Can anyone satisfy Amazon’s craving for electric pickup trucks?
This number is growing rapidly. Amazon has been for several years — and tens of billions of dollars — in a huge push to deliver packages, ceasing to rely on big carriers like UPS. To begin the expansion, Amazon ordered 20,000 Sprinter diesel vans from Mercedes-Benz.
Thanks to its network of subcontractors, Amazon now delivers more than half of its orders worldwide, and many more in the United States. Amazon has six times more delivery depots today than in 2017, with at least 50% more new facilities expected to open this year, according to data from MWPVL, a logistics consultancy.
This logistics boom, accelerated by the shift of the pandemic to online shopping, multiplies the challenges the company faces in meeting its commitment to reduce its impact on the climate. Its commitment to make half of its deliveries carbon neutral by 2030 is part of the company’s broader commitment to be net carbon neutral by 2040.
“Electrifying their delivery fleet is a very important part of that strategy,” said Anne Goodchild, who leads the University of Washington’s work on supply chain, logistics and freight transportation.
Delivery vans are well-suited to electric drive because they typically travel 100 miles or less in a day, meaning they don’t need large battery packs that drive up the cost of electric cars. Delivery trucks are often used during the day and can be recharged overnight, and generally require less maintenance than gasoline trucks. EVs lack transmissions and certain other mechanical components that wear out quickly in the heavy stops and starts typical of delivery routes.
In September 2019, when Mr. Bezos announced Amazon’s huge Rivian order — the largest order for electric vehicles ever — he positioned it at the heart of Amazon’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. At the time, he said he expected all 100,000 vans to be on the road “by 2024”.
Amazon has invested at least $1.3 billion in Rivian, which Amazon says is expected to make 10,000 pickup trucks this year. Amazon also locked in exclusive rights to Rivian’s commercial vans for four years, with the right of first refusal for two years thereafter. The companies have been testing the pickups for almost a year.