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Amazon's New Electric Vans Built by EV Startup Rivian Are Being Deployed in San Francisco

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【Summary】Online retailer Amazon is now testing its new fully-electric delivery vans in San Francisco. The vans were built by Amazon-backed electric vehicle startup Rivian. The deployment is San Francisco is the second West Coast city that Amazon is testing its new delivery vehicles in, following the first deployments in Los Angeles in early February.

Eric Walz    Mar 18, 2021 3:05 PM PT
Amazon's New Electric Vans Built by EV Startup Rivian Are Being Deployed in San Francisco
Amazon's new electric delivery vans are being built by Michigan-based EV startup Rivian.

Online retailer Amazon is now testing its new fully-electric delivery vans in San Francisco. The vans were built by Amazon-backed electric vehicle startup Rivian.

The deployment is San Francisco is the second West Coast city that Amazon is testing its new delivery vehicles in, following the first deployments in Los Angeles in early February. 

The current fleet of vehicles was built at Rivian's studio in Plymouth, Michigan, and each can drive up to 150 miles on a single charge.

Amazon unveiled its custom-built electric vans in Oct 2020. 

The vans were specifically designed to meet Amazon's delivery needs. The custom vehicles were developed in a close partnership with Michigan-based Rivian, which is one of the most talked about EV startups since Tesla. Rivian has raised about $8 billion from investors since 2019, including $700 million from Amazon via its $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund.

Amazon has pledged to become a carbon neutral company by 2040, and the electrification of its delivery fleet is a big first step towards that goal.

Amazon said it delivered more than 20 million packages to customers in electric delivery vehicles in North America and Europe last year and plans to add thousands more electric vehicles to its delivery fleet.

San Francisco's busy streets and hilly terrain presents a challenging environment for e-commerce deliveries. Amazon said it selected San Francisco as one of the early test cities because of its "great customers, unique terrain and climate." 

Deliveries will initially be conducted out of Amazon's delivery hub in the San Francisco suburb of Richmond, which is located on the east side of San Francisco Bay just north of Berkley. However Amazon said it expects to start deliveries from other Bay Area locations soon.

"From what we've seen, this is one of the fastest modern commercial electrification programs, and we're incredibly proud of that," Amazon global fleet and products director Ross Rachey said in a statement. "As we continue to grow and invest in California, we want to do so responsibly, so we're excited for customers in the Bay Area to see these vehicles cruising through their neighborhood."

About Amazon's New Electric Vans

The Rivian-built vans are designed to meet Amazon's needs and are optimized for efficient, zero-emissions delivery. The delivery van is built on a skateboard platform, which will also be used in Rivian's consumer vehicles the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, which are set to enter production by this summer at Rivian's factory in Normal, Illinois.

Prior to its partnership with Rivian, Amazon said it spent 18 months evaluating electric vehicles from different automakers, but ultimately decided that going with a custom-built delivery van built by Rivian would best meet its needs. 

The vans are designed to enhance the Amazon driver experience as well as to increase safety while out on the roads. Among the enhanced safety features are a suite of state-of-the-art sensors, highway and traffic assist technology, extra large brake lights that surround the rear of the vehicle, as well as an extra large windshield for the driver which offers better visibility.

The interior design includes a digital instrument cluster and a center display running Amazon's proprietary logistics management system to assist drivers in making deliveries. Amazon's customer-built logistics management systems display routing and package delivery technology to help drivers put more focus on the road.

Additional features include exterior cameras that are linked to a display inside the cabin providing the driver with a 360-degree view around the vehicle. The Rivian vans also come with Amazon's Alexa voice-activated digital assistant built-in, giving drivers hands-free access to route information or weather updates. 

With its own fleet of delivery vehicles as well as planes, the e-commerce giant is now shipping roughly 67% of its own packages directly to customers, according to data from supply chain consultant MWPVL International. That's up from 50% two years ago.

Amazon said its Rivian-built electric delivery vehicles will be deployed in 15 additional cities this year. As part of  its $700 million investment in Rivian in 2019, the e-commerce company ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from the startup. Amazon will continually add electric delivery vehicles to its fleet over the next five years.

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