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INTERVIEW - Patrick Alain David, Vice President and CTO of Ujet

News International-French

1 May 2020

Ujet is a new engineering solutions company based in Luxembourg that works for partnerships and collaborations between brands to achieve desirable urban mobility solutions. JEC Composites Magazine interviewed Patrick Alain David, Vice president and CTO of Ujet, about disruptive mobility solutions to transform the automotive industry.

Patrick-Alain David, Vice President Ujet

JEC Composites Magazine: Where did the idea of Ujet come from?
Patrick David:
The Ujet story started back in 2015 with a group of like-minded scientists and businessmen nurturing the concept of creating a brand-new disruptive technology platform in an established automotive world. As the company is a spin-off of OCSiAl, the world’s leading manufacturer of carbon nanotubes (CNT), the investors decided to create a demonstrator using CNT and especially single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs). The main idea was to challenge the norm with a high level of freedom and the most pioneering and progressive technologies.

The introduction to the automotive industry started with a two-wheeler, because it is less difficult to design than a car. It had to be ultra-lightweight, with the best foldable system, fully connected like any modern car: something never seen before. We created that vehicle which then was a serial product and had a few CNT components inside that we tested on the road.

JEC Composites Magazine: Were you in charge of the whole production chain, or did you just work on the design and R&D tasks?
Patrick David:
We used to do everything from the design to the finished product. Our first intention, as a spin-off of OCSiAl, was to prove that we were able to go from A to Z, from R&D to industrialisation and up to bringing the vehicle to serial production. We went from A to Z as a company for the two vehicles that we have produced. Now that we have achieved this, we have taken another look at our initial goal and we would like Ujet to be only an R&D company for mobility solutions, especially for urban environments, and with challenging goals set by our shareholders to create pioneering solutions for these urban environments. For our products, we focused on disruptive innovation and this is what we have to continue to do to be ahead of our competitors.

Advanced electric scooter - Ujet

JEC Composites Magazine: Low weight was one of the requirements for your product. Is this the only reason why you opted for composite materials?
Patrick David: We use composite materials in different parts of our vehicles for different purposes. 

We wanted to improve the three main characteristics of a tyre: weight, wet grip, and mileage potential. Trying to improve every element is a daring challenge because there is always a trade-off between the three characteristics. For instance, improving the mileage potential means increasing the tyre weight. To solve this, we decided to add CNT to the tyre’s main material (rubber). During our laboratory tests, our supercharged tyres showed a 15% increase in range and longevity, as well as a 30% increase in wet grip, while bringing the overall weight down compared to any other tyre. They are the most lightweight tyres available on the market in that size, with the highest abrasion resistance.

The other material is carbon fibre composite, especially in the front part, which has a specific design. We had to anticipate a lot of stress on the material, and so we decided to use composites, otherwise the tyre would have been too heavy. Several other components are also made of thermoplastic composites reinforced with carbon or glass fibres. For example, the battery, especially the exterior battery housing, which is the visible part. It has to be rigid and hard to act as a membrane for our speaker, because we have a very specific approach: we vibrate the exterior skin and use it as a membrane, this is why stiffness is very important.

Advanced materials and technology - Ujet

JEC Composites Magazine: What are your challenges in the short and long term?
Patrick David:
In the short term, with the Coronavirus crisis, everybody has the same challenge. For the moment, all our customers have shut down, which gives us some time to be creative and innovative. We started with a two-wheeler and we are currently working on vehicles with more than two wheels. We also work on autonomous driving and maybe one day we will go up in the air, but we are not there yet! For the very future, even if it has not been decided yet, urban mobility will go into the third dimension and this is one of the topics we are focusing on at a theoretical level for the moment.

There is a lot of work to do, not so much on the technical aspect but more in terms of infrastructure and safety regulations. When looking at today’s two-dimensional traffic, there are still so many dangerous situations and we are only talking about two-dimensional orientation. If we want to go three dimensional while we still have not solved the issues with two dimensions, it will be very challenging.

JEC Composites Magazine: Is there any new project you are currently working on that you can share with us?
Patrick David:
We are currently working on a vehicle for the Indian/Asian and European markets. It is a new type of a three-wheeler concept, a new concept study for semi-recreational and semi-classic urban vehicles that do not take up a lot of space.
Due to the current health crisis, we are working with part of our team on a medical product (a disinfectant machine) and we are trying to bring it to the market as quickly as possible. We are working daily to gather more and more information to see in which direction we should go. It looks promising so far!

JEC Composites Magazine: What is your vision of mobility in the future?
Patrick David: We are fighting with congestion and safety issues everywhere. We are also struggling with energy wastage and pollution, especially in urban environments. We need to use little space and energy and to ensure a high level of safety on top of providing comfortable A to B commuting daily under all weather conditions. I believe that, in the future, we will have a combination of big vehicles such as buses to carry more people at once and still a large number of individual vehicles, but they will be shared by many people. The new generation is not very interested in possessing vehicles anymore. Young people only need a car when they have to go somewhere at a certain time, but not all the time. This means we need autonomous driving systems – a vehicle that can pick up the person who needs it and then go recharge itself or even go to maintenance. 

As regards structural composite materials, we are continuing what we started – to create very lightweight vehicles by rethinking structures, incorporating several functions in the same components. Composites also make it possible to play with design not only from an aesthetic point of view but also in terms of functionality. We also need to think about vehicles that are shared, infrastructure systems are something we work on, and we have partly established this in our vehicles. We are also working on systems that can couple vehicles for a period of time in specific areas and then decouple them in other areas. We are talking about small individual vehicles that can automatically connect to other vehicles for autonomous driving. You can build a chain of up to twenty vehicles, with the infrastructural system helping to couple them. The vehicles can join up if they are heading in the same direction, like commuting in public transport, but then they can split into individual vehicles when they take a different direction. 

About Ujet
Ujet was founded in 2015 with the vision to offer disruptive solutions to urbanization challenges. The company brings together experts in material science and structure displacement, stress and strain modelling, and heads up the development of on-board electronic architecture, from software algorithms to printed circuit board design. Ujet developed a revolutionary 100%-electric scooter to showcase its engineering capabilities in e-mobility. Since the launch of its product, Ujet has received astonishing feedback from the industry and consumers alike, and is now focusing on business partnerships to build technology by combining its expertise in material science through its ongoing partnership with its parent company OCSiAl, the world’s largest producer of single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs).

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