Amazon takes us behind the scenes in the design process for its next generation last-mile electric delivery vehicle. In the new video, Amazon Director of Last-Mile Fleets Ross Rachey highlights the massive opportunity and the obligation Amazon feels to improve the sustainability of its operations. “We’re trying to build the most sustainable transportation fleet in the world,” Rachey said.
Sustainability is at the forefront of what Rivian does and provides the backstory as to why they are building not just electric vehicles, but electric trucks. “We’re at an inflection point in human history where our actions are shifting and fundamentally changing the nature of what this planet feels like to live in,” Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said. “We’re changing the climate.” The power to enact change exists in each of us. RJ took his passion for cars and in searching for a way to solve the climate crisis, rolled his own company. The result was Rivian.
Amazon is new to the world of parcel delivery and initially opted for a fleet of diesel-powered Mercedes Sprinter vans for its Amazon Prime package deliveries. Last-mile delivery involves a mind numbing number of starts and stops throughout the day and all those cycles take a toll on the efficiency of combustion engines.
On the other hand, electric vehicles handle the task with grace. The motor only moves when it’s time to move and operate at effectively the same efficiency throughout a trip. That improvement in efficiency translates to lower fuel costs and with Amazon already clamping down across its entire supply chain to squeeze out every last penny, saving 50% or more on fuel with the potential to save even more on maintenance, it was simply too lucrative to pass up.
To nail the design and find the right vehicle, Amazon’s team first evaluated what was available on the open market in the world of electric vehicles, but nothing felt like a great fit. With an order this large, they really wanted it to be perfect. So Amazon dropped a few hundred million dollars into electric vehicle startup Rivian and just a few weeks later, dropped a bomb of an order. “100,000 units, that’s a large volume of vehicles. We have to get this right,” Rachey said.
Amazon’s transportation team spent 18 months evaluating a variety of electric vehicle options to reduce its carbon footprint. To move quickly, Rachey’s team realized the best way forward was to chart their own path and create a new, custom electric vehicle to meet Amazon’s needs now and in the future. The design process involved numerous iterations and scale models to enable Amazon to build the perfect electric solution.
The partnership with Rivian resulted in not one, but three different vehicles sized to suit the needs of Amazon’s delivery business. The capacity of the battery pack can also be adjusted to meet the needs of the specific route being served on any given day.
“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.”
The two companies see the massive order as a gamechanger not just internally at Amazon and Rivian, but across the broader landscape of last-mile delivery. “We created The Climate Pledge and are investing in 100,000 Rivian electric delivery vans to demonstrate that there is a large and growing market for green technologies,” Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, Dave Clark said. “It’s important that large companies like Amazon stimulate investment in the development of low-carbon products and services that will be required to help companies of all sizes decarbonize their operations and support a thriving, low-carbon economy.”
As one might expect from a technology company, the vehicles are also packed with technology to make driving safer, enjoyable, and functional for its drivers. They will come with a standard kit of advanced safety features like automated emergency braking, front wheel or all wheel drive, lane keep assist, pedestrian warning system, and a distracted driver warning system designed to keep drivers safe.
Routing and package delivery technology also made its way into the vehicle to give drivers the information they need without becoming a distraction to task number one: driving. The system will provide address and navigation information with Amazon Alexa integration to enable hands free access to assistance.
Amazon expects to begin delivering packages to customers in the new Rivian-powered electric vehicles next year with plans to have 10,000 of the vehicles on the road as early as 2022. All 100,000 vehicles from the massive order are expected to be in service by 2030, transforming the carbon impact of Amazon’s last-mile delivery operations one vehicle, one driver, one route, and one package at a time.
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