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REE said it expects to deliver the first P7 electric trucks in late 2023. (SAE/Sebastian Blanco)

REE unveils P7-C chassis cab at ACT Expo

The P7 platform with its innovative REEcorners can be used for Class 3 through 5 vehicles.

As a company focused on offering modular answers to the world’s mobility questions, REE knows the value of being flexible. That’s why the new P7-C chassis cab fills a gap in REE’s forthcoming lineup. There will be three versions of the P7 electric truck: the P7-C, the P7-B box-truck model and the P7-S stripped chassis.

REE unveiled the P7-C at the 2023 ACT Expo in Anaheim, California, where there was no lack of zero-emission commercial vehicles on display. While the P7 platform and its innovative REEcorners can be used for Class 3 through 5 vehicles, the P7-C aims squarely at the Class 4 market because that’s where the potential incentives and interest levels are high.

REE said it expects to deliver the first P7 electric trucks in late 2023, but it will not be announcing tens of thousands of P7 reservations before the company has shipped its first unit. CEO Daniel Barel said REE at the moment has chosen a quiet posture and just started taking orders in early 2023.

“It is very important for us to have the right customers that represent the right potential,” Barel said. “We want to invest in each of those customers.” He said REE has secured orders from the “largest fleets in the U.S.,” but he wouldn’t name them just yet.

“‘Well-done is better than well-said,’” he asserted. “The proper way of announcing it is to say, ‘Hey, they took delivery, and they like it.’ That means I’ve done my job. Until then, it’s just talk. We don’t talk. We do.”

Driver-centric cab
REE designed its P7 trucks for commercial customization, from the cabin to the payload area. REE’s P7-C on display in Anaheim used the company’s driver-centric cab design, but any standard cab can be installed on the P7 chassis. This modularity is part of what REE calls its “complete, not compete” strategy.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what REE does. It matters what the customer needs,” Barel said. “We’ve created a unique opportunity for our customers to have a cabin that nobody else has or a traditional cabin on the same chassis. The important part is the [electric] chassis.”

REE’s non-traditional cabin was designed to take full advantage of that quiet, electric powertrain. Drivers likely will operate the vehicles in urban areas, so there’s a low, wide windshield for better visibility directly in front of the truck. The cabin can be built with high or low floors and it can be ordered with one, two or three seats.

Drive-by-wire
Where REE really sets its vehicles apart, though, is at the corners. The company designed a drive-by-wire system for an EV based on modular units that contain everything that makes the vehicle drive, stop and steer. They’re not in-wheel or hub motors but something else. There’s a high-speed induction motor, gearbox and power inverter bundled together as a single unit. There are steering and brake actuators. There’s a drive-by-wire motor and a reduction gearbox, and a halfshaft. There are coil-over springs and hydraulic brake discs. And each REEcorner also has an ECU that controls everything happening in its unit while also communicating with a centralized ECU, the REEcenter, that oversees and controls vehicle dynamics.

The REE vehicle platform collects thousands of data streams per second from each REEcorner, and that gives the company the ability to offer preventive maintenance alerts to its operators. The system looks for connections or situations that have been shown in testing to often precede a specific repair issue. The sensors also can be used for other alerts, such as if the height sensor in each REEcorner shows that the vehicle has been loaded unevenly. This could create more wear-and-tear or make maneuvering more difficult, Barel said. REE also can use these sensors to observe driving patterns and through dashboard prompts encourage the driver to be more efficient or alert a fleet manager.

Looking at a REEcorner, there are two general halves. The outboard half uses industry-standard components such as shocks and wheel attachments, so roadside service technicians can work on a REE truck the same as any other vehicle. But, when there’s a problem with the powertrain — the inboard half — a REE vehicle should be back in service sooner because it won’t need to visit the garage.

That’s because REE designed the REEcorners to be easily replaced if something malfunctions. It’s such a straightforward process that a REEcorner can be exchanged on the side of the road in about an hour, Barel said. That includes the time to loosen (and reattach) the physical connectors as well as calibrate the software and let the REEcorner know where it is on the vehicle — if it’s a right front or left rear corner, for example. Unless there’s been some damage, technicians don’t have to worry about any electrical discharge and only need a standard lift to move a 660-lb (300-kg) REEcorner into place.

REE believes this kind of repair flexibility will make life easier for fleet operators. Because the corner units are interchangeable, fleet operators won’t need a garage full of parts. Instead, they’ll just need to stock REEcorners or access to them from a nearby dealer. Damaged REEcorners will be returned to REE for repairs or reuse.

Dealer expansion
During the ACT Expo, REE announced an expansion of its authorized dealer network in the U.S. There are about a dozen names on the list, with Monarch Truck Center, The Truck Shop and RY-DEN Truck Center newly added. REE also is being selective about which dealers it will work with because they’re the ones with the relationships to the customers, Barel said.

Despite all the flexibility REE wants to offer its customers, there are some logical limits. While it would be possible to order a P7-C as a Class 3 truck, for example, Barel does not expect that to happen very often. Class 4 sales are the smallest segment in the commercial ICE (internal-combustion engine) world, he said, but with electrification and the corresponding battery weight, sales are moving from Class 3 to 4.

The transition is accelerating because of significant government incentives worth up to $110,000 for Class 4 electric vehicles, compared to just $60,000 for Class 3 vehicles, Barel said. “It makes it very, very interesting,” he said.

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