Logistics giant UPS is investing in the British electric vehicle developer Arrival and has ordered 10,000 electric delivery vans. These are to be introduced in the UK, Europe and North America between 2020 and 2024.
According to Arrival, the agreement also includes an option for a further 10,000 electric vans. The total order volume is said to be more than 440 million dollars. The vehicles have been purpose-built to match UPS specifications.
Neither company has disclosed the amount that the venture capital offshoot of UPS has invested in the British manufacturer. Only a few weeks ago, Hyundai-Kia invested 100 million euros in Arrival, but this is primarily about ride-hauling or shuttle vehicles.
What unites the planned vehicles for Hyundai-Kia and UPS is their skateboard platform, which Arrival has developed together with its software architecture. The purpose-built electric vans will come in different variants. According to Arrival, the platform can be used to produce tailor-made vehicles of any type, size and shape. Besides, it should be possible to manufacture the vehicles in small, localised factories which involve “a new method of assembly using low capital, low footprint micro-factories located to serve local communities and profitable from thousands of units”.
Although Arrival has not provided any technical data on the vehicles, the company claims that it will “surpass traditional vehicles in cost, design and efficiency with 50% operational cost savings for fleet owners.”
The first renderings of the UPS vehicles still show a conventional driver’s cab with a steering wheel, so although they will be fully electric, they are not yet autonomous delivery vans. Elements such as the exterior mirrors are missing, however, meaning that sensors and cameras have replaced these.
UPS and Arrival have been working together since 2016, but the current order is the first on a larger scale. Already when the Korean company joined a few weeks ago, Arrival announced that it would carry out pilot projects with several logistics companies in Europe, using vans manufactured with this technology. According to Arrival CEO Denis Sverdlov, these tests have provided valuable insights into “how electric delivery vans are used on the road and how they can be optimised for drivers”.
While British company Royal Mail has so far only electrified a fraction of its fleet, UPS has been making significant inroads in both electrifying its fleets, as well as using smaller, more effective electric cargo bikes in denser urban areas. German Postal services decided to create their delivery van – StreetScooter – at a time when German vehicle manufacturers had failed to produce such a vehicle.
UPS is not alone in buying specialised electric vans: Last year Amazon ordered vehicles from Rivian for its delivery service. These are to be based on the skateboard architecture of the US startup, but will visually have nothing in common with the SUV and pickup models shown so far.