Manufacturing

Israeli electric vehicle group REE to build $15mn UK factory


Israeli electric vehicle start-up REE will open a UK factory and plans to double its workforce in the country, in one of the first manufacturing investments from the new wave of makers.

Its $15mn production facility in Coventry will be heavily automated with few direct jobs, but the group expected its total UK workforce to rise from 150 to about 300.

The company, founded by Daniel Barel in 2013, specialises in integrating electric motors and technology into bespoke “corners” that can be linked to form the base, or platform, of a vehicle.

It has partnerships with vehicle builders including Toyota’s truck arm Hino, Magna Steyr in Austria and JB Poindexter in the US, which will take the finished bases and add vehicle bodies to ship to customers such as delivery groups.

The investment is a boon for the UK’s hopes of attracting a new wave of electric vehicle specialists as the industry shifts towards battery-driven models.

Nissan, Stellantis and Ford have invested in electric models or components in the UK, but so far few of the electric vehicle start-ups have opened UK production centres. Rimac, a Croatian start-up, and Polestar have both opened UK research or engineering facilities.

REE believes its approach allows it to cater for electric vehicles of different sizes without needing to install expensive manufacturing equipment relied upon by traditional carmakers.

“We are not fabricating anything,” Barel told the Financial Times, with the business ordering batteries, brakes and other components from existing suppliers.

REE’s Coventry facility will cost $15mn to install and will have almost no staff, relying on robotics to assemble up to 40,000 of its “corners” — enough for 10,000 vehicles — a year. The site will be the first globally for the company, which plans to open a US facility at double the size next year.

“The beauty is that it is built as a Lego factory, you can add more capacity as you want, instead of shipping globally from one gigaplant,” Barel said.

The company also has an engineering base in Nuneaton, near Coventry.

He added that some carmakers closing down sites after the Brexit vote of 2016, such as Ford or Honda, made it easier for the business to hire engineers.

“People have worked for Honda, JLR, Lotus, Aston and others, which made it very easy for us with Brexit to tap into that far more,” Barel said. “I am not saying we could not have done it without Brexit, but competing for resources [would have been much harder].”

While it will export to Europe, the group also expects to open a mainland site if there is customer demand. “I don’t see any challenges in terms of exporting to Europe,” Barel added.

REE received £41.2mn from the UK government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre last summer to help engineer its specialised corner technology.

While the technology was developed in Israel, Barel said the engineering was centred on the UK, which is currently its largest global site.

The group listed through a special purpose acquisition company last year, becoming one of almost two dozen EV businesses to tap the markets in the course of the past two years.

It has no revenues yet, and booked a net loss of $505mn last year.



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