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Clever: Amazon Doesn't Charge Its Fleet of Rivian Vans During the Day

Florin Amariei

May 17, 2024

Rivian has been inspired enough not to enter the electric sedan market. As a young automaker, it had to target the most profitable and popular auto segments – SUVs and pickup trucks. Besides making the right electric vehicles from the get-go, it also decided to create battery-powered vans. That helped it survive its most challenging era: the official beginning of it all. Now, Amazon shows us how the zero-tailpipe emission van is changing the delivery game.

Rivian signed an exclusive deal with Amazon for 100,000 all-electric vans. That agreement would keep Rivian busy for quite a while because both parties agreed that 2030 would be the last year of deliveries. The money also came right when the marque needed it the most.

However, the young automaker evolved like Charizard thanks to the R1T pickup truck and the three-row R1S SUV. The two EVs impressed customers, prospective individual and corporate buyers, and investors. On top of that, feedback from Amazon drivers regarding the EDV was overwhelmingly positive.

Then, a lineup update that previewed three more affordable models, the R2, R3, and R3X, showed that Rivian has a future that's not tied to Amazon. Unlike one particular competitor, its reputation remained intact, and the brand wasn't at the center of any controversy. One major recall that required a loose nut to be torqued correctly was its biggest "scandal."

However, by the end of Q3 2023, the brand already knew that its production capacity would surpass Amazon's scheduled vehicle needs. That's why it asked the e-commerce giant for permission to sell its electric vans to other customers, even though over 86,000 units remained to be delivered until 2030.

The EV maker is still hemorrhaging money, and the path to profitability remains rather complicated. But its plant in Normal, Illinois, can deal with manufacturing the three electric van variants (EDV 500, EDV 700, and EDV 900), the R1T, and the R1S. Rivian is also planning on building another factory in Georgia that should help the American automaker conquer Europe and other markets with its smaller, cheaper EVs.

However, one thing many overlooked was how Amazon managed its fleet of all-electric vans. Even though charging these battery-powered rides is cheaper than filling up with gas and better for the environment, a plan is needed to ensure maximum efficiency and cost savings.

According to a CBS News report available below, Amazon has already delivered over 580,000,000 packages with its fleet of 13,500 Rivian EDVs. The vans are spacious and easy to operate, but they don't have impressive range. The sweet spot is the EDV 700, which has 660 cu-ft of storage space and a maximum range of around 150 miles (241 kilometers).

Amazon tapped Siemens to provide it with charging solutions at around 120 warehouses. The company has Level 2 dispensers in many of its parking lots, which means there's no real way of juicing up these vans in under an hour. For that to happen, the company needed high-power DC fast chargers.

Fortunately, smart people work at Amazon. They used artificial intelligence to map daily delivery routes and ensured that no EDV would ever run out of charge because the driver had too many places to visit. At the end of their shift, Amazon employees park the vans, plug them in, and charge them overnight.

That is a great decision for two reasons. First, the company avoided spending too much money on its own charging infrastructure. Second, it avoided straining the grid. In fact, Amazon might even be helping utility companies balance the grid while also spending less on every kWh that goes into those batteries. Matching electricity production with consumption is a great way of ensuring that nobody loses.

Amazon still has a lot of work ahead of it because Rivian's EDVs are only useful for last-mile deliveries. But electric vans are going to make a difference in local environments, and that's one great step in the right direction.

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