UPDATE: Feb. 4, 2021: Amazon has begun testing Rivian electric vans on delivery routes in the Los Angeles area, according to a company blog post. Amazon said the vehicles will start to appear in up to 15 additional cities this year, but it did not specify which cities.
- Amazon will put 10,000 custom Rivian electric delivery vans on the road "as early as 2022," the company said in a blog post last week revealing the design.
- The vans include sensor detection, a suite of highway and traffic assist tools, cameras to facilitate a 360-degree view around the vehicle, and multiple safety features that cater to the work of an Amazon driver, according to the company.
- Amazon ordered 100,000 total custom vans from Rivian to be delivered by 2030. "We are working to advance and implement the technology that will support these vans — ranging from the physical charging infrastructure to enhancements and optimization of our delivery stations," Ross Rachey, director of Amazon's global fleet and products, said in the blog post.
Amazon has committed to reaching net-zero carbon production in its own operations by 2040 as part of its Climate Pledge. The company can't get there without wide adoption of electric vehicles, if it wants to avoid reliance on carbon offsets, according to Anand Gopal, climate initiative program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
"It's pretty important that they electrify their fleet to have any hope of meeting their Climate Pledge," Gopal said.
Amazon had trouble finding an electric van tailored to the needs of its drivers, according to the blog post, hence the custom order.
"We hope our custom electric vehicle helps create a sense of urgency in the industry to think big about embracing sustainable technology and solutions — whether you're a package delivery company, a logistics company, an ice cream manufacturer, or almost anyone else with vehicles on the road," said Rachey.
But Gopal said the move could send an important signal to manufacturers, too. The capability to make more vehicles like Amazon's is out there, but the willingness or market cues may not be.
"The more you see Amazon making moves like this, the more it's going to make Daimler or Mack, or all these other established current combustion manufacturers take notice," he said.
Europe and Asia are further ahead in this respect on the buying and selling side of EV, as stronger demand has encouraged manufacturers to make more models available, according to Gopal. Amazon is adding 1,800 electric delivery vehicles from Daimler's Mercedes-Benz to its fleet in Europe this year, along with 10,000 electric delivery vehicles to its fleet in India by 2025.
Electric vehicles are getting a sputtering start among other major logistics players. UPS is expecting 10,000 electric vans from British startup Arrival, with small initial deliveries starting next year in the U.S. according to Autoblog. The carrier also has orders in for Tesla's Class 8 truck, which has been delayed until 2021.
Amazon's Rivian order is a start, but Gopal said the more impactful move will be to electrify Amazon's Class 8 fleet. "Luckily, the technology is there," Gopal said. Amazon's existing combustion tractors come from Volvo and Kenworth, according to multiple media reports.