At first glance, there's nothing inherently surprising about REE Automotive's all-electric vehicle platform.
There are driving components, such as wheels and suspension, in the front and back with a battery in between, and you can put whatever body style you want on top. In short, it looks like many other battery-powered “skateboards” that will underpin more and more EVs moving forward.
But Keren Shemesh, REE Automotive chief marketing officer, says there's much more to the REE platform than meets the eye.
“We needed to think a bit differently how to utilize or to change this infrastructure to meet the needs of mission-specific EVs,” Shemesh says at InformaTech’s virtual Summer Festival of Automotive, which includes the WardsAuto Interiors Conference and WardsAuto UX Conference.
Like many others, REE believes an EV demand boom lies on the horizon, and it has identified what it says is a missing piece before someone can capitalize on all those vehicles. While others talk about a CASE future (connected, autonomous, shared, electric), REE adds P for platform and reconfigures the letters to spell SPACE.
Looking again at REE’s platform, called REEboard, it’s clear the differences Shemesh is talking about can be found in the corners, specifically the REEcorner in-wheel drive units.
Each REEcorner contains all the driving components the vehicle needs to move – including suspension, brake-by-wire, steer-by-wire, maintenance sensors and data units – and operates independently, controlled by REE’s X-by-wire technology. The software will be able to accept over-the-air updates.
“Everything is in the corner modules that enable a fully flat chassis," Shemesh says, and that gives designers full freedom to create the body and cabin they want to put on top, since there is no mechanical connection between any of the wheels.
The REEcorner modules also have a preventive-maintenance AI that can let service providers know when something needs to be fixed. Shemesh says an entire corner module can be swapped out in 20 minutes or less to keep the vehicle running. “It’s cost-effective, very scalable and very reliable,” she says.
REE has made five of its EV platform ideas public (above, left), from the smallest unit, the P1T, working as a small, autonomous last-mile package delivery vehicle, on up to the P2T for moving passengers and making deliveries, the P4T for small electric trucks or autonomous shuttles, the P6T for cargo trucks or buses and, finally, the P7T for large semi-like cargo carriers.
The corner modules used in each of these platforms would make the resulting EVs less costly to build with a total-cost-of-ownership that can be reduced dramatically compared to today’s EVs, Shemesh says.
This lets all kinds of mobility companies become REE customers, from OEMs who just use the REEcorners or would build their own vehicles on top of the REEboard to nontraditional players that would buy entire vehicles from REE, she says.
Shemesh says the radical change presented by the REEboard comes in two parts. Designing lower-cost EVs is one, but there’s also the disruption to current business models.
REE sees a three-layer approach to its new model. There will be a platform provider (REE, in this example) working with the service providers that will run the delivery companies and the car sharing services using these vehicles. Then there are the data providers to take advantage of the connected capabilities.
“All of those three layers are working together as one stack, creating services and capabilities, and everything is based (on) and carried by a modular EV platform,” Shemesh says. “This is a disruption.”
An Israeli EV startup formed in July 2019, REE has partnerships with Mitsubishi and American Axle & Mfg. to bring its technologies to the real world.
REE announced in May it also would work with Japanese supplier KYB on the REEboard's suspension. REE Automotive was named a finalist for TU Automotive's 2020 Automotive Tech Company of the Year.
Reeboard prototypes are scheduled to hit the road in the third quarter of 2021. “Things are about to get interesting,” Shemesh says.