© uniti Business | July 05, 2016

Uniti and the need for automotive change

After all the campaigning, the world is still a long way off from a full-scale acceptance of electric cars. Tesla? Yeah. How about Uniti? No? Let me rectify that.
We've all heard of Tesla and its rather impressive (my personal opinion) portfolio of electric cars. Don't get me wrong, I am an old-fashioned girl: petrol, stick-shift and the German Autobahn. There are few other things that spell freedom to me quite like that.

But in recent years, electric cars have become more advanced. They are no longer the 'yeah, let's talk about that later' kind of conversation topic. Electric cars have grown up; thanks to Tesla and Elon Musk.

But Tesla is not the only player in the market and I had the chance to talk to Lewis Horne, CEO of Swedish newcomer Uniti: about the future, electric cars and what makes the Swedish countryside so special.

First of, I am always curious how people come up with ideas like that. I do see myself as a creative person, but – let's face it – “Hej, let's build an electric car!” is not something that would pop into your mind over breakfast cereals.

“I had been equally vocal about the need for change and the frustration over the over-engineered, overweight, overpowered vehicles of today. They cause unnecessary damage to our planet and our health. As a career entrepreneur, I have always been passionate about changing things; the purpose of technology and the advancement of it.”

And Lewis has been busy soaking up any kind of information and knowledge available over the past few years. “In preparation to attempt something extremely ambitious in my life. As the time drew closer to begin this journey, people just started telling me to start an electric car company. I began to connect the dots and saw that this was my calling.”

Second off, environmental concern are always one of the main issues addressed by people working with the development of electric cars or transport ideas in general. But talking should not be the end of the discussion. Is it important for companies to embrace environmentally friendly transport ideas? Yes, undoubtedly, but what will Uniti do to further that goal?

“Most companies might cite these reasons, but often they are simply following market trends or political mandates. In other words, it is largely the market that is driving the change, not the companies. Of course with the exception of a few who genuinely want to shift the world to cleaner technologies.”

Companies need to look seriously at the damage they are causing and recognise that, in the age of internet and transparency, consumers can see the damage as well as the alternatives, Lewis Horne tells me. “The consumer will eventually make buying decisions accordingly. If companies cause damage without regard, they will disappear.”

“To further this development, we have decided to share the process openly as we learn how to make the car of the future, and the company of the future. We are sharing this learning process so others too can learn, and then taking it further.”

To walk the talk, Uniti has recently released their open-source microcontroller, the Uniti ARC. An Arduino-compatible board, it should – it is hoped for - make prototyping electric vehicles much easier. Everyone may have a go at it.

When it comes to Swedish Automotive history I might have you recall the Volvo PV 60. Beautiful car and beautiful craftsmanship. Many here in Europe do connect Sweden with the image of innovation and forward-thinking.

But Lund – with roughly 80'000 inhabitants – cannot really be called 'hotbed of the automotive development'. Trollhättan is – and has been – known for many years as the Swedish centre for automotive production (although it is only half the size of Lund actually). What makes the Swedish countryside so interesting to a company such as Uniti?

“Lund more than anything is a hub for people, and here we found much of our initial technical talent. What we are building is so different from a traditional car and we don’t want to make incremental advancements on what is already being built. So it was important to start this journey with some distance from how things are, in order to develop what’s next.”

Nevertheless, there are always things that can be wished for and improved upon. So, Mr Horne, what would you like to see from Prime Minister Mr. Löfven and his government?

“Sweden is forward thinking, not only for market, but also for social reasons. That is why we are doing this here. The Swedish government could provide tax incentives for angel investors, similar to what the U.S. Government is doing.”

Furthermore, Uniti sees the need for serious stimulus packages towards electric vehicles. (Here, Sweden would already have to trail Norway.) Still, “Sweden can be a leader in this emerging market, from both an automotive and an infrastructure perspective.”

Want to know more about Uniti and their new technology? Visit us during TEC Lund and you get to talk to them face to face.
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