We covered Arrival earlier this year thanks to a slick electric van for UPS, which ordered 10,000. It just looks like a futuristic delivery vehicle from a good graphic design student, but it’s apparently much more than that. With investment from Hyundai and Kia since January 2019, the British transportation company has been getting to work designing and developing great looking electric vehicles for commercial segments. The latest is a cool electric bus.
Well, you saw my take on it in the headline — I think it’s beautiful.
I didn’t expect to see this kind of language in a press release about a bus, but it matches the picture and seemingly the real-world bus: “Designed with an exceptional passenger experience front of mind, the Arrival Bus is equipped with features that promote a positive perception of public transportation and create an environment evoking a sense of space, cleanliness and wellbeing in a world with a heightened awareness of hygiene and personal space.”
Unfortunately, there is extremely little about the bus. No specs. No battery capacity, range, charging information, etc. Just several pretty pictures.
Arrival indicated that it will be producing these electric buses at “Microfactories,” which basically means regional factories so that localities that order buses benefit more from regional economic growth and taxes, but also seems to be a pitch for jurisdictions to start arranging partnerships and orders. Arrival also seems to think it has hit upon an innovative way to produce buses at lower cost with this approach — which may well be true. The company states:
“This includes Arrival’s invention of new assembly technology using low-footprint, low-CapEx Microfactories that enable the production of highly customised vehicles which are better priced even at low volumes.”
It’s not clear what Arrival’s near-term plans are with regard to these buses and Microfactories (which may also be an allusion to Tesla’s “Gigafactories”), but the company’s plan is to have 1000 Microfactories built up around the world by 2026. Each Microfactory is supposed to be able to produce every vehicle model Arrival offers.
Before you claim that Arrival’s executives are off their rockers and looking to be slammed for unrealistic vaporware, note that Arrival was launched only 5 years ago, in 2015, and already has 1000 employees in its offices in 7 countries — the UK, the USA, Germany, Netherlands, Israel, Russia, and Luxembourg. Something is underway. And remember that UPS signed a contract for 10,000 vehicles and Hyundai and Kia invested $100 million — and Hyundai and Kia know how to make vehicles.
Arrival’s vision is beyond buses and vans, though. “As Arrival partners with governments and cities to create an Integrated Public Transport ecosystem that supports their net-zero emission goals, the company is also developing cars for sharing, taxis, buses, delivery robots, charging stations, Microfactories and digital services that enable ‘best in class’ public transport without the need for subsidies.”
One problem Arrival may face is that there’s a lot of competition in the electric bus space from established, mature companies. For example, Chile’s public transit agency in the Santiago metro area just ordered 150 electric buses from BYD, and expects to have 800 electric buses in its fleet by the end of 2020. Those buses are sold all around the world, and BYD has several different offerings. Volvo, Daimler, Proterra, New Flyer, Solaris, and others also have solid electric buses on the market. The same story exists for electric vans.
That said, just as there are plenty of slots in the market for different models of fossil-fueled buses and vans, there will be plenty of slots for different versions of electric ones. Hence the plan for Microfactories, after all. Also, for the third time — UPS ordered 10,000 vans already, and that doesn’t happen if you don’t have a solid, compelling product to sell.
I think the biggest factors for Arrival’s success in this field will be securing good battery deals, designing and building the vehicles efficiently and effectively enough to maximize the potential of electric powertrains (and the challenges), and scaling up the order books via the right marketing team and industry connections. Certainly, Hyundai and Kia could help in those regards.
What do you think of Arrival and its current renderings and plans?
All images via Arrival