Mission Specific Vehicles are the Future, Says REE

Vehicle powertrains are next to irrelevant in terms of the biggest megatrends facing the automotive industry today.

That’s the view of Daniel Barel, CEO and co-Founder of REE, maker of specialist vehicles employing integrated wheel powertrains. While the company, so far, has concentrated on battery electric technology, Barel asserts that it remains solidly agnostic about future automotive power sources. He said that innovation is needed to solve future mobility needs, adding: “To make this happen you have to come up with an alternative power source. It can be EV or fuel cell and, maybe, a few years from now there will be another different means of power available which is why we at REE decided to be power agnostic and able to work with anything.”

City life

Barel said there are three major megatrends that will impact on future transportation and that electrified powertrains is not one of them. He expanded: “One is the fact that, in the urban life today in modern societies, the air quality and living quality has taken a very significant step forward. This is now beyond the point of no return and it’s only going to accelerate. If back in the last century when London was foggy because of coal and people had to live with that.

“I remember even in the 1990s living in New York, I had to clean my ears every day because they were black with pollution. This is not acceptable to people anymore. Citizen around the world are saying ‘we want to live in the city but enjoy the life quality of the village’.”

Smart cities

Next is the rise of mobility sharing for the city dweller who is becoming less wedded to the idea of vehicle ownership, said Barel. He explained: “Second megatrend is what used to be called CASE, connected autonomous shared and electric, where now the most important of those are shared and the smart city. If you want to build a smart city it not only needs to be clean but must have a more regulated transportation system. I’m not talking about government regulation but a system with less congestion, faster routes, etc.”

He points also to the impact of the pandemic on current public transport shared mobility platforms. Barel explained: “We have seen that one of the most efficient ways of travel in a city is the underground which you have in London. It is super-efficient, you pop up anywhere you want to. It’s surprisingly electric, can transport masses of people but now this doesn’t work anymore [post-Covid] and it’s not what people want. Why, because people prefer to be in a more secure environment.”

Personal efficiency

Barel also believes the generational changes in approaches to work and life balance is changing rapidly and that time wasted in commuting activities will increasingly be seen as ‘dead time’. He said: “The third trend is efficiency. When you travel the Tube, you go, you stand in line and you’re not very productive. You’re idle waiting to get from point A to point B. This state of idleness is not acceptable in today’s world anymore – you have to be far more efficient. In our generation we had to remember stuff in our heads because it was much more difficult to get to the library to fetch a book out. Today’s generation doesn’t have to remember anything, instead they know how to process information faster because it’s all available.”

Barel thinks the vehicles of the future will be far more focused on specific roles than the do-it-all vehicles of today. He explained: “So now, if you merge all three megatrends together you get to the backbone of all that which is the mission specific vehicle. Vehicles that are targeted for exactly what they need to be, transporting you from point A to point B in the most effective and efficient way. This may not necessarily be the shortest or quickest way but you, as a person, become effective. You can work, you can sleep in your environment but one that you share because it’s more efficient with less congestion, less parking spaces, etc.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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