Amazon’s new electric delivery vans will hit the road in more than a dozen cities starting this year, the company announced Wednesday. The vans, which are being designed and built by buzzy EV startup Rivian, are already making deliveries to customers in Los Angeles. Amazon plans to expand its testing to 15 more cities this year, as it continues to build toward a fleet of 100,000 vehicles by 2022. The companies did not name which cities they would choose.
In a short video published today, Amazon touts the fact that the vans were designed, built, and are now being tested within a year. “We’re loving the enthusiasm from customers so far—from the photos we see online to the car fans who stop our drivers for a first-hand look at the vehicle,” said Ross Rachey, director of Amazon’s Global Fleet and Products, said in a statement. “From what we’ve seen, this is one of the fastest modern commercial electrification programs, and we’re incredibly proud of that.”
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 operating in stealth since 2009. Originally founded to make something that competed with Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe eventually pivoted the company toward a more action-adventure customer segment of SUVs and pickup trucks.
Since coming out of stealth, Rivian has hauled in a series of enormous investments from several major players. Amazon led a $700 million round in February 2019, followed by $500 million from Ford in April 2019. Most recently, Rivian landed $2.65 billion from T. Rowe Price and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund. (Jeff Bezos recently announced he would be stepping down as CEO to devote more attention to the initiative.)
Rivian has shown off two vehicles so far: the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV. Built on the same architecture as the delivery van, 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.
Amazon originally announced the new delivery van as part of its climate pledge to become a carbon-neutral company by 2040.
It’s funny that Amazon’s Rachey mentions the photos of the delivery van posted online. Curious passers-by have also captured the shall-we-say unique external sound that emanates from the van while parked or traveling at low speeds. Electric vehicles can be notably silent when compared to their internal combustion engine-having counterparts, so regulators require them to produce an artificial sound when traveling at low speeds to alert pedestrians and other road users that may not otherwise hear the approaching vehicle.
Based on the spacey, sci-fi-ish sound that has been selected, it would seem that Rivian was going for something that could best be described as “chill/lo-fi beats to relax/study to playlist.” According to The Drive citing a post from Drive Tesla Canada, the Rivian vans’ artificial sound is so loud, it can be heard from inside someone’s house.
It’s not clear whether this will be the final sound used for all of Amazon’s delivery fleet. In other words, there’s still time to change it. Please change it.