NUNEATON, England -- A handful of commercial electric vehicle startups are burning through cash fast, racing to bring vans or trucks to market before the funds run out or customers choose to buy from legacy automakers such as Ford or General Motors.
Boosted by investor hunger to create the next Tesla, a clutch of commercial EV makers on both sides of the Atlantic have gone public via reverse mergers with special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), raising hundreds of millions of dollars as they sought to emulate Elon Musk's success.
But investors have soured on EV startups and their ability to compete with legacy carmakers, sending their shares to a fraction of their peak prices. This has raised the pressure to produce working vehicles fast if they want to raise fresh funds in an industry where launching a single vehicle can cost $1 billion.
"It's vitally important at this stage to get vehicles into customers' hands," said Daniel Barel, CEO of Israeli electric chassis maker REE Automotive, which has run vehicle tests with customers near Detroit and will unveil a UK prototype van this week. "Only then can they make a real decision to buy."
REE's chassis use "corners" or standalone in-wheel electric motors, with brakes and steering housed in all or some of the wheels of an EV that do not need axles or powertrains, freeing up more space inside a van.