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02/03/2021

Amazon switches on electric delivery van pilot

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon is beginning to deliver orders with custom electric delivery vehicles, with an eye toward rapid expansion in the next year.

The e-tail colossus is testing electric vans it designed and built-in partnership with manufacturer Rivian on delivery routes in Los Angeles. 

Amazon previously committed to having the first 10,000 Rivian vehicles on the road delivering to customers worldwide as early as 2022, with a planned full fleet of 100,000 operational by 2030. The Rivian investment is part of Amazon’s Climate Pledge to be net zero carbon across its entire business by 2040.

More customers will see the custom electric delivery vehicles cruising neighborhoods in up to 15 additional cities in 2021, ahead of tens of thousands of vehicles hitting the road over the next few years.

Amazon is leveraging Rivian’s customizable skateboard platform to create a proprietary, all-electric delivery vehicle. The two companies began testing vehicles four months prior to making customer deliveries, and are working to conduct additional testing of the vehicle’s performance and safety durability in various climates and geographies. 

Custom safety, navigation and design features include:
•    Exterior cameras around the vehicle that are linked to a digital display inside the cabin, giving the driver a 360-degree view outside the vehicle.
•    Alexa integration for hands-free access to route information and the latest weather updates.
•    A strengthened door on the driver’s side for additional protection.
•    A “dancefloor” inside the driver’s cabin for easy movement inside the van.
•    Bright tail lights surrounding the rear of the vehicle to more easily detect braking.
•    Three levels of shelving with a bulkhead door, which can be opened and closed for additional driver protection while on the road.

Engineers continue to refine the vehicles for the start of production slated for the end of 2021. The current fleet of vehicles was built at Rivian's headquarters in Plymouth, Mich., and can drive up to 150 miles on a single charge. Amazon has also started getting its buildings ready to accommodate the new fleet of vehicles and has installed thousands of electric vehicle charging stations at its delivery stations across North America and Europe.

"We're loving the enthusiasm from customers so far—from the photos we see online to the car fans who stop our drivers for a first-hand look at the vehicle," said Ross Rachey, director of Amazon's global fleet and products. "From what we've seen, this is one of the fastest modern commercial electrification programs, and we're incredibly proud of that."