This week, Berlin-based innovation studio nFrontier unveiled a new concept vehicle at Formnext 2022, a large additive manufacturing trade show held in Frankfurt, Germany. The fully functioning prototype is a hybrid between an electric cargo bike and a small EV, like a boxy little baby Smartcar.
UILA leans heavily on 3D printing to create a new solution for last-mile connectivity. The company used FDM technology from Stratasys to 3D print large body components. The process was cheaper than using traditional manufacturing, like injection molding, and faster — because nFrontier could make the parts in-house.
The market-ready UILA uses a chainless, pedal-operated electrical drive train and has a range that tops out around 44 miles and a top speed of about 16 mph, which would still suit the average American's commute. Well, at least the distance.
The four-wheeled hybrid is a two-seater with a cargo payload of a little more than 550 pounds. The UILA is a little more than 7.5-feet long, only 5.5-feet high and a little less than 3-feet wide. So, it will be a cozy, slow commute. The entire vehicle only weighs 154 pounds.
Technically, UILA is a bike, so you won't need a driver's license to operate it and it could even be driven in bike lanes. One onboard creature comfort is a modern infotainment system that can connect a smartphone to the internal display. With the UILA app, users can call the parked vehicle and it will autonomously arrive in a "come to me mode." It can also follow without a driver in a "follow me mode."
The vehicle may seem like a stretch, but the market for two- and three-wheel EVs is forecasted to eclipse 750 million vehicles globally by 2040.
nFrontier says it has engineering and manufacturing partners already on board, and is hoping to launch production in 2024.