Amazon caused quite a stir when it announced an unprecedented order for 100,000 electric delivery vans from Michigan-based Rivian. Would a startup company be able to fill such a large order on such a tight timeline? The first of the new EVs is scheduled to hit the road in 2021, and Amazon hopes to have 10,000 of them in service by 2022.
Amazon’s transportation team spent 18 months evaluating a variety of EV options. Ross Rachey, Director of Global Fleet and Products, said the company quickly decided to create a new custom EV to meet its present and future needs. “We’re trying to build the most sustainable transportation fleet in the world,” he said. “It also needs to be the most functional, the highest-performing, the safest.”
The two partners quickly got to work developing the new vehicle. Amazon has released a sneak peek into Rivian’s studio, where vehicle designers are bringing the e-vans to life, with the aid of full-size clay models and virtual reality simulations.
Current Amazon drivers weighed in on the vehicle’s design and functionality, offering input on topics from the feel of the seats to the ease of getting in and out, package loading and unloading, and visibility. Detroit-area Delivery Associate Devon Cooper was invited to check out the new vehicles and share his feedback with Rivian engineers. “Everything that I suggested was already on there,” he said.
The new vans will be manufactured at Rivian’s plant in Normal, Illinois. They’ll be built in three size variants, and will support multiple battery sizes, so they can be optimized for specific delivery routes.
Each will include a suite of driver-assistance and safety features, including automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, a pedestrian warning system and an automatic warning system that detects distracted driver behavior.
The design incorporates Amazon’s technology to offer drivers a seamless delivery experience. The central display screen is integrated with Amazon’s logistics management, routing and package delivery systems. Amazon’s Alexa will allow drivers to use voice commands in the cargo bay when sorting packages without having to manually enter commands or consult handheld devices.
“We are focused on driving efficiency into every aspect of the vehicle design – everything from cabin heating to driver ergonomics to drivetrain design has been optimized for time and energy,” said R.J. Scaringe, CEO of Rivian. “And then the echo effect of this, of causing other logistics players in this space to also look at how they drive up efficiency within their fleet, will have a very large impact.”