Lightweight chassis structure used for new electric vehicle project

Louise Smyth

Unique lightweight chassis structure called ‘ToPCat’ for new EV project

Swedish electric car company Uniti has named KW Special Projects (KWSP) as the official engineering partner for its new affordable electric vehicle (EV) programme, Uniti One. The agreement will see KWSP’s unique carbon composite vehicle platform exploited for the vehicle build, chosen for its lightweighting, thermal management and structural advantages.

Named ToPCat, KWSP’s carbon composite chassis vehicle platform can be developed for a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. It offers an alternative to more conventional carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) thermosets, traditionally seen in motorsport programmes. However, while CFRP can be expensive to process, labour intensive and not easily recyclable, ToPCat is fully recyclable and has been proven to shorten engineering cycle times by 83%.

Independent tests have also demonstrated financial savings in both tooling costs and unit costs when ToPCat has been used as an alternative to other methods.

In comparison to traditional thermoset manufacture, ToPCat demonstrated the following benefits:

●     Tooling costs: 96% cheaper
●     Unit cost: 41% cheaper
●     Cycle time: 83% shorter
●     Recyclability: Fully (including second life).

Built through modular construction utilising a repeatable manufacturing process, ToPCat uses thermoplastic materials and innovative manufacturing processes to meet the need for reduced vehicle mass and increased modularity of manufacture, driven by a rapid rise in adoption of new energy vehicles (NEVs). It is an ideal choice for the new Uniti One vehicle, which will be produced at the UK’s first fully digitised electric vehicle production site at Silverstone Park.

Kieron Salter, managing director at KWSP, commented: “Uniti One is a really exciting project that will demonstrate the lightweight and structural advantages of ToPCat when compared with alternative methods of chassis design and manufacture. Made possible by co-funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, ToPCat was key to attracting Uniti to the UK, where the company hopes to take advantage of Britain’s expertise in materials development and lightweighting.”

UK manufacturing base

Indeed, proving this commitment to the UK, Uniti has announced plans to establish an EV “pilot production plant” at Silverstone Park, the home of the British Grand Prix. The facility will be used to produce the Uniti One while serving as a blueprint for globally licensed “digital” assembly plants throughout the world. The initiative aligns with the UK’s industrial strategy to lead the world in zero emission and autonomous vehicle technologies. Uniti anticipates this Industry 4.0 pilot facility to be operational by 2020, leading the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.

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