German supply giant Bosch and supplier Benteler unveiled a partnered skateboard platform at this year's CES event in Las Vegas, saying automakers will be able to modify it to their own specifications and add other components as necessary.
The Detroit electric vehicle startup Rivian has developed a skateboard chassis that bundles the electric motor, batteries and other parts to accommodate varying vehicle body styles. Ford's Lincoln brand intended to obtain an electric SUV off of the Rivian skateboard but has now canceled the project, though the two companies still plan to collaborate in the future.
The Tel Aviv startup Ree Auto is also gearing up as a skateboard supplier.
Ree's approach will be to put all of the necessary vehicle drive components into the wheels, leaving a flat chassis for a variety of configurations, while reducing weight and increasing vehicle efficiency.
Ree only emerged on the global stage in June 2019 after six years of R&D, but the company is now running at a sprint, founder Daniel Barel told Automotive News. Last fall in Tokyo, Ree announced a partnership with commercial truck maker Hino Motors on what Hino called a "FlatFormer modular concept model." The design is a flexible chassis that optimizes space and allows for plug-and-play electrification configurations.
Barel said the skateboard approach to developing vehicles is a radical departure from industry tradition.
Ree is partnering with several companies, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., offering either corner modules, with integrated power, braking, steering and suspension, or a full rolling chassis.
For customers who want the full chassis, Ree provides the bottom and the automaker designs the top.
After designing the platform, Ree's network of suppliers will manufacture the various systems and components. The parts are then sent to a Ree integration center for final assembly.
Ree Auto is working to establish a presence in the United States, Germany and Japan. Barel says that for now, Ree is focused on the commercial vehicle side of the business rather than private passenger vehicles.
"But definitely," he said, "you're going to see us as a market standard in commercial vehicles, vans, trucks."