SoftWheel, the Israeli startup developing wheel suspension technology, announced that it signed a new R&D and manufacturing partnership with Japanese automotive and transportation equipment maker Musashi Seimitsu Industry, marking a new inroad into the automotive industry.
The Tel Aviv-based company said Musashi Seimitsu, a Tier1 company partly owned by Honda Motor Company with 30 manufacturing sites worldwide, was also part of a new round of investment led by Rothschild Bank, but did not disclose the amount in a press statement. According to Crunchbase, the Series C round amounted to some $25 million.
The deal with Musashi Seimitsu, which specializes in the development and manufacturing of powertrain products, including transmission gears and assemblies, and reduction gears for electric vehicles, “will ensure the highest standards of manufacturing of SoftWheel’s automotive systems and will support its successful market penetration,” the companies indicated in a statement.
SoftWheel said the current investment round represents a market valuation of NIS 500 million ($136M) for the company.
SoftWheel CEO Daniel Barel welcomed the deal, saying in a statement that he was “thrilled to embark on this collaboration with Musashi, which brings strong engineering and manufacturing value to SoftWheel. Their unique corporate culture and innovation spirit are a perfect match for SoftWheel and we look forward to an exciting journey together to shape the future of transportation.”
The company, founded in 2011, is well-known for its work in the personal mobility sector, providing in-wheel technology for wheelchair and bikes.
It recently signed a $4.5 million deal with the US Department of Veteran Affairs to provide wheels for 2,000 wheelchairs over the course of three years. The wheel tech is said to reduce pain for wheelchair riders and increases comfort.
SoftWheel’s Fluent wheels for bikes are currently in the pilot stage, and electric bikes that used its wheels “completed a test track faster than with regular-spoke wheels — and had 16.4 percent more energy left in the battery pack,” making the ride more efficient and saving money and energy, SoftWheel has said. This can be especially beneficial for bike-sharing companies, it added.
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The company has also been adapting its revolutionary technology to the unique requirements of automobiles and trucks with the Enduro wheel, improving the overall ride, performance, and energy-efficiency of individual vehicles and large fleets. SoftWheel says its adaptive in-wheel suspension is the “only technology designed from inception to effectively reduce the vehicle’s unsprung mass,” which affects the vehicle weight, maneuverability and responsiveness, and driving range.
SoftWheel says it is increasingly “recognized as the enabler of future vehicle platforms including EV [electric vehicles], hybrid and autonomous vehicles.
The latest deal with the Japanese multinational comes on the heels of an April strategic cooperation agreement with Linamar, the second largest Canadian manufacturer of auto parts traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
According to the deal, Linamar will set up a production line for SoftWheel products in North America to accelerate its entrance into the global market.
Barel said SoftWheel has seen “great interest coming from automotive components manufacturers, as well as OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] who recognize and value our technology and revolutionary solution.”
“As a technology company, we are looking to partner with the world’s best automotive components manufacturers, such as Musashi, to bring our technology to market,” he added.
Musashi CEO Hiroshi Otsuka said in a statement that SoftWheel “brings a unique solution to future automotive platforms and we are enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with such an innovative team.
“Our technology is poised to lead the future of automotive transformation and we look forward to the opportunity to work together with SoftWheel to develop and manufacture this solution for OEMs.”