Amazon Prime vans have become a common sight across America during the last several years and the online retail giant is giving us a first look at the new, all-electric delivery trucks it plans to begin rolling out next year.
With consumers embracing online retailing, the number of delivery vans on U.S. roads has undergone explosive growth in the last few years. That has led to a push to adopt zero-emissions drive technology, and Amazon hopes to go all-electric by the end of the decade.
To get there, it’s partnering with Rivian, the Detroit-based startup that has also formed relationships with Ford, Autotrader and others. The first of the new trucks will roll out late next year, with Amazon expecting to take delivery of 100,000 vans by 2030.
“To help achieve zero emissions across its business by 2040, Amazon is transforming its transportation network around the world,” the retailer said in a statement. Along with the Rivian deal, Amazon announced in August plans to purchase 1,200 new eSprinter vans from Mercedes-Benz, along with another 500 of the smaller eVito model. About 800 of the electric delivery vehicles will go into use in Germany, 500 in the UK.
Amazon said it worked with Rivian to come up with an ideal design based, in part, on the feedback it received from its thousands of delivery drivers. Among other things, that meant improvements to the interior layout, the new vans to feature three rows of shelving. There will be new safety features, including the sort of 360-degree surround view camera system found on more and more of today’s passenger vehicles.
And, of course, the vans will integrate the Amazon Alexa personal voice assistant.
Not all the efforts to enhance safety are high-tech. The vans will have reinforced doors to keep drivers safe in a side impact, and a better bulkhead to keep packages from flying into the cabin in the event of a forward crash.
There was no mention of whether the new vans might get some level of autonomous driving capabilities, something Amazon has talked about in the past as a way to reduce its logistics costs.
The Rivian vans don’t look significantly different from the trucks Amazon uses today. There are some obvious tweaks to maximize aerodynamics, and the vehicles use a skateboard-like platform where batteries and motors are mounted below the load floor.
That reduces the size of what would normally be an engine compartment on a conventional van, allowing more space for cargo. A video released by Amazon Thursday also appeared to indicate the vans will have lower load floors than today’s models.
Exactly how much the new vans will hold has not yet been revealed, nor have details such as the size of the battery pack or performance. But the new truck is expected to get about 150 miles range per charge.
In reality, range is not a major issue, not compared to what might be needed for a passenger vehicle. According to several experts in the logistics business, the typical truck used by Amazon and services such as UPS and FedEx typically clock less than 50 miles a day, with some rural routes pushing up to 100 miles. Most of the time is spent in stop-and-go operation.
While battery-electric vehicles can run substantially more than comparable gas and diesel models, at least up front, what matters most to fleet operators is a vehicle’s day-to-day operating costs, said Alf Poor, CEO of Ideanomics, a New York company that consults in the delivery and logistics field.
Electrics, he told TheDetroitBureau.com, are expected to shine there, requiring far less routine maintenance and downtime. Meanwhile, energy costs can offset the up-front price premium, especially if an EV can be charged overnight at a company depot, taking advantage of off-peak energy rates offered by many utilities.
The decision to go electric complies with Amazon’s Climate Pledge project. It plans to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 and has begun signing up other major companies to achieve that goal.