Japan-based Firm Launches Sofa-like 1-seater EV

Apr 30, 2013
Motohiko Hamada, Nikkei Automotive Technology
[Click to enlarge image]

Nano-Optonics Energy, a Japan-based firm, released the "Unimo" one-seater electric vehicle (EV), expecting that it will run not on public roads but in care facilities and rehabilitation centers.

The EV looks like a sofa, and its traveling mechanism cannot be seen. Because its sides are flat, it can be laid out in a line.

The Unimo uses rubber crawler tracks instead of wheels. It can make a 360° turn so that it can turn around in a small elevator car.

Equipped with a torsion bar suspension (independent suspension), the EV can climb over an about 15cm step. Conventional electric wheelchairs can go over a step of up to about 8cm. Therefore, it can get on/off a train and move on rutted roads and gravel roads in parks and in sand beaches and other places where conventional electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters cannot travel smoothly.

The Unimo has a function that assists the user to get on and off the vehicle as a standard feature. When the user is getting on or off the EV, the rear part of its seat is lifted to make an about 30° angle.

When the EV is travelling, the tilt of the seat can be controlled by electric power. Furthermore, when a steep slope is detected by a sensor, the vehicle automatically stops and adjusts the tilt of the seat so that the user can feel easy.

To control the Unimo, a joystick is used as in the case of conventional electric wheelchairs. The EV can be intuitively operated by tilting the joystick to the direction that the user wants to go in. To move backward, the user keeps pressing the "speed button" to switch to the "reverse mode" and, then, tilts the joystick backward for safety reasons.

The specifications of the vehicle are as follows.

Dimensions: 1,000 (L) x 695 (W) x 880mm (H)
Mass: 95-100kg
Motor: two brushless DC motors whose output is 400W each
Battery: lithium iron phosphate battery whose voltage and current capacity are 48V and 15Ah, respectively
Minimum turning radius: 0.6m
Drive range: 20km
Maximum speed: 6km/h
Charging time: 5.5 hours

Nano-Optonics Energy does not intend to sell the vehicle to individuals at first but plans to sell multiple units to hospitals and care facilities. Therefore, its price will be decided by negotiation.