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Amazon unveils its new electric delivery vans

Amazon unveiled its first all-electric delivery van on Thursday. The vehicle, built by EV startup Rivian, will come with state-of-the-art technology; like sensing equipment and an advanced driver-assist system. The e-commerce giant says it expects to have 10,000 vans on the road making deliveries “as early as 2022;” with a total fleet of 100,000 vehicles expected by 2030.

“When we set out to create our first customized electric delivery vehicle with Rivian; we knew that it needed to far surpass any other delivery vehicle. We wanted drivers to love using it; and customers to feel excited when they saw it driving through their neighborhood and pulling up to their home,” said Ross Rachey, director of Amazon’s global fleet and products, in a statement. “We combined Rivian’s technology with our delivery logistics knowledge; and the result is what you see here — the future of last mile delivery.

Amazon didn’t reveal any details about the vehicle’s drivetrain; battery; range; or other relevant specifications. Much like most modern cars on the road, the van will have exterior cameras linked to a digital display inside the cabin; giving the driver a 360-degree view outside the vehicle. Naturally, it will also come integrated with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant for hands-free navigation help and weather updates.

The driver-side door will be strengthened for added protection; while the rear of the vehicle will have three levels of shelving with a bulkhead door for quick access. Most intriguingly, there will “‘dancefloor’ inside the driver’s cabin for easy movement inside the van,” Amazon says. (I guess that means we can expect a lot of delivery driver TikTok videos in the future.)

Rivian is a relatively new name in the electric vehicle industry, having only debuted its pickup truck and SUV at the end of November 2018 — despite having operated in stealth since 2009. Originally founded to make something that competed with Tesla’s first car, the Lotus-based Roadster, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe eventually pivoted the company toward a more action-adventure customer segment.

Last year, Rivian was able to secure enormous investments from a host of major players, including Amazon. Jeff Bezos’ company led a $700 million funding round in February 2019, but it did not disclose the exact amount it was contributing. In April, Ford announced a $500 million investment in Rivian that the companies said would result in a new electric vehicle to be sold by the auto giant. (That vehicle has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.) Most recently, Rivian landed a $350 million investment from Cox Automotive, a big name in the retail and logistics space. And then, in July 2020, the company pulled in its biggest sum yet: $2.5 billion in a round led by T. Rowe Price, which included Amazon again.

Rivian has shown off two vehicles so far: the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV. Built on the same technological platform, Rivian claims its vehicles — which will start at around $70,000 — will be able to travel up to around 400 miles on a single charge, hit 60 miles per hour in under three seconds; and eventually be able to drive themselves in some capacity.

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