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Amazon orders 100,000 Rivian electric vans

Going electric: Rivian will develop an all-electric delivery van exclusively for Amazon, with production starting in 2021.

Amazon’s Rivian van order includes RHD, putting Australia on EV delivery route

23 Sep 2019

ONLINE sales giant Amazon’s historic order of 100,000 all-electric vans from United States vehicle start-up Rivian includes a right-hand-drive variant, meaning the delivery vehicles are likely to begin purring down Australian streets within the next decade.


The vans are being custom designed for Amazon by Rivian in Michigan on the fledgling company’s modular electric ‘skateboard’ platform that will also underpin the upcoming Rivian R1T pick-up and R1S SUV – vehicles that are already committed to the Australian market once RHD production starts.


By ordering the vans, Amazon is putting its money where its mouth is, as it has not only committed to greatly reducing its global carbon footprint but also has led a $US700 million ($A1.03b) investment round in Rivian earlier this year.


Other investors in Rivian include Ford, which tipped in $US500m, and Cox Automotive, which invested $US350m.


These investments and the Amazon van order represent a big vote of confidence in Rivian – one that is sure to make rivals such as Tesla and established motor companies sit up and take notice.


According to Amazon, the vans will be built by Rivian at a one-time Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, starting in 2021 – about a year after the pick-up and SUV start production. Rivian hopes to complete the first 10,000 vans by the end of 2022 and deliver all 100,000 by 2030.


It is unclear when RHD production will start, but logic says the North American market – where Amazon does the bulk of its five billion deliveries a year – will get priority.


The new van will be built exclusively for Amazon and will be unavailable to other customers.


It will use the same 180kWh battery pack as the pick-up and SUV, making the van good for up to 725km, depending on load, terrain, temperature and other factors.


The large order of vans signals Amazon’s intention to get deeper into the delivery business rather than depend on companies such as UPS or FedEx.


By the time Amazon adds the 100,000 electric vans to its fleet alongside existing internal-combustion engine vehicles, its fleet will rival that of UPS in the US.


The Ford investment in Rivian reportedly involves Rivian developing and all-electric truck for the Blue Oval by about 2022.


Ford, which is seen as being late to the EV party, also is reportedly in talks with Volkswagen to share the VW-developed MEB modular elective vehicle architecture to be used in VW’s mass-selling ID.3 and other vehicles from the German group.


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the Rivian order last week in Washington in a speech committing his company to net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.


He said the company had embraced the Paris Agreement, and would aim for 80 per cent renewable energy by 2024 and 100 per cent by 2030.


Apart from Rivian, Amazon has invested in 15 grid-scale solar and wind projects producing more than 3.8 million megawatt-hours of electricity a year.


Ultimately, the investments in EVs and renewable energy generation could save Amazon millions of dollars a year.


EVs are much cheaper to service than petrol or diesel vehicles, which charging costs much less than refuelling, especially when you own the source of electricity.


Looking further ahead, Amazon might dispense with another expense – drivers. It has invested in a self-driving vehicle technology company, Aurora, founded by a former Google engineer Chris Urmson.

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