Amazon is officially starting deliveries in its new custom all-electric Rivian Electric Delivery Vehicle (EDV). The tech giant’s new EDVs hit the road as of July 21 in cities all over the U.S., including Baltimore, Chicago, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego and St. Louis. Both companies plan to bring thousands of custom EDVs to more than 100 cities by the end of the year and 100,000 vehicles by 2030.
I, for one, will eagerly watch to spot one in the wild — an early warning to my partner and her shoulder as I may shake her in excitement and take photos.
Luckily for my partner’s shoulder, I did not have to wait long to see the vehicle up close and feed my excitement (nothing will beat seeing it in the wild though). Last week, I traveled to Chicago to see the custom Rivian EDVs up close — Amazon invited me and covered the costs.
At an Amazon warehouse facility in Chicago, alongside top executives from Rivian and Amazon, including Rivian chief executive officer RJ Scaringe, both companies unveiled the final Amazon Rivian EDV. This announcement was a long time coming: Jeff Bezos, founder, executive chair and former CEO of Amazon, announced the order in late 2019. Amazon also has an 18 percent stake in Rivian, investing more than $1.3 billion.
While the vehicles are officially hitting the streets, Amazon has been testing deliveries with preproduction EDVs since 2021, delivering more than 430,000 packages over 90,000 miles. Through this testing, Rivian has continuously iterated on and improved the EDV.
This continuous improvement and customization was one of the main things that stood out to me when I saw the vehicle up close. You could see the attention to detail, the driver-first priority and Rivian’s focus on ensuring the EDV meets its intended purpose — helping drivers more effectively, efficiently and safely deliver packages.
Amazon's customized Rivian EDV was unveiled July 21 in Chicago. Image by Vartan Badalian for GreenBiz.
After the announcement, I sat down with Rivian chief growth officer Jiten Behl to get a deeper look at the unique customizations. "We really spent a lot of time getting that closed feedback loop with the drivers … ergonomics, how do they get in or out, what do they carry, how do they find packages, what kind of safety issues they have to navigate and more," Behl said.
Among a long list of unique hardware and software features, here are two that stood out to me:
- A bulkhead door that automatically opens and closes depending on whether the vehicle is parked or in motion. The bulkhead door is the door behind the driver seat that opens to the package compartment.
- Rivian's embedded custom software that connects with Amazon's delivery software, allowing for a fully integrated delivery workflow. The software integration allows seamless access to routing, navigation, driver support and more based on each package in route. That's the kind of integration that is possible when building a vehicle from the ground up for the specific purpose of delivering packages.
The EDV’s range depends on many factors including outside temperature, added weight in the vehicle (whether passengers or cargo) and wind resistance, as is typical with an all-electric vehicle. Behl shared that the vehicle has an estimated range of 150 miles. "We wanted to make sure that [the EDVs] can go in and deliver packages and come back to the base station in a day. So we have done that by providing that size of the battery … it can cover a wide variety of operating conditions and use cases," Behl said. In anticipation of this moment, Amazon has added thousands of charging stations at its delivery stations across the country so the EDVs can return to base and charge overnight.
Beginning customer deliveries with the Rivian EDV is an important step toward Amazon's Climate Pledge commitment to reach net-zero carbon by 2040 and its pledge to ensure 50% of all shipments reach net-zero carbon by 2030.
While the journey for Amazon and Rivian has entered an exciting new chapter, the road ahead is not clear of hurdles. Delays are all too common of a word for many automakers right now, including Rivian, as it faces supply chain and manufacturing constraints building and delivering its EVs. Amazon’s EDVs are not Rivian’s only focus — far from it. Rivian is still ramping up production of its consumer all-electric R1T, which has received incredible reviews and surging demand all while adding on deliveries for the RS1, the SUV version of the R1T. Rivian’s manufacturing continues to slowly ramp up as the company recently announced layoffs for non-manufacturing positions to "optimize costs and operating expenses across the business," Scaringe said in a recently released letter to his employees. However, having both commercial and consumer lineups has always been part of Rivian's plan, allowing for more thoughtful growth.
Rivian has two separate assembly lines, one for its R1 lineup of vehicles and a second assembly line for the EDVs, allowing the manufacturer to avoid "a lock situation where you have to produce one over the other," Behl said. "So this actually goes back even like three or four years ago in how do we set up engineering teams, how do we set up commercial and service infrastructure, how do we size it up and where do we put service stations."
The importance of this moment can not be overstated for Rivian, Amazon and the last-mile delivery industry. Officially beginning customer deliveries with the Rivian EDV is an important step toward Amazon's Climate Pledge commitment to reach net-zero carbon by 2040 and its pledge to ensure 50 percent of all shipments reach net-zero carbon by 2030 as part of Shipment Zero. Amazon’s Scope 1 emissions from direct operations have steadily risen over the years, with its 2020 sustainability report showcasing a 69 percent year-over-year increase. For the last-mile delivery industry, transportation electrification is critical as projections show a rise in emissions by upward of 30 percent by 2030 globally as online shopping grows, and home deliveries increase.
Note: This piece has been updated to clarify a quote.