototype of products developed by nFrontier, the product innovation studio founded by ex-BigRep executives – the first one being PYLO, a bike helmet equipped with a face shield airbag, a smart 360-degree surround safety system, a 3D knitted inlay and a 3D printed nylon structure.
The creation of UILA happens in a context where studies predict that by 2040 there will be more than 750 million electric two- and threewheelers on the road globally. Ultimately, the market for vehicles such as UILA is unlimited: Due to its dimensions and pedal-operated drive train it is technically a bike, so there is no need for a driver’s license, allowing users to drive it on bike lanes.
The hybrid prototype combines the best of both an electric cargo bike and a small Electrical Vehicle (EV). Some of its main characteristics include items only found in EVs: a modern infotainment system, including BYOD (smartphone) functionalities that will connect the internal display solutions. With the help of the UILA App, users will be able call the parked vehicle so it will drive autonomously towards you (‘Come to me Mode‘) or follow you without driver (‘Follow me Mode‘).
Powered by two-wheel hub motors on the rear axis of which each has an output of 250 W, the vehicle draws its energy from a battery with a capacity of 1200 Wh. A pedal-operated actuator is installed for this purpose, similar to a dynamo that feeds the power storage unit. In this context, experts speak of “chainless drive”. It is decelerated with two independent, hydraulic brake circuits. The brake discs are mounted on the four 20-inch wheels.
Designed to be a “digital device”, given the extensive number of digital features, the hybrid concept can welcome two adults sitting one behind the other. An optional transport box still offers enough space for additional luggage. Alternatively, the rear seat can be quickly converted into storage space, roughly tripling the transport volume.
From a manufacturing standpoint, UILA required the use of additive manufacturing across the entire product development process from design to production. With Stratasys FDM® technology (Stratasys F770) the main production technology, the team 3D printed large format body components in-house, to save costs and time – compared to injection moulding.
UILA is based on a stable tubular aluminum frame. The main 3D-printed parts are 20 outer shell parts, seats and steering wheel. It is clad with polymer parts from the 3D-printer, which can be modified according to the buyer’s preference. It’s not just about the color, the shape can also be customized in a self-developed configurator.
Interestingly, the entire production process can also leverage AM in its entirety. In this case, the powder-based SAF™ or photopolymer-based P3™ systems could be the ideal production candidates. This will reduce costs and improve sustainability by printing fewer components with less material and doing so locally – in the markets where the UILA vehicles are sold – reducing supply chain challenges and thereby CO2 emissions.
With a range of 60-70 km on a single charge, the vehicle effortlessly accelerates to top speeds of 25 km/hr and has a range of 60-70 km. The four-wheeled two-seater also provides a cargo payload of up to 250 kg.
Lastly, UILA meets all EU safety and quality regulations applicable to eBikes. nFrontier is now preparing UILA for serial production and traffic registration in Germany some time in 2024. The price is estimated to be significantly below €10,000.
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