American Axle, REE Partner To Develop Module For Electric Vehicles

American Axle, REE Partner To Develop Module For Electric Vehicles

American Axle & Manufacturing

and REE Automotive have agreed to jointly develop a new electric propulsion system for commercial vehicles.

Specifically, the goal is to combine American Axle’s electric drive units into REE’s REEcorner technology so that a completely flat electric vehicle chassis can perform multiple functions. REEcorner integrates steering, braking, suspension and powertrain components into the area between the chassis and wheel.

The new electric drive units will be developed at AA&M’s advanced technology and development center in Detroit. The companies plan to deliver prototypes by the end of 2021.

“We are very excited to partner with REE to bring new e-mobility technologies to the market,” David Dauch, AAM chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “This agreement to provide electric drive technology for use in REEcorners is an important step in growing AAM’s electric propulsion business.”

In February, Tel Aviv-based REE agreed to go public through a special purpose acquisition company, 10X Capital Venture Acquisition Corp., which is expected to provide $500 million in capital, including $300 million from Mahindra and Mahindra, Koch Strategic Platforms and Magna International, a major auto supplier.

American Axle is the latest in a series of manufacturers to partner with REE.

Last month, Hino Motors, the Toyota subsidiary that makes commercial vehicles and diesel engines, announced a strategic alliance with REE to develop a version of the REEBoard, a mobility service vehicle that will carry passengers, goods and services to the customers who currently buy Hino’s vehicles.

American Axle is a major supplier of axles and other driveline components, primarily for trucks and sport utility vehicles, most of which continue to feature large internal combustion engines.

But it is preparing for what the industry expects will be a gradual, but inevitable migration to battery-only powertrains. For example, it supplies the electric drive system for Jaguar’s I-Pace plug-in crossover.

“I want us to have product offerings that are bookshelf technology and when the market and the customers are ready for that technology, we’re prepared to support that,” Dauch told Bloomberg in a 2020 interview. “We’re kind of like a duck on water, where we look calm on top of the water. But when we’re in the water, we’re paddling like hell.”

REE’s modules can be detached from the electric vehicle and then serve as an independent vehicle that can carry out its own deliveries.

The company showed a version of this flat module, called the FlatFormer, at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show.

The firm signed an agreement with Indian carmaker Mahindra and Mahindra last year to explore joint development of electric commercial vehicles.

For more than a decade, many companies have touted the benefits of standardized, flat undercarriages that could support multiple vehicle types, from sedans and crossovers to vans and commercial trucks. This can reduce costs compare to creating individual platforms for each.

Most recently, electric truck startup Rivian, automotive tech firm Canoo and the U.K.’s Arrival have promoted flat platforms for a range of battery-powered vehicles, but REE cofounder and CEO Daniel Barel says his company takes the approach even farther. 

“We are delighted to collaborate with AAM on this groundbreaking concept,” Barel said in a statement. “AAM’s modular drive solutions enhance our product offering with a highly compact form factor that will enable more design freedom and functionality for our future customers.”

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