Reinventing the wheel with modular electric vehicle development

A platform approach to car design could encourage faster development of clean car technologies.

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Electric vehicles are the future. But developing them is a massively expensive undertaking. A new vehicle platform costs as much as $20 billion to design, validate, and build. 

That means most early-stage technology firms -- at least those not helmed by Elon Musk -- don't have requisite resources and have been elbowed out of the electric vehicle development race as major auto manufacturers roll ahead.

But what if there were a way to reduce the development strain to encourage EV development and vehicle diversity, thereby hastening the transfer away from internal combustion vehicles?

That's the premise of REE, an Israeli technology startup that's developing a flat, modular electric vehicle platform that auto manufacturers can use as a blank canvas. While most road vehicle design incorporates integral propulsion and steering components into a vehicle's body, REE has placed the motor, steering, suspension, drivetrain, sensing, brakes, and electronics into what looks like a flat cart with wheels.

Auto manufacturers can utilize this modular base to create a variety of vehicle concepts.

"The concepts of the past are limited and restrict the ability of the automotive industry to realize the electric and autonomous reality they are striving for," says Daniel Barel, Co-Founder and CEO of REE. "Until now, the industry has operated by making incremental improvements on the traditional design of the automotive vehicle. At REE, we believe that to hasten the automotive revolution we need to reinvent the wheel – quite literally."

The platform approach has some technological advantages in addition to economic advantages. The design provides a low center of gravity, for instance, which increases efficiency and vehicle stability. The footprint is smaller than a standard vehicle and weighs less.

The system uses four motors that work in tandem. An integrated suspension automatically senses and levels the height at each wheel. According to a spokesperson, the technology can be used as the foundation of any type of vehicle, from a high-performance car able to do 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds to an off-road SUV with advanced active suspension technology.

Though positioned to empower newcomers to the automotive manufacturing scene, REE has been collaborating with leading OEMs as well as Tier-1 and Tier-2 automotive companies, including Mitsubishi Corporation, Mushashi, Linamar, Tenneco and NXP.

REE was founded by Daniel Barel and Avishay Sardes who are also the founders of SoftWheel.