Author Topic: Autonomous vehicle manufacturer looks to open first US plant in Jacksonville  (Read 5316 times)

Zac T

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Could this be related to the U2C in any way?

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An undisclosed company seeking to manufacture parts and assemble an electric autonomous vehicle in Jacksonville is seeking more than $15.7 million in city and state incentives, according to an Office of Economic Development project summary.

Project Link is a $100 million capital investment for a new 450,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on 40 acres. It would be completed no later than Dec. 31, 2026.
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According to the Project Link summary, it would be the first autonomous electric vehicle assembled in Florida.
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The summary says the company does not have a presence in the U.S. and is considering options in other states to establish its North American presence.

https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/news/2024/apr/05/autonomous-electric-vehicle-manufacturer-considering-jacksonville-for-100-million-project/

jaxlongtimer

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This doesn't seem to be a very big facility or workforce (145 people) for any big volume of larger or complex vehicles.  Maybe it's for electric golf carts  ;D?

marcuscnelson

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Hm… there’s a possibility it could be Holon. I can’t immediately think of anyone else with the money to spend on a plant for this. Local Motors is dead. Navya is dead. EasyMile appears more focused on industrial uses. ZF chose to abort from making autonomous vehicles entirely. Ford clearly has a US presence. Greenpower is too small and has facilities elsewhere. Glydways is already set up in California. Ohmio is also going to California.

But Holon has Beep and JTA in their marketing and got a major injection of capital from Saudi firms earlier this year. Motive and the means?
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Ken_FSU

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Scope sounds wayyyyy too small, by my first thought was a Chinese company, setting up shop in North America to try to avoid the 30% tariffs.

Someone like a BYD.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2024, 02:27:03 AM by Ken_FSU »

marcuscnelson

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Not sure why a Chinese firm would pick Florida as opposed to any of the many established states with much more favorable conditions for car manufacturing and existing supply chains. BYD for example already has pretty significant operations in California.

The fact that it explicitly cites autonomous vehicles by a firm with no current US presence brings me back around to Holon. The scope being very small makes a lot of sense for that.

Another possibility is perhaps some kind of air taxi company taking advantage of the new state programs supporting those, but I'm not sure who that would be. Or perhaps there's some AV startup we haven't heard about yet.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

Charles Hunter

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Another possibility is perhaps some kind of air taxi company taking advantage of the new state programs supporting those, but I'm not sure who that would be. Or perhaps there's some AV startup we haven't heard about yet.

Possible Future Headlines (or is it just a fantasy?)
"New AV start-up to be called Bold City AVs"
"JTA Gives Bold City AVs $100 million contract for U2C"
"JTA Executive Director and Tech Director to assume similar roles at Bold City AVs"

marcuscnelson

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Looks like the Daily Record concurs with me. As I said last week, the characteristics match up very closely.

https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/news/2024/apr/10/german-autonomous-ev-maker-holon-matches-description-of-project-link/

Because I'm sure that this will be taken with much fanfare and claims of vindication for JTA, it seems very important to note that all the same, despite years of effort and millions in R&D, Holon still calls the use of their product a "pilot" such as their planned initial deployment in Hamburg, Germany. That three-year pilot is entirely federally funded, about a third what the Bay Street Innovation Corridor will cost, and done while Hamburg is already home to an extensive public transit network with several rail lines. There remains no indication that these shuttles are in fact prepared for full-service, fare-paying operations in an urban core setting as JTA hopes they are.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

thelakelander

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Holon appears to be just as green as JTA is at running AVs. A start up with big dreams and ambition. Angling for public funds to play with a few blocks of downtown as a pilot test case. All cool, but Jax still needs reliable mass transit options that work. In the meantime, just like we did with the LaVilla O&M warehouse on Jefferson Street, just make sure that manufacturing plant is designed for a future use in the event that things don't work out as planned.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2024, 12:52:22 AM by thelakelander »
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marcuscnelson

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Much of Holon's marketing is focused on their association with Benteler, a longstanding automotive supplier, but the company is formally a spinoff of the larger firm and as I mentioned before, primarily flush with cash from recent investments by Saudi firms. As interesting as their Mover looks, that doesn't actually mean they have developed a working product ready for primetime. Despite that, they're still asking for millions from the city and state in order to build anything, on top of what they will then ask JTA to pay them for the shuttles themselves.

2getthere previously operated shuttles in dedicated guideways for projects in the Middle East (as well as a parking shuttle in Rotterdam) before being acquired by ZF, another automotive supplier who initially proclaimed they would make a big investment in AVs with the vehicle JTA demonstrated before ultimately deciding they wanted to give up on autonomous shuttles entirely. There's nothing keeping Holon from a similar path, especially after setting up shop in a place with little connection to the wider automotive industry. There's a reason Shad Khan doesn't bring his bumper company down here.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2024, 01:10:30 AM by marcuscnelson »
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

jaxlongtimer

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This project gives me deja vu.  It reminds me of what Jacksonville did to attract Offshore Power Systems (OPS) in the 1970's.  OPS was a joint venture of the Tenneco shipbuilding and Westinghouse power plant companies that were going to build offshore floating nuclear power plants.

Jax went way over the top (even made a feature story in the prestigious Columbia University Journalism Review regarding the hype) to attract what was to be a 12,000 employee venture that would be the largest manufacturer in Florida (maybe employer, too, after Disney and government).  The only orders in the end were from JEA for 2 plants.  But, the City attorney (Harry Shorstein) said it would bankrupt JEA (see JEA's modern day nuclear plant fiasco in Georgia) and there was no way JEA could legally contract for them.  In the end, OPS closed shop but got to keep Blount Island for nothing due to poor negotiations by the City (sound familiar?).  Ultimately, Gate bought Blount Island from OPS for a bargain price and developed it over the years for up to 10+X what they paid for it (based on public information as I recall).

Now, we have the City trying to attract an AV manufacturer with another unproven technology and it is possible the only serious customer ends up being JTA.  We could subsidize the manufacturer to come here on top of paying for U2C and the project goes bust and the taxpayers are again holding the bag.  It would be OPS all over again.

And, one wonders why Jacksonville doesn't keep up with peer cities.

Charles Hunter

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Even Holon is not promoting their vehicles as "mass transit"
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Benteler said the Holon Mover is an all-electric self-driving vehicle for public roads and, according to the company, “one of the world’s first movers built to automotive standards.”

It can hold 15 passengers, ]b]“making it an ideal vehicle for ridesharing and on-demand services.”[/b]

Doesn't sound like something to move thousands of people to and from events in the Sports Complex.

Ken_FSU

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Hm… there’s a possibility it could be Holon.

Nailed it  8)

marcuscnelson

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City Council voted 18-1 yesterday on providing $7.7 million in incentives to whoever Project Link is.

https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/news/2024/jun/11/Prioject-link-approved/

Rory Diamond was the sole dissenter. The state will approximately match with $8 million in incentives plus a tax credit. The city estimates the project will have an ROI of 1.32.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

thelakelander

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Benteler said in a 2023 news release that production is scheduled to start in the U.S. in late 2025, with additional production capacity to be built in Europe and the Middle East/Asia in the following years. The company later changed that date to 2026.

So at this point, this vehicle isn't in actual operation anywhere on the globe?
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

jaxlongtimer

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City Council voted 18-1 yesterday on providing $7.7 million in incentives to whoever Project Link is.

https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/news/2024/jun/11/Prioject-link-approved/

Rory Diamond was the sole dissenter. The state will approximately match with $8 million in incentives plus a tax credit. The city estimates the project will have an ROI of 1.32.

Just add it to the tab of the U2C impending write off.  The emperor is naked but no one will call it out.  Jax doesn't tolerate naysayers much and, hence, why we are behind others.  Naysayers are often just trying to save us from ourselves.  We would have fewer of them if this  City had any common sense and considered a wider range of opinions rather than running an echo chamber.  But, here we go again.