By now, with electric cars having fully and thoroughly entered the mainstream, the formula for how they’re made is. You have one or two motors driving the wheels via traditional axles, a single-speed transmission and a big battery pack mounted as low as you can get it.
That formula is established because it works pretty well, and it’s easy for automakers that have traditionally made internal combustion-powered cars to adapt to. But what if there were a different way to do it? Israeli EV startup Ree thinks it’s found one.
Ree announced its new tech on Tuesday, and based on what we’re seeing so far, it could actually work. So what’s different about Ree and its design? To start, the drive components for the EV are contained wholly inside the wheels. This means that there is no bulky drive unit sitting between the front or rear wheels.
That gives the advantage of having a completely flat floor for more passenger and cargo space in a given application. Having individual motors in each wheel also opens the door for really advanced torque vectoring, which would — in theory, at least — improve both safety and handling.
Ree’s idea to put all the drive components inside the wheel isn’t necessarily a new idea, but it’s going further by including not only the motor inside the wheel but the steering, suspension, drivetrain, sensing, brakes, thermal systems and electronic components as well.
Details on the actual designs are a little thin on the ground, but the suspension aspect can be fleshed out a little by looking at the company founder’s other project, Softwheel. Softwheel is designed for use on wheelchairs and bicycles and eschews traditional hard-mounted spokes for three gas struts mounted to the rim and the wheel hub.
From there, you can infer some possible solutions where packaging is concerned. The motor could replace the traditional hub of an undriven wheel; the electronics and thermal management aspects would likely also be attached to the motor. Steering would be fairly conventional; we’d imagine with linkages, etc.
Ree is really championing the scalable, modular nature of its technology. Since the architecture of a vehicle would be significantly simplified by having all of its drive and suspension systems inside its wheels, along with a flat floor that is made up of a structural battery pack, you could conceivably whack any body you like on top of it, depending on your need.
We’ll be super interested to see if Ree can get any real traction with its designs, because it’s a fresh new way of looking at EVs and we kinda dig it.