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A Swedish Company is Making Flat-pack Cars – But It’s Not The One You Think

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Parked at the curbside of a tree-lined street, Luvly O looks a lot like any other small car. Boxy but sleek, the modern-classic aesthetic of the cream-colored vehicle embodies Scandi minimalism. It wouldn’t look out of place in an IKEA showroom — for more reasons than one.

That’s because, much like the products sold by the Swedish furniture giant, it’s designed to be delivered to its destination flat-packed.

Stockholm-based startup Luvly, founded in 2015, says its debut, ready-to-assemble car is so small and light that it can significantly reduce the carbon emissions associated with shipping.

In addition to the novel flat-pack delivery, Luvly is hoping that the electric car’s other features – including its super-light frame and swappable batteries – will make sustainable transport more affordable, says Håkan Lutz, Luvly CEO and co-founder.

Weighing under 450 kilograms (992 pounds) — less than one-quarter of the weight of the average modern car — Luvly has a range of 100 kilometers (62 miles) and a top speed of 90 kilometers (55 miles) per hour, which Lutz says is more than enough for the majority of commutes and daily trips in urban areas.

These cars aren’t likely to be your next DIY project, though, says Lutz: to be road legal, they will need to be assembled by a licensed car plant before being delivered to customers.
Although self-assembly is not required, IKEA has been a big influence. Lutz says Luvly is trying to do for cars what IKEA has done for furniture, with “good enough quality and very nice design, cheaply and efficiently for everybody.”

A “Luvly” solution
Luvly O is a “light urban vehicle,” also known as a microcar.

Tiny cars have been zipping around city streets since the 1950s. The iconic BMW Isetta — which weighed just 350 kilograms (770 pounds) — popularized the “bubble car” style that’s continued to inspire modern light vehicle design.

But while microcars look cute, they have a reputation for being unsafe. Their low height, light frames, and limited front crumple zones mean that in accidents, particularly with other cars, drivers can suffer more serious injuries than in passenger cars. What’s more, they are not subject to the same safety standards as regular passenger cars and there’s no requirement for crash testing.

“For light vehicles to compete with cars, and hopefully out-compete cars, they must be safe. People will not accept that you switch from driving an SUV to driving what is essentially a scooter with a shell,” says Lutz.

To address this, Luvly took inspiration from Formula One cars, which are built with a light but strong chassis. Luvly O’s frame has a “sandwich structure” with a layer of aluminum padded on both sides by lightweight plastic foam. Lutz says if the car crashes, the force will be absorbed by the padding and protect the driver.

Although crash testing isn’t mandated, Lutz says that the company is running computer simulations. “It’s not cheap to use computers, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than crashing (real) things,” he says.

Luvly O runs on by two rechargeable 16-kilogram batteries, which can be swapped with another set so the car is always powered.

Luvly is still testing the Luvly O prototype but hopes to launch the car next year with a price tag of around €10,000 ($10,500), says Lutz.

However, the microcar isn’t Luvly’s ultimate goal.

Luvly plans to license its patented light vehicle flat-pack framework to other car manufacturers to build their own branded versions.

“We don’t envision that we will be major producers of vehicles, but we anticipate we will be minor producers of vehicles, to advocate for and develop the technology,” says Lutz. “Despite wanting to license this to others, we also wish to stay on top of the game and be the best at our platform.”

Size matters
Despite growing consumer preference for larger car models, Luvly isn’t alone in modernizing the microcar.

In 2020, French automaker Citroën unveiled Ami, a 483-kilogram (1,064-pound), two-seat electric microcar that was replicated by German brand Opel and Italian carmakers Fiat. Last year, Swiss urban vehicle manufacturer Micro launched the Microlino, a “bubble car” that echoes the 1950s Isetta minicar. Like Luvly, Microlino uses a sportscar-inspired chassis to improve safety.

Smaller is safer
Light vehicles could also improve pedestrian safety, says Brost.

Over the past decade, the number of pedestrians killed on American roads has ticked steadily upwards, according to a study by the research organization Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And in 2021, pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in the US reached a 40-year high. This increase is partly due to the soaring popularity of sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

Source: CNN Travel

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