One of the first necessary steps to achieve global sustainability is changing the way we move around and this could mean switching our usual means of transportation to something better for our environment. Just like the scooter Ujet is building. Ujet’s scooter is not only electric, it is not just foldable, it is much more. In this interview the CEO of Ujet, Hugues Despres – an expert in nanotechnologies and innovation – is going to share with us the most interesting features of this vehicle.
Who is the Founder of Ujet? How did you decided you wanted to build such a vehicle?
Hugues Despres: Ujet was founded in 2015 as a spinoff of OCSiAI, the first company in the world capable of producing industrial-scale volumes of single-wall carbon nanotubes. Through Ujet, OCSiAI sought to demonstrate how high-performance materials can be transformed into exciting, sustainable and functional products for our everyday lives. What started off as a proof of concept, quickly gave birth to a financially viable product, combining clean technology, audacious design grounded in material science and technology. The Ujet electric scooter is equipped with the lightest tire in its class – the world’s first TUBALL™-augmented tire. The advanced materials within the tire increase wet and dry grip and, therefore, increase traction. Our electric scooter is the first of many future products that also thanks to the latest achievements in the material science will enable a better environment for urbanites. OCSiAI believes in the new materials revolution (using nano-technology for lighter, stronger and more conductive composites, so called nano-augmented) to cope with the scarcity of natural resources (doing more with less) and to help solving societal and environmental issues with new high added value consumers applications.
In the Photo: The Ujet foldable vehicle . Photo Credit: Ujet
Would you like to explain a bit about the technology and the most interesting features of your vehicle? I have seen it is electric, connected, foldable?
HD: Firstly, all elements of the Ujet electric scooter were built to be friendly to the user and environment alike. It offers a high performance smart battery available in two sizes with an estimated range up to 70 km (approximately 43 mi) or 150 km (approximately 93 mi), and can be charged from any regular power socket. About the size of a cabin-size suitcase, the battery is removable, portable, and rollable, allowing for easy and convenient transport.
For smart and easy control, riders can control their Ujet electric scooter directly through their iOS or Android app. Riders can unlock their scooters with their smartphone, receive step-by-step directions to where it is parked, share it remotely with friends and family, and can disable it remotely if the anti-theft protection sends a warning that the scooter has moved without their command. What’s more, the app allows riders to monitor scooter performance, including battery level, mileage, saved carbon dioxide emissions, and more, as well as easy access to customer support with locations of nearest service shops, and the ability to easily communicate with a dedicated support team.
Additionally, a personalized touch interface provides easy access to navigation, voice control, music streaming, telephony functions, and the front-facing HD camera, which can take video that can be later downloaded and transferred. When in motion, riders can access basic functionality of the interface using buttons on the handlebars, allowing them to focus on the road and have a safe, distraction-free experience.
The Ujet electric scooter is equipped with the lightest tire in its class – the world’s first nano-augmented tire. Made with applied TUBALL™ containing single-wall carbon nanotubes, the tire is equipped with strong and conducive materials that provide unprecedented performance and safety. Additionally, the high performance materials in the frame, which include alloy and carbon fiber composite (can be up to 40 per cent lighter than aluminum), allow the Ujet electric scooter to weigh just 43kg (95 lbs) and be robust, durable and secure at the same time.
The spoke-less orbital wheel includes a suspension system and larger diameter lightweight brakes, which offers a smooth ride, and the in-wheel electric motor combines optimized size with powerful performance (5,44 hp and 90 Nm torque), ensuring great acceleration in any conditions.
Striking a balance between the high performance technology and an iconic design, the Ujet electric scooter is a combination of unique and futuristic design. When designing the electric scooter, the Ujet team turned to the organic shapes in nature, paired with contemporary architecture for inspiration. The asymmetrical and sculptural frame make the scooter look bold but also easy to handle, and the ability to quickly and easily fold and store the scooter adds to its convenience.
What are the greatest challenges of this project?
HD: Cities are increasingly playing a role in tackling environmental and societal challenges. Local players now sit at the negotiating table whenever solutions are to be found for global challenges. While mobility overall is being revolutionized, we focus on the urban dimension of mobility because it plays a key role in the quality-of-life in an increasingly urbanized world. Ujet seeks to use cutting-edge technology to revolutionize urban mobility. In our opinion, dense cities of the future can be cleaner, greener and more sustainable while still offering the same level of freedom and opportunities.
When will it be on the market? In what part of the world do you expect to make the most sales?
HD: We are targeting a few selected European cities as a first step as we believe there is a great potential in Europe for innovative e-mobility solutions like ours. Barcelona, Milan, Paris, Monaco, and Luxembourg, are our initial targets. These are places where the mobility scene is rapidly evolving and where there is both the awareness and willingness to embrace the challenges cities now face. We will expand to additional cities in Europe, Asia, and North America at a later stage. Our aim is to cover over 20 cities by end 2018.
In the Photo: The Ujet vehicle. Photo Credit: Ujet
How important is sustainability for you?
HD: As an electric scooter manufacturer, our aim is to provide sustainable solutions to mobility challenges facing global megacities today. As a result, we take sustainability very seriously, embedding it in our business strategy and throughout our value chain. Many cities are increasingly afflicted by poor air quality, which is directly linked to health issues. This is a global problem yes, but urban citizens suffer from it the most. Our scooter emits zero emissions. When it comes to noise, Ujet’s electric engine can make cities more peaceful by eliminating the high-pitched sound of traditional ICE scooters. Regarding congestion, Ujet has a decisive impact. Thanks to its compact lightweight foldable frame, it can be taken everywhere and stored in places not normally suited to full-sized vehicles or scooters. Whether parked in the corner of a garage, in a basement, or a tight alley, our scooter can offer the mobility of a full-sized vehicle in places where space is at a premium.
How do you see your company in five years? Do you have other projects in mind?
HD: We are a technology company pioneering mobility solutions for cities. The scooter have here today is just the first of many future solutions that bring together our four competencies – materials science, clean technology, smart connectivity and refined design.