Update: ‘USPS Electric Mail Truck’ updated.
Electrification in the automobile industry does not extend just to hatchbacks and lifestyle electric pickup trucks, but to commercial vehicles as well. The electric van segment especially got a lot of attention after Amazon invested more than $440 million in Rivian, with Ford having invested nearly $1.2 billion in the company, too, despite having its own model in the E-Transit.
Given that the average delivery van covers less than 160 miles a day, which is well within the reach of current battery technologies, fleet operators and e-commerce majors are transitioning to electric vans, and here are some options.
Arrival XL Van
Arrival has confirmed it plans to launch EV vans in the U.S. These models may not include the Arrival Van (also called ‘Arrival L Van’) large electric van that’s currently under production at the Bicester Microfactory in the UK. Arrival plans to launch “vans designed for the U.S.” and produce them at its second Microfactory in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Arrival is developing a van for the U.S. which has a higher average selling price and margins than the L Van, CFO John Wozniak said during the Q3 2022 earnings conference call on November 8, 2022. Avinash Rugoobur, the President of the company, referred to the U.S. model as the ‘Arrival XL Van’ during the call.
Arrival has been developing the XL Van in parallel with the L Van, Rugoobur said. It’ll continue the development of the U.S. model over the next 12 months, he added, suggesting production and sales won’t begin before the end of 2023.
According to a report that Parkers published on October 20, 2022, the L Van uses a 120 kW (163 hp) motor that powers the front wheels and allows a top speed of 75 mph. In one of the body configurations, it is available with 67 kWh, 89 kWh, 111 kWh, and 139 kWh battery packs that deliver a range of 112 miles, 149 miles, 180 miles, and 211 miles, respectively. This provides us an idea of what Arrival is planning for the U.S. market configurations.
After the Semi and Cybertruck, Tesla’s next large commercial model launch could be a van. On July 7, 2022, Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO, Tesla, asked his Twitter followers if the company should make a ‘Robovan’ that’s highly configurable and used to move people and transport cargo. Maybe Tesla could offer it with an optional solar power canopy that extends both sides and triples the roof area as an option, Musk said in a follow-up post on Twitter a few hours later.
Tesla has long considered adding a van to its lineup. The company is “definitely” going to make an electric van at some point, Musk said during the Q4 2020 earnings conference call on January 27, 2021. A month later, during The Joe Rogan Experience podcast (listen on Spotify), he said the solar roof of such a model could add around 30 miles of range per day.
Before the Tesla Robovan, the next-gen Tesla Roadster and the Tesla Robotaxi look like priorities. So, Tesla’s electric van could easily be about four years away from commercialization. The Master Plan Part 3 (pdf) document Tesla released on April 5, 2023, suggests the company expects the Robovan and the Cybertruck together to record 300 million units in cumulative sales.
USPS Electric Mail Truck
Oshkosh Defense is developing a ‘Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV)’ for the United States Postal Service (USPS). While new companies like Arrival, BrightDrop, and Rivian are reinventing vans with attractive, futuristic designs, the Oshkosh Corporation subsidiary has done something strange! A duck-billed big box is how we’d describe it!
The Oshkosh NGDV will be aimed at not only making delivery operations eco-friendly but also easing them for the carriers. Features like front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera system, blind spot warning system, automatic electronic parking brake, airbag, etc. will ensure safety. A surveillance camera will be installed for security, while AC and a walk-in cargo area with cab access will provide the driver comfort and convenience.
The Oshkosh NGDV will be available in an internal combustion engine variant and a pure-electric variant. There’s no word on the specifications yet, not even targeted figures. Oshkosh Defense expects production of the NGDV (in Spartanburg, South Carolina) to begin in 2023, and it may reveal details closer to the start of production. USPS expects to procure at least 60,000 units of the NGDV, of which a minimum of 45,000 will be electric by 2028.
Ford E-Transit LFP battery variant
On February 8, 2022, Ford started shipping the E-Transit electric van to customers from its Kansas City Assembly Plant. Prices of the E-Transit in the U.S. start at $49,575 (excl. $1,895 destination charges). The E-Transit was the best-selling electric vans in the U.S. in 2022, with 6,500 units delivered. In Q1 2023, it recorded 1,168 units in sales, 62.7% higher than in Q1 2022 (718 units).
Available in various configurations (three roof heights, three lengths, and as Cargo Van, Chassis Cab, and Cutaway), the E-Transit uses a 68 kWh lithium-ion battery and a single permanent-magnet motor that produces 198 kW (266 hp) and 317 lb.-ft. of torque. It can travel up to 126 miles on a full charge in its cargo van low-roof model.
Ford is doubling down on LFP batteries, seeing them as a highly cost-effective solution to make EVs more accessible. The company will offer them in the Mustang Mach-E in 2023 and then the F-150 Lightning in early 2024. It will invest USD 3.5 billion in the construction of America’s first automaker-backed LFP battery plant, located in Marshall, Michigan.
On July 21, 2022, during Ford’s EV Update Conference call, Lisa Drake, who’s now the vice president for Ford Model e EV industrialization, said that “you could see LFP maybe in the future being on an E-Transit.” We think that should happen the latest by 2026, by when Ford may have learned enough from the Mustang Mach-E LFP and F-150 Lightning LFP and will have kicked off in-house production at the Marshall plant.
Rivian Amazon Prime Van
The Amazon electric van is built on the R1’s skateboard chassis, albeit at a lower cost (using a lot of steel). There are three versions of the Rivian EDV: Rivian EDV 500, Rivian EDV 700, and Rivian EDV 900, named as per their respective load capacities. According to a report from autoblog, it will be available in single-motor FWD, dual-motor FWD, and dual-motor AWD configurations.
As of March 30, 2023, Amazon has more than 3,000 EDVs deployed on U.S. roads. The company is using the electric vans in more than 500 cities and regions, including New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, Boston, Austin, Seattle, Madison, Newark, San Diego, Kansas City, Dallas, Portland, Salt Lake City, Denver, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Oakland, St. Louis., Indianapolis, Houston, Provo, and Phoenix.
Amazon has delivered more than 75 million packages to customers using the Rivian electric delivery vans. The company is rolling out these custom EDVs in Tampa, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Santa Rosa, Toledo, San Jose, and Grand Rapids.
In an SEC filing on October 1, 2021, Rivian had revealed the following specifications of the EDV:
|Aspect\Specification||EDV 500||EDV 700||EDV 900|
|Length||248 in.||277 in.||321 in.|
|Wheelbase||157 in.||187 in.||205 in.|
|Cargo Space||500 cu. ft.||660 cu. ft.||840 cu. ft.|
|GVWR||9,350 lbs.||9,350 lbs.||14,000 lbs.|
|Range||Up to 150 miles||Up to 150 miles||Up to 120 miles|
Rivian plans to introduce an LFP (lithium iron phosphate) battery pack in the EDV, and the recipient should be the EDV 700, which is under series production. RJ Scaringe, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Rivian, confirmed the new cell chemistry during the company’s Q1 2022 earnings conference call on May 11, 2022. LFP chemistry “fits really, really nicely” for a commercial vehicle.
Rivian will likely start the production and sales of the EDV 700 fitted with the LFP battery pack in the coming months. The company may expand the LFP battery to smaller and bigger vans from 2024.
Brightdrop Zevo 400/BrightDrop EV410
BrightDrop also offers a smaller model called BrightDrop Zevo 400. Originally announced as the BrightDrop EV410, it is designed for smaller and more frequent deliveries. It is less than 20 feet long, and its wheelbase measures just over 150 inches. It offers more than 400 cu. ft. of cargo area (11,327 liters).
Verizon is the Zevo 400’s first customer, and the popular cellular carrier will induct it into its service fleet. On January 1, 2022, Brightdrop announced that Walmart has signed an agreement to reserve 5,000 units of the EV600 and EV410 electric vans. In its Q4 2021 earnings conference call, GM said that it has received more than 25,000 reservations for BrightDrop cargo vans. Merchants Fleet has ordered 5,400 units of the Zevo 400.
The Brightdrop electric van models ride on a dedicated EV architecture while making use of GM’s Ultium battery technology and drive technology (the same technology found on its passenger vehicles).
Production of the Zevo 400 will take place alongside the Zevo 600 at GM’s CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll (Ontario), Canada, starting sometime in 2023. On June 30, 2022, BrightDrop President and CEO Travis Katz told Bloomberg that the company plans to have an annual production capacity of more than 50,000 EVs at this plant by 2025. The Zevo 400 was also part of the interaction, with Katz saying that this is a great vehicle, particularly for uses like grocery delivery, where customers do shorter runs for delivering all the packages.
The Zevo 400 will be available at a GVWR of less than 10,000 lbs., which means that it will likely be eligible for the incentives of up to CAD 10,000 under the iMHZEV program in Canada.
On January 14, 2022, Michigan-based startup, Bollinger announced that it has ‘indefinitely’ delayed its electric truck and SUV (B2 and B1) and it would instead focus on its commercial electric van, the Deliver-E which it announced in 2020.
Expected to be built on a simplified version of the Bollinger skateboard platform (Chass-E), the Deliver-E would be built in multiple wheelbase sizes and configurations with battery specifications of 70 kWh, 105 kWh, 140 kWh, 175 kWh, and 210 kWh, in a front-wheel drive layout. Bollinger has not announced when production will start. It is still looking for a manufacturing partner, especially one that has experience in making van bodies as it does not plan on making the body itself, the company’s CEO Robert Bollinger said in a statement.
Bollinger Motors has outsourced manufacturing of its Class 3-6 platform platforms and chassis cab commercial vehicles to Roush Industries. Bollinger Motors will provide Roush Industries with the parts for assembly, which will conduct the further process at its Livonia facility in Michigan. Production of the Bollinger Deliver-E van could also take place at the same production site. Southern California-based EV company Mullen Automotive holds a 60% stake in Bollinger since September 8, 2022.
The all-new, 2024 Mercedes eSprinter is coming to the U.S. Moreover, Mercedes-Benz Vans has confirmed it will locally manufacture the redesigned electric van, in Charleston, South Carolina.
The 2024 eSprinter will be available in the U.S. as a long-roof cargo van with a high roof, a load capacity of 488 cu. ft., and a GVWR of 4.25 tons. A permanent magnet synchronous motor, offered in 100 kW (134 hp)/400 Nm (295 lb.-ft.) and 150 kW (201 hp)/400 Nm (295 lb.-ft.) variants, powers the electric van.
The U.S.-spec model has the largest battery pack in the line-up, with an energy storage capacity of 113 kWh. The officially expected (but not confirmed) WLTP range is 249 miles, so the EPA-est. range could be around 200 miles. The 113 kWh battery pack consists of LFP cells and supports charging at up to 9.6 kW (AC)/115 kW (DC). At a DC fast-charging station, charging it from 10 to 80 percent SoC takes ~42 minutes.
The 2024 Mercedes eSprinter will go on sale in the U.S. in H2 2023. Prices could start in the region of $45,000-50,000.
Canoo electric vans
Canoo Lifestyle Delivery Vehicle
The Canoo Lifestyle Delivery Vehicle (LDV) is a delivery-specific trim of the Canoo Lifestyle Vehicle. The purpose-built EV sits on the company’s modular electric platform, which is a skateboard chassis. It’s just as big as a compact car, but with interior space comparable to a large SUV.
The Lifestyle Delivery Vehicle has an 80 kWh battery pack, which Canoo expects to deliver a range of 250 miles. It offers a cargo volume of 120 cubic feet and a payload capacity of 1,543 lbs. Customers can order it in single-seat and two-seat versions. Speaking of customers, Walmart has an agreement with Canoo to purchase 4,500 electric delivery vehicles by the end of 2023, beginning with the LDV. Canoo has delivered a few LDV units to Walmart, and the latter will use them under a pilot project to help Canoo refine and finalize its custom configuration.
Canoo Multi-Purpose Delivery Vehicle
Despite a series of high-level exits in its workforce, Canoo still plans to bring out the MPDV (Multi-purpose Delivery Vehicle) for the 2024 model year, according to reports. Canoo plans on having two variants of its electric van: MPDV 1 and MPDV 2. They will ride on the same skateboard chassis as the Canoo Lifestyle Vehicle, but where the MPDV 1 would be the size of a Transit Connect, the MPDV 2 would be equivalent to the full-size Transit.
Both models will be front-wheel driven making around 200 hp and be available in battery sizes of 40, 60, and 80 kWh. The MPDV 1 will cover 130, 190, and 230 miles respectively whereas the larger MPDV 2 will achieve 90, 140, and 190 miles at these capacities.
Where the MPDV 1 is rated for 200 cubic feet of cargo space, the larger MPDV 2 offers more than double the cargo space – 450 cubic feet. The company claims its quirky styling has resulted in maximum interior space offering 30% more parcel volume than ICE-powered vans. The starting price of the MPDV is $33,000, and the company has started taking reservations online.
Kia SW PBV
Kia is developing new purpose-built vehicles (PBVs) that run on electricity. The Kia Mid PBV (codename: Kia SW), is a boxy utility vehicle with some futuristic design elements like angular headlights, slim horizontal light bars, aero wheels, etc. Kia plans to offer the Mid PBV, which it now calls even SW PBV, in multiple body types and door types, with various seat layouts and battery pack options. This model will feature OTA (Over the Air) and FoD (Feature on Demand) services.
The Kia SW PBV will sit on an ‘eS’ platform, a part of Hyundai Motor Group’s Integrated Modular Architecture (IMA) system, an EV skateboard developed exclusively for PBVs. The Kia SW PBV will be able to travel up to 600 km (373 miles) on a full charge. Developed for ride-hailing, delivery, and business-to-business (B2B) transactions, it will have a 1.8 m (5.9 ft.) indoor height.
Kia will divide the SW PBV’s interior into three zones: the driver zone with a simple cockpit, visibility, optimal storage, and a protective driver portion, the utility zone usable as a passenger seating space or additional cargo space, and the service zone that allows various seat layouts and even structural changes of racks and portions for cargo.
Kia will manufacture the mid-sized PBV at a dedicated factory in the Autoland Hwaseong production facility in Hwaseong-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. The company will unveil it in 2025 and begin mass production in the second half of the same year. It plans to make 150,000 PBVs in the first full year.
Kia is considering offering the mid-sized PBV as a Robo-Taxi capable of Level 4 autonomous driving in the future. The Robo-Taxi version will likely feature a LiDAR on its roof.
Kia Large PBV
The Kia Large PBV will probably be something like a Ford E-Transit, but with way more advanced capabilities. What Kia has confirmed is that it will be a large model that customers will be able to use as a people mover shuttle, mobile store/office van, delivery van, refrigerated van, and more. The large electric van will arrive after the mid-size model mentioned above.
The Kia Large PBV should also roll out of the same new dedicated PBV plant in Hwaseong, South Korea, mentioned in the Kia SW PBV section. Kia should also set up an exclusive dealer network for commercial vehicles in almost every market where it plans to sell vans. John Hargreaves told Fleet News that Kia would need to establish a dealer network for after-sales coverage. Hargreaves is the company’s general manager for fleet and remarketing in the UK, where the plan appears to involve the launch of a range of vans and a wide dealer network offering sales and service.
Ram ProMaster Electric
Stellantis will launch a Ram ProMaster EV as the brand’s first all-electric model in the U.S. and Canada, with deliveries commencing in the second half of 2023. The company hasn’t revealed technical details, but we’re expecting it to target full-size electric cargo van customers who currently go for the Ford E-Transit. Stellantis has struck a deal with Amazon to deliver 1000s of Promaster EV vans and is likely to be its biggest buyer in the United States.
As the mechanical twin of the Fiat e-Ducato from Europe (the gas-powered Promaster is a disguised Fiat van), the ProMaster EV could be available in standard-range (47 kWh battery) and long-range (79 kWh) variants, providing an EPA-est. range of around 125 miles and 200 miles, respectively. Powering the ProMaster EV could be a single motor producing 121 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. 22 kW (AC)/50 kW (DC) could be the supported maximum charging input. The initial teasers reveal that the ProMaster EV will be available in the Super High Roof version.
According to MoparInsiders.com, the ProMaster EV customers could get an option to specify their electric van with a passenger-side delivery door instead of a conventional passenger-side door. Checking this option, if provided as the report claims, would make the ProMaster EV a proper delivery van with easy entry and exit. It may do away with the need to use the sliding side doors, allowing the customers to store more cargo in the rear.
Chevy electric van
During GM’s Q2 2021 earnings conference call, Chair and CEO Mary Barra said that the company plans to launch two new zero-emission commercial vehicles. One of these CVs will be a full-size electric cargo van from the Chevrolet brand. This model “will exceed the expectations” of Chevrolet Express customers, Barra said. Technical details, features, or release date of the full-size Chevy electric van aren’t available yet.
According to a report Autoweek published on June 29, 2022, the Chevrolet Express will see discontinuation at the end of MY2025. GM plans to replace it with an electric van in MY2026. In all likeliness, this would be the same Chevrolet electric van Barra was talking about during GM’s Q2 2021 earnings conference call.
GMC electric van
The GMC Savana will also get an electric successor in a few years. The Chevrolet Express’s twin with the gas engine doesn’t have a future beyond MY2025, claims the Autoweek report dated June 29, 2022. It will be a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Express electric successor that is to take its place, as per the report. What this means is that it will also be based on a skateboard platform, unlike the Ford E-Transit, and have an Ultium battery pack. The Savana’s Electric successor could be the most spacious and comfortable passenger van for its footprint and offer the longest range in the segment.
The GMC Savana electric successor will go on sale as an MY2026 vehicle, as per the report.
Blue Arc delivery van
Michigan-based The Shyft Group (formerly Spartan Motors) introduced a new EV solutions brand called Blue Arc on March 9, 2022. One of the Blue Arc products the company has confirmed for launch is a delivery walk-in van. The company says the Blue Arc van will be a one-of-a-kind product in the market designed for high-frequency, last-mile delivery fleets.
The Blue Arc delivery van offers 635-800 cubic feet of cargo space and has a payload capacity of up to 5,000 lbs. The battery pack capacity ranges from 160 feet to 240 kWh, with a system voltage of 800V. At least one of the configurations delivers a range of 150 miles. A solar roof that can store 1-2 kWh of energy is optional. The electric delivery van has a scalable chassis design (Class 3-5), with its length ranging from 12 feet to 22 feet.
The Blue Arc delivery van features many convenience and safety features, such as a 360-degree camera system, large HD camera displays integrated into the dashboard, automated entry, lane departure, and parking sensors.
The Shyft Group has received CARB approval for its Blue Arc EV Solutions Class 3-5 EDVs. CARD has given the Class 3 Blue Arc EVs a city driving range rating of 225 miles. According to EPA, the Blue Arc Class 3 EDV with a 165 kWh battery pack can deliver a range of up to 200 miles and have a fuel consumption equivalent of 45 MPGe. The company will start making EDVs in Charlotte, Michigan, in the second half of 2023.
Featured Image Source: BrightDrop