As the world works towards reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, it appears that they aren’t restricted to mere carmakers. Companies in every field are trying to minimise their carbon footprint. The latest one looking to adopt greener ways of operating is UPS.
Logistical company UPS recently announced an equity investment in UK-based tech company Arrival. The investment made via its venture capital arm, UPS Ventures comprises of a commitment made by UPS to purchase 10,000 tailor-built electric delivery vehicles from Arrival. This fleet of electric delivery vehicles will be added to its fleet for operations in the UK, Europe, and North America over the next four years.
The vehicles made by Arrival will get built on a modular skateboard platform. This translates to a customisable floor bed which can get modified to change shape or volume depending on the customers’ varied demands and vehicle types. According to Patrick Bion, Arrival’s chief of product, “We have the ability to change the wheelbase, to add front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. We can also change the battery pack capacity so that the customer, if they only need 150 kilometres (90 miles) per day, doesn’t have to pay for a bigger battery that could theoretically do more.”
At present, the trucks due to get delivered to UPS are still in the prototype phase. This iteration is over 2.5 metres tall and is said to carry Blackberry’s QNX – a more corporate-focussed operating system majorly utilised by vehicles and robots. The company claims these vehicles can go from mere sketches to getting fabricated in just three months.
The above-mentioned investment will see both companies collaborating to develop a range of electric vehicles with Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS). This ADAS technology will better operational efficiency and promote automated movements inside UPS depots worldwide.
UPS will commence testing of the various ADAS functionalities later this year. Results of these tests will determine whether UPS will stick to its commitment towards the purchase of 10,000 purpose-built electric vehicles. Even though either firm didn’t disclose the prices of these trucks, reports from the Guardian claim this purchase deal to be worth €400m (£339m).
“UPS has been a strong strategic partner of Arrival’s, providing valuable insight into how electric delivery vans are used on the road and, importantly, how they can be completely optimised for drivers,” said Denis Sverdlov, Arrival chief executive. “Together, our teams have been working hard to create bespoke electric vehicles, based on our flexible skateboard platforms that meet the end-to-end needs of UPS from driving, loading/unloading and back-office operations. We are pleased that today’s investment and vehicle order creates even closer ties between our two companies.”
This won’t be the first stint where both companies came together. Since the past four years, both companies have been developing EV prototypes of varied shapes and sizes. 2018 saw Arrival deliver 35 EVs to UPS. These EVs came with zero tailpipe emissions, a 150-mile battery range and advanced safety features. UPS scheduled these EVs to get trialled in London and Paris the same year.
Arrival has asked UPS for their set of requirements and specifications. These demands include details as minor as shelving design, number of compartments and door opening sequence to major feature such as cargo load. “As soon as our vehicle leaves our facility, it’s ready for their operations,” Arrival CEO Bion said.
Arrival became the first commercial vehicle manufacturer to supply purpose-built electric vehicles to UPS. Being a technology company, Arrival boasts of having excelled in creating Generation 2 Electric Vehicles – a new product category that levels the cost of producing, designing and manufacturing electric vehicles to that of a regular Internal Combustion Engine vehicle.
Cost-effectiveness in producing these Generation 2 Electric Vehicles come at the back of utilising Arrival’s in-house software, components, sustainable materials and modular skateboard platforms. Even the core vehicle components like the chassis, powertrain, body and electronic controls are said to get produced indigenously. Hence, these EVs will get priced at par with the conventional ICE vehicles.
Carlton Rose, president of UPS Global Fleet Maintenance & Engineering said, “Our investment and partnership with Arrival is directly aligned with UPS’s transformation strategy, led by the deployment of cutting-edge technologies”. He further added, “These vehicles are the world’s most advanced package delivery vehicles, redefining industry standards for electric, connected and intelligent vehicle solutions.”
Arrival will be building these trucks at micro-factories using lightweight-yet-durable materials created in-house. If UPS continues with its purchase commitment, the firm can even fast-track orders as necessary, courtesy of its recently-earned investor tag.
It’s been five years since the inception of Arrival and the next few years could be crucial to the tech firm to become a full-blown automaker. Originally named Charge, or Charge Auto, the tech firm started prototype testing with UPS in 2016. The same year witnessed Arrival striking a deal with Formula E. 2017 saw the firm initiate testing with the Royal Mail in London with the latter testing out six and seven and a half tonne trucks successfully in the British city. If Arrival can deliver demand-specific customised vehicles to UPS, we might be seeing the advent of Arrival in the commercial space. Look out Tesla Semi!