Arrival Plans First US Microfactory In South Carolina

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We have featured Arrival, the UK based electric vehicle start-up, several times here at CleanTechnica. The company bears an uncanny resemblance to another EV startup, Southern California’s Canoo. Both have devised a basic skateboard that can be modified to power virtually any vehicle. In the case of Arrival, its focus is on last mile delivery vans and buses.

Arrival electric delivery van
Courtesy of Arrival

The skin is almost irrelevant. It’s the chassis underneath that counts.That’s where the battery, management systems, and motors are found. It’s where the suspension and brakes are located. And it permits the steering wheel and other controls to be mounted anywhere on the skateboard to suit the the vehicle that will sit on top of it. There is another connection between the two companies. Both have attracted sizable investments from Hyundai and/or KIA.

One of the interesting features about Arrival is its plan to produce its vehicles locally in what it calls microfactories — sort of like a Tesla Gigafactory but on a much smaller scale. In theory, each microfactory could be located close to the end user. For instance, UPS has placed an order for 10,000 electric delivery vans to be delivered by 2024 and has left the door open for an additional 10,000 after that.  Arrival says it may have up to 1,000 microfactories around the world eventually. Each microfactory will be capable of building any vehicle in the Arrival portfolio, up to an including its sleek, stylish electric city bus.

In an e-mail to CleanTechnica, the company says it will open its first US microfactory in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 2021. Production will first focus on electric buses with the first of them slated to be delivered before the end of next year. Arrival says its $46 million investment into the region will create 240 new jobs. The e-mail shared some specs for the Arrival electric buses with us.

Arrival electric bus
Courtesy of Arrival

They will be offered in three lengths — 35, 40, and 45 feet. Battery sizes from 177 kWh to 400 kWh operating on a nominal 370 volts will be available and power consumption will average 1.1 kWh per mile, resulting in a maximum range of between 150 and 300 miles. Each bus will have four traction motors designed and built by Arrival with a total maximum output of 560 kW (765 hp) and 1,060 ft-lbs of torque. Two J1772 charging sockets will be fitted to the rear and an 80% charge will require 1 hour using 200 kW DC fast charging equipment. Seating for up to 48 passengers will be available.

“The company’s South Carolina operations will utilize a new cell-based assembly method to produce vehicles rather than a traditional automotive production line, allowing the production of any vehicle from Arrival’s portfolio,” the company says. “With this model, Arrival occupies a smaller footprint, hence the name Microfactory. The Microfactory design is key to Arrival’s approach to bringing down the cost of electric vehicles to accelerate mass adoption.”

The South Carolina facility will first focus on building electric buses that utilize the company’s in-house developed components, materials, and software. Materials will be sourced from surrounding regions through a localized supply chain, which will also help to reduce the environmental impact, according to the company.

Mike Ableson, CEO of Arrival for North America says, “Our new microfactory in South Carolina is the beginning of a paradigm shift in the EV space. We’re thankful for the great work at the state and local levels that lead us to South Carolina, and we are excited to be able to partner with York County to deliver our vision for commercial electric vehicles while investing in the lives of the community members that support Arrival.”

Harry McMaster, governor of South Carolina, adds “We couldn’t be happier that Arrival has decided to build zero-emissions EVs right here in South Carolina. It speaks volumes to our business friendly climate and well trained workforce, and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.” Volvo, BMW, and Mercedes have assembly plants in the Palmetto state, so there is an existing pool of trained, talented workers in the area.

Arrival will have lots of competition in the electric bus marketplace from BYD and Proterra but more choices for consumers are always a good thing. The company claims its modular designs and local production facilities will allow it to sell its products for about the same price as a similar vehicle powered by a gasoline or diesel engine. Since operating and maintenance costs are typically 50% less than for conventional vehicles, it expects its electric vehicles to appeal strongly to fleet operators and municipal transportation managers. With a range of up to 300 miles, buses with the largest of the available battery sizes could be used for intercity travel as well as urban routes.

Once Arrival gets bus production started in South Carolina, it may turn its attention to making electric delivery vans for the American market. There are 300 million delivery vehicles in the world today — most of them powered by diesel engines — so the company has a wide open market for variants of the electric delivery van it plans to manufacture for UPS.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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