Hyundai-backed UK startup Arrival has unveiled an all-electric bus designed to ensure safe social distancing as the world gradually goes back to the office, and also a vision to kickstart local economies with “microfactories” instead of “gigafactories”.
Considered one of the UK’s largest “unicorns” (a privately held startup valued at more than $US1 billion, £800 billion or $A1.46 billion), the five-year-old Arrival came out of stealth mode in January announcing that Hyundai and Kia had taken stakes in the company that boosted its value to almost $A5 billion.
Arrival has already taken an order for a fleet of 10,000 short haul electric trucks for delivery company UPS, which is also an investor, but its latest move is a clear sidestep from hauling cargo to moving people – and dollars.
On Wednesday (UK time), Arrival announced that it is also planning a zero emissions bus that it thinks will transform the public transport industry as it adjusts to a world learning to operate without the risk of infections.
While the pandemic in Australia is largely under control, the UK is the fifth largest centre for the pandemic with more than 300,000 cases and 42,000 deaths according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
Arrival says it believes its all-electric bus is, “the tool cities need as they adapt to a new normal whilst striving to make bus travel appealing, sustainable and financially viable.”
In a series of images of the bus released by the company, there is certainly a focus on clean, visually appealing and spacious design, but it is also apparent that considerable though has been given to how to address personal space and hygiene.
For example, the interior of Arrival’s e-bus includes clear dividers between each set of seats, which are designed for flexible seating layouts and can be folded down to ensure adequate distancing while revealing a small table top for a laptop or bag.
“Arrival’s core focus is to make your every-day experience radically better, whether that is your daily journey on an Arrival Bus, or through your work as a driver delivering parcels from an Arrival Van,” said Arrival chief of experience Kwame Nyanning in a statement.
“We are very excited to bring the Arrival Bus to markets around the world and make the passenger experience of bus travel a positive one,” said chief of product Ben Jardine in a statement.
Specifications and details around the e-bus and its second generation electric platform are not yet forthcoming but Arrival says the platform will underpin a series of purpose-built vehicles.
Arrival says it will build its trucks and buses – which will be joined by delivery robots and ride-share vehicles – at a number of “microfactories” designed to build products specific to each market, deliver them within a timeframe of three months, that even small orders of a few thousand will produce a profit.
Its vision behind this strategy is to stimulate local economies, supply chains and ensure payment of taxes locally, as well as support local net-zero emission goals.
“By working in partnership with businesses to develop the entire ecosystem around our vehicles, we are supporting their goals of making Public Transport appealing whilst achieving carbon neutrality,” says Jardine.
“We are working with cities to make every touchpoint within the urban transportation ecosystem not only better, but also more equitable and sustainable. Recent events have made it clear the world needs to take action now in order to improve lives and effect real change,” says Nyanning.
While pricing for the e-bus has not been announced, Arrival says it will be priced on par with comparable fossil-fuelled vehicles.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.