It used to be that new car companies were as rare as left handed lug nuts. There was Hyundai, then Yugo, then Daewoo. Two out of three of them failed almost immediately. But that was in the age of internal combustion engines. In the electric car era, new car companies are springing up faster than crabgrass. BYD, NIO, Xpeng, Faraday Future, Lucid, Tesla, Kandi, Fisker, Rivian — the list is long and growing.
The reason has a lot to do with the lack of complexity associated with electric power trains. A battery, a management system, and an electric motor or two and you’re in business. But developing a new car can take years and cost millions of dollars. Some companies see a business opportunity in developing an electric car chassis — often called a skateboard — and selling it to other companies that don’t have the skill or the resources to develop one of their own.
That apparently is what Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that has specialized in making iPhones for Apple, is planning to do. At the unveiling in Taipei last week, Foxconn Chairman Liu Young-way said he is targeting a 10 percent share of the global EV market as soon as 2025. The chassis is described as “open-source,” with customizable elements including size, wheelbase, suspension type, and battery size.
Partner automakers could fine tune the skateboard to their needs, and Foxconn would assemble it for them, Liu said. He indicated the company has spoken to a number of car makers about using its EV platform but declined to name the companies involved. There may be a hint in other electric car news from last week. Last January, FCA named Foxconn as a joint-venture partner to build EVs in China.
FCA says it is as committed to a multi-year $1.1 billion investment to assemble electric vehicles in Canada. It says manufacturing plug-in hybrids and battery electric cars in Windsor will add up to 2,000 new jobs. The new investment is part of tentative three year contract with Unifor, the union that represents many of the 44,000 auto workers in southern Ontario, just across the border from Detroit. FCA says its investment will lead to at least one new electric model by 2025. Could that car use the Foxconn chassis?
The news from Foxconn involved more than the new EV platform. It also said it plans to introduce a solid state battery for EVs in 2024 that would be superior to today’s lithium-ion electric-car batteries. “Superior” is a slippery term. “We’ll see,” said the Zen Master.