Published on April 18th, 2017 | by Nicolas Zart0
How Uniti & Siemens Plan Fully Automated Sustainable Car Manufacturing
April 18th, 2017 by Nicolas Zart
Sometimes the signs that lessons have been learned can be seen in the creative integration of the technological revolution we’ve witnessed this past decade. While many companies love to use the words “green” or “sustainable,” let’s admit it, not too many car manufacturers are particularly green (environmentally sustainable). It’s with great pleasure to see that Swedish Uniti and Siemens Nordics are partnering to build a fully automated sustainable car manufacturing facility using Siemens’ PLM software platform to try to move the industry forward.
Uniti & Siemens Plan Fully Automated Sustainable Car Manufacturing
After a decade of covering electric vehicles (EV), I’ve seen and heard a lot of things. Sometimes truly revolutionary EVs pop up. Other times evolutionary products with copious amounts of PR are desperately trying to grab our attention. But one thing we haven’t seen yet is what Uniti is trying to do, bringing sustainability deeply into manufacturing, clean daily driving, autonomous EVs, and with costs down to a low level by using an open source approach. Swedish Uniti just announced it is getting closer to this by teaming up with German giant Siemens Electric to build a modern “industry 4.0” production facility.
What Uniti plans to deliver through this sustainable manufacturing facility is an L7e electric city car. This Scandinavian EV will have a two- or three-seat design and targets a price of 200,000 SEK, about €20,000 or $21,300 in today’s currency. The L7e will be sustainable, with a futuristic user experience resting on open source material. And this truly hits all the points I’m happy to hear about after a decade of writing about electric cars.
But what does all of this mean exactly? Essentially, Uniti wants to deliver a facility that will manufacture in a sustainable way its EV. The Uniti will make plenty of use of composite materials, which are lighter and tougher than conventional metals. The other key point is to use an automated assembly line that simplifies the process, reduces its carbon footprint, and shortens the time it takes to bring the EV market. All of this rests on using an open source approach, which decreases capital outlay. This might sound like a tall order, but do we expect anything less after a decade of EV promises?
How Do Uniti & Siemens Plan Fully Automated Sustainable Car Manufacturing?
Most of the designing and implementation will rest on Siemens’ PLM software, which allows for greater use of virtual planning and execution. What this means is that the software platform will lower the need to test at the end of the production line, thus saving time and resources allocated for these tasks. According to Mats Friberg, CEO of Siemens, the PLM Software does the following: “The whole process is so perfected that the first vehicle produced on the physical production line can be sold directly to the customer with no test vehicles needed.”
Lewis Horne, CEO of Uniti, is quoted saying: “The partnership with Siemens is essential to our long-term plans as we now have the opportunity to not only develop a sustainable car, but also manufacture it in a sustainable way at a large scale, faster and with a significantly lower initial capital demand. Our fully-automated production line can basically have the lights turned off for 22 hours a day.”
Uniti aims at producing up to 50,000 units per year within its first year of production.
The Uniti — Automated Sustainable Car Manufacturing
The Uniti will be light and offer plenty of performance. It will be capable of hitting a 90 km/h to 120 km/h top speed — that’s 55 MPH to 75 MPH depending on which model is chosen. The 0–80 km/h or 0–50 MPH will be reached in 3.5 seconds using 15 kW hub motors with a 40 kW peak power output. We assume this to mean the Uniti will hit about 81 HP, backed by a modest 11 to 20 kWh Li-Ion battery pack. This is more than enough energy to propel this feather-light 400 kg (882 lb) EV.
Using carbon fiber and other composites, the range should be around 150–300 km (93–185 miles), again depending on the model chosen. Uniti also claims a recharging choice of induction or plug-in, which should be appealing to garage owners.
On the “cool!” side of things, the L7e will sport a full-screen augmented reality heads-up display as well as autonomous driving features. Uniti also says the car will not use mechanical linkage between the driver and the wheels, opting for electronic controllers — we assume that to mean fly-by-wire, as in no mechanical contact between steering and pedal to the wheels and controllers. And, finally, it comes with: “Batshit crazy gaming and entertainment options.” Yay!
The Uniti & Siemens Nordics Automated Sustainable Car Manufacturing Promise
Uniti is an interesting company that is definitely on the “business 3.0” side of things. It already offers a product called the ARC, an open-source, Arduino-compatible development board for 3-phase motors, suitable for everyone who wants to prototype and convert their own electric vehicles. What also caught my attention is that even if you are not going to convert your own vehicle, you can sponsor someone else by investing in an ARC. Perhaps there is some hope for my Alfa Romeo Spider project after all.
There is something to be said about Scandinavian countries that just won’t stay put and follow the ailing Western business model of profit at any devastating cost. Norway and Sweden already have a high EV adoption rate, as well as renewable energy production. We look forward to hearing more about this young and energetic startup called Uniti partnering with Siemens to introduce a sustainable automated facility that will produce what looks like a highly efficient EV.