Hino Motors, REE Automotive partners to develop modular e-vehicles
Toyota Motor Corp partner Hino Motors and Israeli startup REE Automotive has announced that they will cooperatively develop modular electric vehicles to transport people and goods, joining a growing number of conglomerates in the still emerging, but fast-paced commercial EV sector.
That market could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the next five years, analysts estimate, attracting the likes of General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co.
Startups Arrival and Rivian are developing similar vehicles for big delivery customers - Arrival with United Parcel Service, Rivian with Amazon.
Like Arrival and Rivian, REE has developed a flexible electric skateboard that combines the motor, batteries, steering, suspension, and brakes into a flat chassis on which different vehicle configurations - among them vans and buses - can be assembled.
REE has an edge as each corner of the skateboard features a modular wheel/tire combination that also integrates suspension and other chassis components.
Hino and REE plan to mutually develop an electric commercial vehicle chassis that employs REE's corner modules and features a detachable "mobility service module" that can function as a stand-alone unit. The allies plan to commence developing prototype vehicles in 2022.
Hino said the starting point for development is a concept called FlatFormer for a modular electric commercial vehicle, first exhibited at the 2019 Tokyo auto show.
REE said its skateboard can accommodate self-driving hardware. Earlier this month, REE announced an agreement with Navya, a French maker of self-driving passenger shuttles, to jointly develop autonomous systems with Ree's modular chassis components.