Renault and Volvo team up on next generation electric vans

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The electric van market is heating up with new entries coming soon from Nissan, Mercedes, and even Kia – and now, even more players are getting into the market. A new JV between Volvo Trucks, Renault, and logistics provider CMA CGM promises a “revolutionary” new entry into the increasingly crowded field.

Dubbed Flexis SAS, the new JV will be based in France, and see Renault and Volvo each hold a 45% stake, with CMA CGM taking the remaining 10%, with Renault and Volvo each planning to invest some €300 million each over the course of the next three years. The money will help Flexis to fund the development of an “all new” electric skateboard chassis set to be produced at Renault’s Sandouville plant beginning sometime in 2026.

If the first official Flexis press image (above) is to be believed, that electric skateboard will eventually carry a number of different work bodies. These include a conventional panel van, a “box” van, and a high-roof step-in van similar to the Ford E-Transit, Ram ProMaster, or even Renault’s own mid-sized Trafic van – but Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo says their new vans will be much more advanced.

The Flexis vans will be Software Defined Vehicles (SDVs) built around Google’s Android Auto operating system. “This allows Google to go beyond the screen into the functions of the car,” says de Meo. “This will also allow the vans to be connected to the Google Cloud and allow customers who buy large numbers to integrate their own software into the vehicles.”

And, once they’re ready, they’ll have a waiting customer in the form of Flexis partner, CMA CGM.

“This is a comprehensive and innovative partnership,” offered Rodolphe Saadé, chairman and CEO, CMA CGM Group. “Not only are we investing in this project, but we will also bring our know-how and expertise to ensure inbound and outbound logistics, while some of these vehicles could ultimately be used to decarbonize our fleet.” 

CMA CGM has expressed their belief that the European market for electrified vans alone is expected to grow by as much as 40% per year between now and 2030. The logistics provider is putting up €120 million for its stake in Flexis, through its “Pulse” investment fund aimed at fostering the decarbonization of Europe’s logistics.

Electrek’s Take

Volvo-EM90-electric-minivan
Volvo EM90 minivan; via Volvo Cars.

As tempting as it is to equate the Flexis van(s) with Volvo’s recently announced EM90 minivan (above), it’s important to note that Flexis is a Volvo Trucks project – which means that it’s unlikely to share many parts (if any) with its similarly-branded, China-backed cousin.

Whether that fact eventually helps or hurts the Flexis project in an increasingly isolationist Western vehicle market remains to be seen.

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