Amazon debuts its electric cargo vans in Oklahoma City
Amazon’s new sleek, nearly silent, electric cargo vans aren’t spaceships on wheels, but then again, they are space ships, in a way.
They have more cargo space, so they can carry more stuff, and because electricity is just one innovation in the new fleet, the drivers can do more, faster, to get you your things sooner, even as Amazon adds custom EVs to take on climate change.
But driver Jordan Drake said appearance is what people notice first – because they’re virtually soundless, especially compared with gas vans, they seem to just appear.
Amazon ‘smile’ could make you scowl at first if it sneaks up on you
“Our gas vehicles, you know, some of our vans have, like, 94,000, 97,000 miles, so they’re just screaming, going 20 mph through a neighborhood,” Drake said. “Two or three weeks ago, I was coming up to a customer’s house and she was getting something out of her mailbox, and I pulled up five, six, eight feet away, and it’s so quiet she didn’t even know I was there. She turned around and she was, like, ‘Oh!’
“I get that all the time. And people start asking us questions. Everybody knows what an Amazon vehicle looks like. There were only three models, the Ford, the Ram and the Mercedes-Benz, and they’re almost all identical. And this is out there. It looks unlike anything they’ve ever seen, so that gets their eye.”
People have questions? We’ve got answers, after Drake and others demonstrated the electric additions to Amazon’s fleet recently at one of its two delivery stations in Oklahoma City.
What makes the new Amazon EDV (electric delivery van) so special?
The custom electric vehicles, manufactured by Rivian exclusively for Amazon – exclusively for now – were designed “from the ground up” with safety and efficiency in mind for drivers, as well as pedestrians.
“It’s basically a cellphone. Whenever you hook up, the battery meter you have on your phone is the same one I look at on my dash,” said driver Drake, technically a delivery associate, who works out of the Amazon delivery station at 6101 SW 44. “(Say) it says, 97% battery, then when it gets to 30%, just like your phone, it’ll go yellow.”
He’s never seen it go red: “I’m always done too fast.”
More cargo space in electric vehicles means less time required for Amazon deliveries
He said innovations have cut nearly two hours, on average, out of his daily delivery runs. He makes an average of 200 stops on each run.
Drake said he can work faster inside the cargo area because it’s taller. Someone a little over 6-foot-4-inches tall can walk right in and stand upright. And the extra space makes it easier and quicker to find the particular delivery items, from up to 50 different containers, needed for particular stops. Since the space is bigger, the van can carry more.
That dash-mounted computer screen that tracks the van’s battery level also lets him take logistics on the road for the last mile of delivery – the final leg of the trip from manufacturer to Amazon to customer.
Amazon shortens the ‘last mile’ of delivery by taking supply chain logistics on the road
Amazon’s delivery associates drive the “last mile” of delivery with added tech.
“Instead of looking at a cellphone, looking at a map, I have an 8-by-12-inch screen that takes me from point to point, and I can actually select different
stops on my route while I’m driving,” Drake said. “So instead of going from stop 31 to 32, if I realize stop 87 happens to be in the middle, I can select that real quick without even really taking my eyes off the road, and it’ll just redirect me to that spot.”
It’s particularly useful in crowded, cramped neighborhoods.
“The electronics in it really help us out, especially when we’re in highly dense areas like apartments. Some of those stops can be scattered all over the place in those apartments, and I can literally jump from apartment to apartment by looking at that one screen because it shows me where all the points are that I have to deliver,” Drake said.
What special features are on the Amazon electric cargo vans?
From Scott Seroka, Amazon operations PR manager:
• Public safety: 360-degree visibility, sensor detection, extra-large windshield, automatic emergency braking and collision warnings.
• Logistics: “First-of-its-kind embedded technology that fully integrates the delivery workflow with the vehicle, enabling seamless access to routing, navigation, driver support and more.”
• Easy on the driver: Heated seats and heated steering wheels, automatic door lock and unlock as the driver comes and goes, a powered bulkhead door that opens when drivers reach their delivery location, saving time.
• Energy: Batteries are “light, resilient, and low cost in addition to lasting the lifetime of the vehicle,” and Amazon-branded headlights that smile (with the company logo).
Here are some of the specifications on the Rivian EDV 700 (electric delivery van) used by Amazon for delivery
• Range: Up to 150 miles per charge.
• Height: 9.5 feet (114.8 inches).
• Length: 23 feet (277 inches).
• Cargo area volume: 660 cubic feet.
• Weight empty: 9,350 pounds.
• Weight loaded: 1,960 to 2,750 pounds.
• Senior Business Writer Richard Mize has covered housing, construction, commercial real estate and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com since 1999. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for his weekly newsletter, Real Estate with Richard Mize.