Smith Electric Vehicles is returning to the U.S market after it announced an agreement to form a joint venture with FDG Electric Vehicles, a Hong Kong-based electric vehicle and battery manufacturer.
The purpose of the joint venture is to accelerate the electrification of commercial fleets in the U.S. market. The $35 million investment will bring together Smith’s Newton platform configuration and subsystems with the FDG all-electric commercial EV platform.
FDG will supply the lithium-ion batteries and kits ready for assembly, while Smith will be responsible for product development services, vehicle manufacturing, service and support.
Smith suspended production of its vehicles in 2013 amid reports that the company had lost $127.6 million in a three-year span.
Last year, Smith announced that it was getting a $42 million investment from Sinopoly Battery Limited so it could resume operations. Sinopoly was to be a strategic shareholder in Smith Electric and become Smith's supplier for batteries and certain other electric vehicle components.
According to the FDG website, Shanghai's Sinopoly Battery Research Center is one of its electric vehicle R&D centers, along with the Jasmin New Energy Electric Vehicle R&D Center.
Smith originally planned to resume production in its Kansas City, Mo., facility in mid-summer last year, but now says it restarted production of its Newton line in January.
“The reason for this transaction is simple: We believe the time is now for market acceptance of commercial electric vehicles,” said Byran Hansel, CEO of Smith Electric. “We are seeing all of the indications that the market that we helped establish has now turned the corner from the R&D phase to the commercial phase.”
In recent months, Smith and FDG have collaborated on a new commercial electric vehicle platform in the Class 3-4 medium-duty segment. The design will be offered in multiple configurations including cab/chassis, van, step-through van, and transit. It is being designed for applications such as postal and parcel delivery and people transit. Smith is also bringing its existing Newton platform in the Class 5-6 segments.
Smith restarted production of the Newton line in January and expects to scale up manufacturing operations in the U.S. over the next 18-24 months in conjunction with the launch of the new vehicle platform.
“FDG believes that the electric vehicle is the future mainstream of the global automotive industry and that’s why we are a pure electric vehicle company,” said Cao Zhong, executive chairman of FDG. “We deeply value our relationship with Smith and the formation of the joint venture represents the mutual recognition of each other’s technologies.”