Company With “Skateboard” Electric Vehicle Platform Sets Up Headquarters In … Austin, Texas? (With A Koch Twist)

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That’s right, Texas. The epicenter of US oil and gas production is also keen on electric vehicles all of a sudden, and new zero-emission mobility investment dollars are beginning to pour into the Lone Star State. In the latest development, the Israel-based company REE Automotive is bringing its skateboard-style electric vehicle platform to the USA, and it has selected Austin, Texas, for its new US headquarters.

REE spots an electric vehicle opportunity

REE is a newcomer on the CleanTechnica radar, having popped up in 2020 on account of its EV collaboration with the firm KYB Group.

Earlier this month, REE also got a quick mention in a CleanTechnica listicle of automotive startups that aspire to emulate Tesla’s success in the electric vehicle area.

So, how is that going to go? The EV field is becoming more crowded by the second. Here in the US, overseas startups like Xpeng Motors are potentially soon vying for space in the EV passenger car market against legacy automakers that are suddenly launching a barrage of familiar names at the zero-emission mobility target, such as Ford’s iconic Mustang and F-150 brands — and all of them have to deal with the head start tucked away by Tesla.

Despite all the activity circling around individual car buyers, or perhaps because of it, there is plenty of space to grow in the fleet vehicle market, and that’s where REE is planting its stake.

An Electric Vehicle Option For Fleet Managers

Vehicle fleets get relatively little attention in the cleantech media spotlight, but fleet electrification is a really big deal. No, really. Plans are already in the works to electrify the massive fleet of the US government, according to President Joe Biden’s climate action plan.

There’s the US Postal Service, for starters. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy appears determined to dismantle USPS for reasons best known only to himself, but there is a chance that his rather lukewarm plans to decarbonize the service’s fleet of 200,000+ vehicles could get to a high boil sooner rather than later.

Then there’s the US Department of Defense, which has been EV-curious forever. Analysts doubt that combat operations could electrify in the near future, but electrified vehicles of various types could invade DoD’s sprawling facilities in the US and overseas, in addition to serving a limited role in action zones.

Even if REE doesn’t crack those nuts, there is plenty of low-hanging fruit for the taking.

“REE is a truly horizontal player, with technology applicable to the widest range of target markets and applications,” REE explains. “Fully scalable and completely modular, REE offers multiple customer benefits including complete vehicle design freedom, more space and volume with the smallest footprint, lower TCO [total cost of ownership], faster development times, ADAS [advanced driver assistance systems] support compatibility, reduced maintenance and global safety standard compliance.”

“EV platforms using REEcorners™ are agnostic to vehicle size and design, power-source and driving mode, enabling REE to target a $700 billion total addressable market, and help OEMs, delivery fleets, Mobility-as-a-Service providers and new mobility players get to market faster at a fraction of the cost,” REE adds.

If you caught that thing about TCO, that’s the key to the whole deal. Auto industry observers are forecasting that the upfront cost of an electric vehicle will soon drop to parity with conventional cars, thanks mainly to the falling cost of EV batteries. Until then, EV owners can count on lower fuel and maintenance costs to give them an edge on cost over gasmobiles.

Yes, But What Does That Mean?

The way REE sees it, the shortest line between a fleet manager and the transition to an electric vehicle fleet is to offer a ready-made, fully customizable electric vehicle platform that takes all the guesswork out of dipping a toe in the electric vehicle waters.

The cornerstone of the business is this thing called REEcorner, which “integrates critical vehicle components, including steering, braking, suspension, powertrain and control, into a single compact module between the chassis and the wheel, using x-by-wire technology for steering, driving and braking,” with x-by-wire referring to the replacement of mechanical systems with electronic ones.

“This innovation has enabled REE to develop a modular, fully-flat skateboard chassis with more room for passengers, cargo and batteries that will be highly adaptable to customers,” enthuses REE.

Partnering on the project is the global auto industry supplier Magna International and the somewhat lesser known mobility services firm JB Poindexter & Co.

In an interesting twist, also coming along for the ride is Koch Industries, which is an investor in REE through its subsidiary Koch Strategic Platforms.

Interesting! Koch Industries is infamous partly as a leading fossil energy stakeholder, and partly on account of Koch family members’ reported association with various causes. For those of you keeping score at home, it is also reportedly among the largest privately owned companies in the world.

The Koch Industries investment could become just one piece of a larger puzzle, as REE hints that it is “exploring several collaborations” with other companies under the Koch umbrella to “support and accelerate the establishment of REE’s integration center in Austin.” According to our friends over at SP Global, KSP is also digging in to both conventional and long-duration energy storage as well as EV charging stations, so stay tuned for more on that.

The Electric Vehicle Revolution Comes To Texas

Austin … say, isn’t that where Tesla is moving its headquarters? And now here comes REE with plans to set up shop. Here’s REE with the rundown:

“REE Automotive Ltd. [NASDAQ: “REE”], a leader in e-Mobility, today announced that it will open its U.S. headquarters in Austin, Texas to address the growing U.S. market demand for mission-specific EVs from delivery and logistics companies, Mobility-as-a-Service and new technology players.

“In addition, Austin will be the location of REE’s first asset-light Integration Center for the assembly and testing of its disruptive REEcorner™ technology and ultra-modular EV platforms.

“The new Integration Center will offer REE’s technology to its existing and future automotive partners in North America, enabling them to build modular EVs ‘Powered by REE.’”

If that sounds pretty ambitious, it is, and Texas is poised to become both host and leading customer. The state is primed for electric vehicles to swamp the roads, due to its massive wind energy output, rising solar industry, and energy storage activity.

The pieces are starting to come together and the state’s main grid operator, ERCOT, has already hooked up with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to work on EV-readiness through a global consortium aimed at scaling up renewable energy grid integration.

NREL has also developed a user-friendly version of its grid analysis tool, which enables utilities and other stakeholders to play around with different EV charging scenarios for light-duty fleets on typical weekdays and weekends in a given metropolitan area.

No mention of Texas would be complete without a word about the state’s plans for green hydrogen production with renewable energy. If all goes according to plan, the new “hydrogen hub” will stimulate even more renewable energy investment in the state.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: electric vehicle platform courtesy of REE Automotive Ltd.

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