Cenntro iChassis Moves EV Maker into AV Realm

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FREEHOLD, N.J. — Cenntro Electric Group Limited (NASDAQ: NAKD made a splash at CES with the introduction of its iChassis, an electric autonomous (AV) “skateboard” chassis developed for low-speed commercial applications to be conceived by clients.

Historically, the Freehold, N.J.-based company, which went public late last year, has been producing and developing low-speed battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) for the urban/suburban commercial logistics market, a segment for which the iChassis is intended.

The BRAKE Report caught up with Marianne McInerney, Cenntro CMO, for a rundown on the company’s status as it enters this busy next phase which includes adapting to public ownership, the rollout of new Class 2 and Class 4 vehicles and further development of the iChassis.

“Cenntro launched in 2013 with a firm focus on commercial vehicles; that’s always been the focus of the company,” said McInerney. “We launched with the Metro, a low-speed vehicle in 2014 that I like to say has more applications than a Swiss army knife [as customers have used in a myriad of businesses].

“And the drive system has about 19 million miles driven, which we are extremely proud of. It allowed us to work on all aspects of our business, from technology to sourcing to our manufacturing.”

She said the steady progress has provided the smooth transition into launching two new vehicles: the LS 200, a Class 2 commercial vehicle which came to market in November, and the LS 400 Class 4 vehicle which is coming soon. Both are offered in various configurations – van, cab-and-chassis — to allow customers to tailor them to their needs.

“All of our vehicles are really focused on logistics; the ability to move goods from point A to point B, and to do so in a sustainable way,” she explained. “[The LS 200] was purpose built for Europe, really for the density of their streets, and really responding to what we’re hearing from the market. Year to date. We have delivered 200 vehicles from its time of launch, which only occurred in early November, and we have a great demand for those vehicles.”

The next offering will be the LS 400, which she said is: “designed for robust duty cycles, supports a range of applications, food and beverage, parcel delivery, linen delivery, maintenance and waste management. But it provides fleets with a quality and safe vehicle that offers a really solid range. So, the range right now is about 124 miles, the payload is about 5600 pounds and top speed is 62 miles per hour.”

Focusing on the logistics arena made development of an autonomous electric vehicle, with robust Artificial Intelligence (AI), a logical progression for Cenntro, which unveiled its foundation for such a creature – the iChassis – earlier this month at CES in Las Vegas.

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“We’re really excited by the AI chassis because we think it really opens up a new answer to last-mile logistics and allows companies to really focus in a different way on gaining efficiencies both in delivery and on how they use personnel and resources,” said McInerney. “And we’re excited by the response that we’ve had. We think it can be used for again, many municipal services like street sweeping, not very sexy, but it’s a reality.

“We love the mobile locker concept. And we’re talking to several companies that would like to pilot that program.”

The mobile locker would deliver packages to a consumer. When the mobile locker arrived at the consumer’s location, the consumer would use his/her phone to “unlock” their specific locker on the vehicle and take out their package.

The company hopes to have the iChassis in pilot programs and on the road in a year as it steadily grows, becoming more self-sufficient.

“If we talk in a year, I’d probably tell you that we are developing our own battery packs at that time just to, again, create a little more reliance on ourselves and a little better, better control,” said McInerney, who indicated Cenntro is also building factories to produce vehicles. “We intend to have six plus assembly points globally.”

One of those factories is being constructed in the Jacksonville, Fla. Region, the company’s first in the U.S.

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Today, McInerney feels the company is a success.

“We’re a quiet company, we really are focused on delivering the vehicles on time and at the price that we internally target. We are very focused on R&D and the supply chain at all times. We are not about hype, we’re not really about brand recognition. What really makes us tick is that the vehicles that we deliver will have a place in the market. And you know, candidly, will stand the test of time.”

For a more thorough overview of Cenntro, its EV and AV products, click on the YouTube video.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.