Israeli know-how agency REE Automotive needs to place the skateboard again into the skateboard EV chassis. You’ve got in all probability heard the time period. It describes the multi-use battery-electric platforms from EV makers like Rivian, Canoo, Volkswagen and GM, the promise of the idea being {that a} single battery-based platform can assist a variety of autos much more simply and extra cost-effectively than internal-combustion-engine structure.

However “skateboard” does not imply what it used to — no less than not in relation to autos (skate boarders, you are still cool). At the moment’s skateboard chassis aren’t flat they usually incorporate structural elements like subframes and suspensions. That signifies that for Volkswagen to show its ID.3 subcompact hatch into the ID.4 crossover, or Rivian to show its R1T pickup into the R1S SUV, these firms wanted to reengineer their central platforms. And which means EV makers can not extract the complete flexibility and price financial savings {that a} true skateboard chassis guarantees.

REE co-founder and CEO Daniel Barel stated that his firm’s been working since 2013 on a platform “that will be so modular and so scalable that everyone would be capable of use it as the premise of the autos that they need to construct.”

To assist perceive how far the terminology has strayed and what’s been misplaced, it is best to return nearly 20 years to the 2002 North American Worldwide Auto Present, when Common Motors unveiled its AUTOnomy idea. That’s the platform credited with coining the time period “skateboard chassis.” It was a six-inch-thick deck, flat and comely from entrance to again, contained hydrogen gas cell innards. GM by no means defined the place the suspension lived, however hub motors powered the 4 wheels, and a software program mind managed drive-, steer-, and brake-by-wire.

Rick Wagoner, GM CEO on the time, noticed AUTOnomy as “probably the beginning of a revolution in how vehicles are designed, constructed, and used.” The idea promised greater than the body-agnostic platform we name a skateboard chassis as we speak, as a result of — right here’s the essential half — it may match completely different our bodies and serve completely different functions with out redesigning the platform.

Whereas REE does not have a connection to GM, its platform resurrects the ghost of that AUTOnomy idea by being a pancake-flat deck from stem to stern containing batteries; energy electronics; the AI mind that controls drive-, steer-, and brake-by-wire controls; and a GPS unit.

The billion-dollar AUTOnomy skateboard.

All of the bits that make a REE car go — the electrical motors, energy electronics, gearbox, steering gears, and suspension — are bolted to the corners of the deck inside 4 discrete modules known as REEcorners. A stubby axle extends from the module to assist a hub and wheel, steering linkage, brake rotor, and brake caliper, that are the one unsprung lots.

If we’re utilizing an precise skateboard for comparability, REE’s central slab is the skateboard deck; the REEcorner modules are the skateboard’s axle carriers (known as vans on a skateboard) and wheels. And similar to one can swap the vans and wheels of a skateboard with no need to revamp any of the elements, REE can mix REEcorner modules to create any mixture of front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive autos with front-, rear-, or all-wheel steering, with out reengineering the deck.

In accordance with Barel, transitioning a REE platform from a Class 3 car with a gross car weight ranking (GVWR) of 14,000 kilos (equal to a Ford F-350) to a Class 1, with a GVWR of 6000 kilos (a Ford Ranger), or vice-versa, means not more than swapping to the REEcorner modules created for the suitable car sort. There’s no reengineering of the deck, and it takes about 60 minutes to modify modules—roughly quarter-hour to get a brand new unit bolted on, 45 minutes to take care of the high-voltage system and wheel alignment.

The chassis steps go from REE’s P1 platform, designed for last-mile deliveries and a most payload ranking of 772 kilos, to the P7, able to carrying 11,023 kilos — roughly a Class 6 Medium truck just like the Ford F-650. The center youngster P4 platform compares with a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter — the type favored by Amazon — and comes with a payload ranking of 1,300 kg (2,866 kilos). Quantity-wise, Barel stated the P4 has a barely smaller footprint than a Sprinter, however may have 20 % extra quantity. These advantages come along with offering patrons a custom-designed car.

REE will make solely its platform and propulsion methods, and assemble the ultimate product. Amongst its partnerships, REE has signed a preliminary settlement with Indian conglomerate Mahindra to fabricate the remainder of the car — just like the physique and inside — designed in line with the shopper’s wants. Mahindra would additionally perform homologation for international markets, however Ree would assemble the autos in a local-market integration heart.

The plan is to fabricate the subcomponents for car kits. Then these kits shall be assembled at REE amenities, known as “integration facilities,” available in the market the place the car shall be used. The corporate plans 15 such facilities in the intervening time, the primary one within the U.S. slated to open this 12 months.

As a result of REE is initially specializing in supply autos, it will not have to fret about extending battery vary. However the deck may theoretically match extra batteries, because it omits tools between the wheels. Requested in regards to the security of the design, Ree stated it “takes into consideration crumple zones, makes use of skid plates and ensures ample clearance from the ends of chassis to the battery to fulfill all mandatory necessities,” whether or not as a business or passenger car.

Barel believes the simplicity of the system may repay on the upkeep aspect of the ledger as properly. As a result of conventional autos include all kinds of elements, fleet operators typically preserve massive inventories of varied elements. “Why try this?” Barel stated. “It takes lower than 60 minutes to interchange a REEcorner with a model new nook. There is not any extra repairs. There’s nothing. Put it up, exchange the nook, put the car again to work, ship us again the nook, we’ll repair it for you and ship it again to you.” That will lower your expenses on elements, warehousing to retailer elements, and coaching fleet mechanics.

A fleet operator would wish to inventory solely the REEcorner modules it wants for its autos. REE plans to arrange a community of amenities the place a car proprietor may drive in to have a module swapped, in addition to a community of depots the place an proprietor may ship a REEcorner to be mounted.

REE just lately joined the listing of electrical car outfits which have merged with enterprise capital companies with the intention to full an IPO and get their shares listed on Wall Avenue. Assuming a profitable public providing, a portion of the monetary windfall shall be invested into an engineering heart within the UK the place REE will design, check, validate, and homologate its platforms. On prime of that, up to now this 12 months Ree has signed collaboration offers with Magna, truck-maker Hino, American Axle, and introduced Austin, Texas, as the location of its U.S. headquarters and first integration heart.  

Past GM’s Hy-wire idea, which sat on GM’s AUTOnomy chassis and was proven in late 2002, GM by no means adopted via with its progressive thought. If Ree’s platform backs up Barel’s claims — final modularity and ease of restore mixed with decrease prices, mass-produced for international markets — the tech agency could be the primary to unlock the 19-year-old promise of the true skateboard chassis.