Introduction: Inside Arrival’s Futuristic Factory
Inside arrival’s futuristic factory, a British electric vehicle developer, has announced the opening of its first microfactory in the United States. The factory is under construction in York County in the state of South Carolina and is planned to begin producing electric buses in the fourth quarter of 2021. There are plans to build 1,000 battery buses each year.
If you envision a micro-factory as a small production facility, 1,000 buses should be the maximum capacity. When Arrival opens in South Carolina, it plans to employ 240 people; according to current information, it has invested 46 million dollars (39 million euros) in the micro-factory. In comparison with a conventional commercial vehicle plant, these are relatively manageable figures.
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There will be a battery-electric bus built at the plant with an interior that resembles a subway car. A demonstration of the concept is scheduled for June 2020. The vehicle will be significantly cheaper than current battery-powered buses thanks to low-cost materials, simpler assembly processes, and, above all, significantly smaller and lighter batteries, as claimed by its manufacturer.
Micro-factories are made possible by the construction method: the body is designed so that welding work with expensive production robots becomes obsolete as the welding process is simplified. There is also no need for a painting line, since the panels of the outer skin are made from a special combination of a composite material and a low-cost thermoplastic – very similar to an e.Go Life vehicle, where the plastic itself is colored, not the vehicle.
Despite this, Arrival plans to build the electric transporters from UPS’ bulk order in England for the time being, where Arrival opened its production plant in Bicester in March. Nevertheless, it seems possible that the company will open additional micro-factories in the United States. Mike Abelson, North American CEO, spoke on the occasion of the announcement of a “paradigm shift in EV’s”.
Production at Arrival’s Rock Hill factory is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2021, followed by a fourth quarter debut. The Coordination Council for Economic Development has granted the project credit because new jobs will be created there as a result of the project. Nevertheless, Arrival does not specify in the notification how much of these credits will be appropriated.
As per the company’s announcement, it will operate 1,000 microfactories by 2026, which is about four years from the company’s founding. Though the period between the announcement of the project and the start of production will be around one year in the future, the expansion plan will soon have to be extended.
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Arrival also showed the beta prototype of its electric transporter a few days ago at the Paris airshow. It is visually very different from the design of the vehicle that UPS ordered in January (when the van was shown to them then). There is a much flatter windshield and the vehicle has a much longer wheelbase. As a whole, the vehicle appears a bit more conventional and resembles the Daimler Sprinter, one of the most commonly used vehicles in its class, as opposed to the Alpha prototype.
“Through a lot of the learnings that we got back through our partnerships with some of the logistics companies, and we include UPS with that obviously, we’ve taken that and fed it to what has now become the Beta prototype,” says design chief Jeremy Offer. “The differences in the functionality and the user experience have led into some fairly substantial design changes, primarily around ingress and egress.”
Currently, Arrival is planning to offer battery packs ranging from 44 to 130 kWh for the electric transporters. Even with a full charge and frequent starts, the range should exceed 100 miles (approx. 160 kilometers) if you use the largest possible battery. In the first instance, it may seem that a battery with a capacity of 44 kWh would be very small for a vehicle of this type. Despite this, in some large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, delivery vehicles only cover a distance of twenty to thirty kilometres before they return to their depot. There is no doubt that a transporter with such a powerful battery would be more or less tied to a purpose, but it would not drive an expensive and heavy battery through an area that is never used for anything.