The next phase of EVs: Electric delivery vans are here

Posted by: Lydia on 30/04/2021

Category: General

The Next Phase of EVs: Electric Delivery Vans Are Here

The mainstream uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) has been among the biggest — if not the very biggest — auto story in the past decade. But that story is still being written. Just as it’s been phenomenal to see the innovations of manufacturers like Tesla and the subsequent uptake of their vehicles, the best is yet to come.

The arrival of EVs in the heavy vehicle class illustrates this. Electric delivery vans are going to fundamentally transform the auto industry, and the wider supply chain for the delivery of goods. This transformation is exciting, but it’s also likely to have a few challenges along the way. So let’s unpack everything you need to know about delivery vans and the next phase of EVs.

Electrifying Energy for Business

For retail giants that have a huge ecommerce presence, the arrival of electric delivery vans is set to offer a number of new advantages across the board. EV vehicles and accompanying software will allow managers back at the warehouse to glean more precise data from an EV van out on the road than they would from a petrol-powered auto, such as details about more optimal routes to take as well as diagnostic data. These are just a couple of the features that EVs will be able to offer and that will dramatically enhance ecommerce supply chain processes and deliveries. 

Additional Integrations Could Take to the Sky

Right now, we’re seeing the mass rollout of a huge variety of transformative technology. As well as EV vans, the ongoing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and drones is also set to play a big role within the transport sector. The potential integrations of EV with other technology in this space is still in its early days. But already we’ve seen the likes of Amazon indicate their intention to develop a drone-delivery system that the Seattle-based company hopes will be able to deliver light goods to customers in under 30 minutes after ordering.

At present, such processes almost seem unimaginable. But in the years ahead, it will not only become commonplace, but could revolutionise the way delivery vans work. Today, a van — whether petrol-powered or otherwise — will still deliver door-to-door. The future could see EV delivery fans be more akin to ‘moving warehouses’, that bring a bundle of packages into a particular suburb or community, and then use AI to dispatch and deliver the packages via drones.

Such innovations would not only help improve delivery times but also drive down congestion on our roads. This system for delivery won’t be in place overnight, but it’s a real possibility for the near future.

Creating a Range of Powerful New Benefits 

There’s also the potential for electric delivery vans to provide new optimisations far beyond the vehicle’s primary operations alone. For example, as part of a new branch of its business called BrightDrop, GM is releasing the EP1 pallet. This device will help couriers deliver boxes via an “electric-propulsion-assisted box”

As well as its capacity to improve efficiency, the EP1 will help reduce the risk of injuries to couriers from the physical strain of moving heavy goods. Amidst all the excitement of cutting-edge EV tech, change like this may seem like a small advancement. But it can represent a huge difference when it comes to enhancing the health and safety of workers every day. 

What Could Short-Circuit the EV Delivery Van’s Progress?

It’s a reality that EV vans will create new complications from a regulatory and economic perspective. Yes, the way we use autos in future will certainly change, but electric delivery vans pose issues in ways that a regular sedan or convertible won’t. While many of these anticipated problems are still largely hypothetical, there’s no doubt that these challenges could be substantial.

A key issue surrounds recharging. Ideally, delivery vans would always be fully charged before heading out on their route, and not be needed for another trip (allowing them recharge time) on return to the depot. But if that’s not the case, that means delivery vans will need to spend time recharging at various EV stations in public. 

In Australia, this could be a very significant challenge. While Australia has over 2300 charging stations, presently ‘range anxiety’ is a real concern for many drivers. What’s more, whether delivery vans — given that they’re doing business ‘on the clock’ — should be permitted to have priority access ahead of individuals with private cars at a charging station could be a very divisive debate.

Even in a ‘best-case scenario’ there could still be a big mountain for EV delivery vans to overcome. Suppose a business wants to shift to an EV-only fleet, but due to concerns about range anxiety, will require multiple vehicles to avoid time being lost to recharging during the delivery route. 

At present, their lone option would appear to be investing in multiple delivery vans to replace their existing petrol-powered autos that can refuel fast. Although prices continue to fall, right now EVs are commonly much more expensive than their petrol-powered counterparts. So for businesses to really embrace EV vans sooner, manufacturers must find ways to reduce prices faster.

On the Way 

EV vans offer so much potential to transform the delivery sector in a positive way. The challenges ahead for EV vans are real, but they’re likely not insurmountable. Ultimately, the biggest boost to interest in EV vans will come from the ability of manufacturers to diminish concerns about range anxiety. This is applicable to EVs across the whole range, regardless of whether it’s a sedan to be used for big road trips across Australia, or a van doing numerous delivery runs locally.

When it comes to Rivian in particular, their pioneering work could be a stepping stone for EV vans industry-wide. In both the development of their electric pickup trucks and the installation of charging stations throughout Latin America — as famously covered in last year’s documentary the Long Way Up — Rivian has shown that the EV sector now has numerous all-stars alongside Tesla delivering profoundly impressive innovations. 

Yes, range anxiety and cost concerns exist today. But in the future, there’s little doubt that when it comes to upping range and dropping prices, EV manufacturers will deliver the goods.

What are your thoughts on the potential of electric delivery vans? Let us know in the comments below.

Image: Pixabay