Israeli electric vehicle start-up REE will open a factory in the UK and plans to double its workforce in the country, in one of the first manufacturing investments from the new wave of makers.
Its $15million production plant in Coventry will be heavily automated with few direct jobs, but the group expects its total UK workforce to drop from 150 to around 300.
The company, founded by Daniel Barel in 2013, specializes in integrating electric motors and technology into bespoke “wedges” that can be linked together to form the base or platform of a vehicle.
It has partnerships with vehicle builders, including Toyota Hino’s truck arm, Magna Steyr in Austria and JB Poindexter in the United States, who will take the finished bases and add vehicle bodies to ship to customers such as delivery groups.
The investment is a boon to UK hopes of attracting a new wave of electric vehicle specialists as the industry shifts to battery-powered models.
Nissan, Stellantis and Ford have invested in electric models or components in the UK, but so far few electric vehicle start-ups have opened production centers in the UK. Rimac, a Croatian start-up, and Polestar have both opened research or engineering facilities in the UK.
REE believes its approach allows it to meet the needs of electric vehicles of various sizes without the need to install expensive manufacturing equipment that traditional automakers rely on.
“We don’t manufacture anything,” Barel told the Financial Times, with the company ordering batteries, brakes and other components from existing suppliers.
REE’s facility in Coventry will cost $15million 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 in the world for the company, which plans to open a factory in the United States twice as large next year.
“The beauty is that it’s built like a Lego factory, you can add more capacity as you wish, instead of shipping around the world from a single gigaplant,” Barel said.
The company also has an engineering base in Nuneaton, near Coventry.
He added that some automakers closing sites after the Brexit vote in 2016, such as Ford or Honda, made it easier for the company to hire engineers.
“People have worked for Honda, JLR, Lotus, Aston and others which has made it much easier for us to exploit Brexit,” Barel said. “I’m not saying we couldn’t have done it without Brexit, but competing for resources [would have been much harder].”
While it will export to Europe, the group also plans to open a continental site if there is customer demand. “I don’t see any challenges in terms of exporting to Europe,” Barel added.
REE received £41.2million from the UK government-backed Advanced Propulsion Center last summer to help design its specialist corner technology.
While the technology was developed in Israel, Barel said the engineering was centered on the UK, which is currently its largest global site.
The group went public through a special-purpose acquisition company last year, becoming one of nearly two dozen electric vehicle companies to hit the markets in the past two years.
It has no revenue yet and posted a net loss of $505 million last year.