German autonomous EV maker Holon matches description of Project Link

The Benteler Automotive Group spinoff could be the code-named Jacksonville prospect for a $100 million parts and assembly plant.

The Holon Mover is an autonomous electric vehicle with a top speed of 37 mph. It has seating for up to 15 passengers.
The Holon Mover is an autonomous electric vehicle with a top speed of 37 mph. It has seating for up to 15 passengers.
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A spinoff of a German automotive group appears to be a leading candidate as Project Link, the electric autonomous vehicle and parts manufacturer considering Jacksonville for a $100 million plant to establish its North American presence.

Holon, an almost 3-year-old automotive brand spun off from Germany-based Benteler Automotive Group, is an autonomous, fully electric and inclusive mover that was presented in early 2023 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

Benteler said in a news release in 2023 that production is scheduled to start in the U.S. at the end of 2025, with additional production capacity to be built in Europe and the Middle East/Asia in the following years.

It later changed that date to 2026.

Holon matches the description and needs for Project Link, the code name for a company Jacksonville is trying to recruit.

Benteler has not announced where in the U.S. it would start production, but when asked about prospects that it could be Jacksonville, a company spokesperson responded April 10:

“HOLON is planning to set up three production sites to market our autonomous mover worldwide in the next couple of years: in the USA, in Saudi Arabia and in Europe. We are currently conducting corresponding evaluations of potential locations. As always, we will take the needs of our customers and other framework conditions (availability of skilled workers, funding opportunities, etc.) into account when choosing a specific location. It’s therefore too early to discuss specific locations. We ask for your understanding.”

Benteler Group’s overall headquarters are in Austria, with the automotive division in Germany.

Ed Randolph, executive director of the city Office of Economic Development, said April 10 he had signed a nondisclosure document regarding the identity of Project Link.

He did offer a few more insights this week when he told members of the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee on April 8 that he believes Jacksonville has at least a 50-50 chance of landing Project Link.

He said he hoped an announcement on the plant would be coming in 60 to 90 days.

The Benteler plant in Paderborn, Germany.

Seeking incentives

The Office of Economic Development is introducing legislation to Jacksonville City Council to support incentives for Project Link with property and training grants totaling $7.7 million. The state would provide an $8 million incentive award and a tax credit.

A Jacksonville project summary says Link is a company that proposes to manufacture parts and assemble an electric autonomous vehicle in Northwest Jacksonville at an investment of  $100 million. 

The company plans to use a new 450,000-square-foot space on about 40 acres. Randolph said there are multiple prospective sites in Northwest and North Jacksonville.

A March 24 memo from the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee, which authorized legislation to be introduced, says the company is a subsidiary of a global industry leader in the automotive industry and currently does not have a presence in the U.S.

The memo says the company wants to develop a footprint in the U.S. automotive landscape and is considering Florida and other Southeast U.S. states for the facility. The facility would support the company's clients throughout the U.S.

It would be the first autonomous electric vehicle assembled in Florida.

The $100 million capital investment represents the cost to build and furnish a facility by year-end 2026.

The company would start with about 145 employees by Dec. 31, 2027, and increase to more than 200 as demand increases.

Payroll would top $9 million exclusive of benefits.

The city incentives would comprise a $7.5 million Recapture Enhanced Value Grant paid over 10 years and a training grant up to $200,000, based on $1,000 per job.

The state incentives would be a High-Impact Performance Incentive Award of $8 million in two installments as the project progresses and a Capital Investment Tax Credit of 100% of the state Corporate Tax Liability, which was not specified as an amount.

The project summary said the project is within a targeted industry and adds to the skilled labor base in Jacksonville.

JAXUSA Partnership President Aundra Wallace had no comment April 10. The partnership is the economic development division of JAX Chamber.

The Holon Mover is an autonomous vehicle with fully integrated array of advanced lidar, radar, and camera systems.

Pointing to Holon

The descriptions parallel Holon. says that at the end of 2021, Benteler spun off the Benteler EV Systems business unit and then changed the name in late 2022 to Holon to focus on the business with fully electric, autonomous moves.

Benteler Group CEO Ralf Göttel said that mobility around the world is undergoing rapid change. 

“BENTELER is optimally prepared for this – 85% of our products are technology and propulsion-method agnostic. In parallel with the traditional automotive business, innovative, digitally connected, and autonomous mobility services promise high growth in the coming years,” he said.

“By founding HOLON, an independent legal entity, we can react flexibly to changing customer requirements in this dynamic market. In this way, we will make the best possible use of growth opportunities.”

There also appears to be financial support for the expansion.

On Feb. 8, 2024, Benteler announced that an external investor wanted to buy “a significant amount of shares to help the company’s business with its autonomous vehicle grow.”

It said Saudi Arabian company Tasaru Mobility Investments was considering the acquisition of a 33% stake in Holon “for a nine-digit sum,” the company writes. However, Tasaru will not buy the shares at once but in tranches, or portions. Following regulatory approval, the first transaction is expected in April.

Benteler said it will use the money to expand its autonomous mover business. 

From left, Florida State College at Jacksonville President John Avendano, Beep CEO Joe Moye, Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nat Ford and JTA board chair Debbie Buckland take part in a ceremony Feb. 20 to launch autonomous vehicle shuttle service at the FSCJ Downtown campus.
Photo by Ric Anderson

The Holon Mover

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, “making it an ideal vehicle for ridesharing and on-demand services.”

The first pilot project was announced in Germany with Hamburg’s Hochbahn, the country’s second-largest mass transit company. 

It said that in the U.S., the mobility provider Beep will be responsible for implementing the first vehicles. Other areas of application and customers include private institutions such as campuses, airports and national parks.

Florida State College at Jacksonville is working with Beep Inc., which provides software and service to operate autonomous vehicles.

Representatives of FSCJ, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and Beep celebrated the launch Feb. 20 of the campus shuttle service, becoming the first campus in Florida to have autonomous shuttles in use.

The vehicles move people along a milelong route on the FSCJ Downtown campus.

The term “holon,” pronounced hollen, is a Greek word for “something that is both a whole and a part of a whole.”

The brand’s slogan is “HOLON – Established Tomorrow.” says Benteler Automotive develops and produces components and modules in the areas of chassis, body and engine and exhaust systems. 

“We support our customers along the entire value chain - from the product idea through development to production and assembly. We also offer system solutions for electric vehicles,” it says.



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