As part of its goal to manage its own deliveries and speed up the process, Amazon has been spending big to rely less on the services of FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service.
Reports indicate that Amazon has traditionally maintained a fleet of more than 30,000 branded delivery vans from three renowned automakers. Interestingly, Amazon’s sizeable fleet is growing to include 100,000 all-electric delivery vans, which the company ordered from Rivian.
It’s interesting to have one of Amazon’s blue behemoths (with a smiley, curiously) pulling up at your door with something you ￼bought on Prime Day.
But perhaps it’s also cool to know the exact number of these vans, more than the role of real-life Santa Claus they play. Let’s take a tour, and we’ll ￼break the numbers down.
The Van Manufacturers Amazon Uses
As far as the delivery race is concerned, Amazon has long set its sight on being the household name.
That undeniably calls for a massive delivery network, and Amazon counts on a decent fleet that consists of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Ram ProMaster vans.
It could be quite challenging to know the specific number of vans from each brand in Amazon’s massive fleet, even if you inquire from the auto manufacturers themselves.
For example, Daimler would at one time not specify to Car and Driver the exact number of vans it sold to Amazon and its delivery partners. The German auto giant claimed that part of its policy includes not commenting to third parties on its customer relationships.
It added that units only appear in their sales figures upon delivery. I’d like to think Amazon maintains similar policies and may not easily disclose the numbers.
However, according to CNN, one record number of Amazon’s van orders includes some 20,000 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters.
Amazon Has Some 1800 Mercedes Electric Vans
As the world turns towards electric vehicles in a bid to reduce the carbon footprint, Amazon is also keen to embrace an electric future.
The company reportedly ordered 1800 electric vans from Mercedes-Benz. This includes 1200 of the larger eSprinter models and 600 of the more compact eVito models, the latter of which looks similar to the Metris cargo van.
Amazon’s Futuristic Fleet of 100,000 Vans
While it’s impressive to have a fleet of 1800 electric Sprinters and eVitos, that seems to be the tip of the iceberg.
Understandably, it won’t take long before all your Prime packages arrive both swiftly and silently. Amazon reportedly invested over $1 billion in the automaker Rivian, to see it acquiring 100,000 all-electric cargo vans.
The custom electric fleet is part of Amazon’s commitment to the Climate Pledge, which aims to have a zero net carbon footprint by 2040.
Other reasons for the move towards this sizeable fleet of electric vans include retention of drivers and reduction of operating costs.
As of 2021, Amazon reported that it had begun testing the vans on its delivery routes. Ten thousand units of the Rivian vans will hit the road by the end of 2022 as part of the company’s commercial fleet.
Features of The Amazon Prime Vans From Rivian
Here are highlights of the Amazon Prime vans from Rivian:
A Cartoonish Outlook
Here’s where ridiculous names like “smiling blue whales” come in, because these massive vans look like they’re straight from Disneyland.
I’d like to think that friendly outlook is purely intentional because these vans will soon be everywhere in neighborhoods and cities across the country.
Model Names & Trims
A VIN document filed by the NHTSA and posted on the Rivian Owners Forum indicates that the new Amazon Prime vans come in two trims – the S and Z trims.
If you’re trying to wrap your head around those, “S” is for Service, and “Z” is for Amazon. Based on the VIN decoder sheet, the S trim could be made available for purchase to fleets outside the Amazon Prime shipping.
The document also reveals that these “smiling whales” will have basic names that reflect their cargo capacities.
That means the 500, 700, or 900 simply denotes the capacity in cubic feet that each van has for cargo and other packages.
While the three vans have distinct cargo and payload capacities, they share in the interior stand-up height. The smallest one is also relatively narrower, but it still offers generous space like mainstream Ford Transits and Sprinters.
To maintain easy maneuverability, the largest van has about the same turning circle diameter as the smaller duo.
As of writing, the vans are available in both left-hand and right-hand drive. What’s more, there are three known drivetrain options: single motor front-wheel-drive, dual-motor front-wheel drive, and dual-motor all-wheel drive.
The new Prime vans from Rivian follow a modular design with a skateboard chassis – a self-contained platform with all the electric motors, battery packs, and drive components.
This is easy to stretch or shrink to some custom specification, and it can be topped with various body styles, making the vans common in design.
Notably, the vans also have their electrical network architecture and battery packs similar to the Rivian R1 trucks. That said, the basic single-motor e-axle units found in models like the 500 derive from the Rivian R1 trucks.
To optimize production, each skateboard chassis is assembled on its production line, separate from the final body and build line. However, common paint shops handle everything for the final builds.
Finally, to optimize each van for a specific route, they support multiple battery sizes.
Rugged Body & Frame
The Rivian Prime vans follow a sturdy design that features a steel body on a ladder-frame skateboard chassis.
That’s a remarkable difference from the fancy Rivian R1s whose design uses a significant amount of aluminum.
Easy Handling Capabilities
One noteworthy challenge that Amazon’s last-mile delivery providers have been facing is poor driver retention.
But hey, spending summer days in a metal cocoon without adequate air conditioning and driving around with the sliding door open isn’t safe nor desirable.
Therefore, the new vans include an advanced climate control system, benchmarkable lighting, a spacious cargo area, and a user-friendly infotainment system.
Rivian was also careful on the ergonomics of accessing the vans. They have entry steps that don’t become too slippery when wet or covered with slush.
Additionally, the shape and position of the assist handles make them convenient and easy to use while handling packages.
To integrate such remarkable features, Rivian communicated directly with several veteran drivers from Amazon and determined exactly what would make their jobs easier and enjoyable.
Thus, the comfort level with which the new vans come is unbeatable, and the driver’s seats and armrests can also be heated.
This eliminates the need to heat the whole air in the large front compartment, particularly when the sliding passenger-side door often has to open and close .
It’s also possible to defrost the windshield through a grid of tiny wires, a more effective method than creating and blowing hot air over it.
Advanced Safety Features
In terms of safety features, the vans also come with a comprehensive suite which includes the following:
- Automatic emergency braking
- A pedestrian warning system
- Cameras and radar sensors
- Lane keep assist
- Traffic design recognition
To crown it all, the vans have an automatic warning system that detects when the driver is distracted and alerts them.
There’s also a conventional hinged door on the driver’s side whose design offers better side-impact crash protection than a sliding door.
In as much as the vans are fully electric and come with advanced electronic systems, Amazon and Rivian don’t intend to make the vehicles fully autonomous anytime soon.
Advanced Logistics Management Systems
The new vans are equipped with state-of-the-art technology that enables them to be integrated into Amazon’s logistics management system.
This way, Amazon can monitor important parameters like speed, state of charge, and location of each of their vans.
Amazon also plans to integrate them with their routing and package delivery system.
As such, drivers can fully focus on driving because there’s no need to use other devices with mapping information or delivery instructions.
In a Nutshell
Amazon’s logistics muscle has been a source of worry for renowned postal delivery services like FedX and UPS.
On average, the company delivers some 2.5 billion packages annually and is rapidly expanding its logistics operations.
Notably, it’s been investing heavily in acquiring new vans to deliver smiles to customers all around.
This includes a new fleet of 100,000 electric vehicles on top of the pre-existing more than 30,000 custom delivery vans.
While Amazon has traditionally relied on renowned cargo van brands like the Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and the Ram ProMaster, it’s quite challenging to know each brand’s exact number of vans.