Before it’s produced a single production vehicle, electric-vehicle (EV) startup Rivian – most recognized for the radical R1T pickup truck it first unveiled at the 2018 Los Angeles auto show – basked in a significant show of confidence from one of its most prominent investors when Amazon said it plans to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian starting in 2021.
It won’t happen all at once. Amazon, which in February 2019 revealed a $700 million investment in Rivian, said in a release it intends to have 10,000 of the delivery EVs on the road by 2022, with all 100,000 in service by 2030.
Rivian has yet to begin producing vehicles at its assembly plant in Normal, Illinois (a former Mitsubishi manufacturing site), but intends to have the R1T and R1S utility vehicle coming out of the plant at the end of next year; CEO R. J. Scaringe has said the Normal assembly plant could potentially produce in excess of 200,000 vehicles annually. Rivian reportedly plans to build the delivery vehicles in the Normal facility; however, Ford in April 2019 announced a $500-million investment in Rivian not long after Amazon pledged its own investment. It is widely believed Ford’s first EV model developed with Rivian will be for the commercial-vehicle market, so it also is possible Rivian could build some of the Amazon and Ford-badged vans in a Ford facility.
Vans part of a plan
Amazon’s electric-van strategy is part of a larger announced goal, The Climate Pledge, which will see the company’s operations to be net-zero in carbon emissions by 2040, ten years ahead of the deadline set by the Paris Agreement. The company said it is the first signatory of the Climate Pledge.
In order to get to the zero-carbon target, Amazon said it intends for 80% of its global infrastructure’s energy use to come from renewable sources by 2024 and attain 100% renewable-energy usage by 2030. The company currently has in operation 15 utility-scale wind- and solar-energy production projects that will generate in excess of 1,300 megawatts of electricity, or about 3.8 million megawatt-hours annually.
Although a narrowly-defined metric, Amazon called the Rivian commitment the largest-ever order for electric delivery vehicles. Ford also has confirmed it intends to build an electric version of the F-150 pickup truck, the U.S.’s best-selling light vehicle. It is believed Ford will not employ Rivian’s RT1/RS1 architecture for the F-150 EV, but some analysts have speculated the automaker’s investment in Rivian could lead to certain aspects of technology transfer.
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