Arrival, the UK-based commercial electric vehicle company, unveiled the first prototype of its purpose-built ride-hailing electric vehicle on Thursday on the TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility stage. Perhaps best known for its potentially revolutionary goal of building multiple automated micro-factories to produce vehicles regionally and locally rather than one large production line, the company is building the vehicles in partnership with Uber in the UK.
Arrival president Avinash Rugoobur, who joined TechCrunch’s Kirsten Korosec on the podium on Wednesday, also shared that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Breathe, a UK car subscription company, to make the ride-hail cars available to drivers. In addition to selling vehicles through Breathe, Arrival will also sell the vehicle through its own channels, Rugoobur said, noting that the vehicle is not limited to ride-hail.
The partnership with Uber was first announced a year ago and Arrival unveiled the final design of the boxy-yet-sleek electric vehicle, which resembles something between a small van and a hatchback, in late 2021, although Rugoobur said the design has changed slightly since then. Arrival has previously said it hopes to begin production at its Charlotte, North Carolina plant in the third quarter of 2023.
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The vehicle, which Arrival says has a range of more than 200 miles, was built with feedback from more than a hundred Uber drivers, Rugoobur said, and it shows in its design: Huge windows and a massive windshield optimize visibility. for the driver, as does a short front overhang and slanted nose. The materials Arrival uses for the interior, as well as the shapes of the interior components, are all designed to be easy to clean as quickly as possible, Rugoobur said.
Plus, while there’s a touchscreen near the handlebars that plugs into the back of Uber (or that of any other ride-hail organization), Arrival’s design is all about simplifying the “huge amount of digital equipment” that drivers said it’s “distracting”. and confusing… and wastes a lot of their time,” Rugoobur said.
The passenger experience is also taken into account here, with luggage space, plenty of legroom and a high ceiling that creates an airy feeling.
“Why the shape and size of the vehicle? So the footprint is almost that of a Golf, but it has the sitting room of a Maybach,” Rugoobur said. “The reason for that was mobility in cities where there is a lot of journeys, so it was critical to have a vehicle that has a slightly smaller footprint with the right amount of space for the driver and passenger.”
Rugoobur pointed out that form follows function with the Arrival car. Arrival, for example, optimizes space with design choices such as folding the front passenger seat and placing all components, such as the powertrain, centrally under the vehicle’s completely flat floor.
“We use new composite materials. That’s why we use polypropylene fiberglass instead of metal,” says Rugoobur. “No metal stamping, no paint shops, 100% recyclable material… and then we write all the software, so we get all the data and the code even from the component level.”
Being able to collect data from the back of the vehicle is one of Arrival’s biggest selling points, says Rugoobur, who noted that all the information about any part of the vehicle can go to the driver so they can better operate their vehicle and learn how. Driver behavior affects things like battery life and total cost of ownership. The data will also be shared with Uber so the ride-hailing company can better optimize its fleet and, of course, back to Arrival so the company can understand the performance of things like its battery management system.
Because there is “two-way communication” between Arrival and the vehicles, the EV startup can use information about how different components are performing and, if necessary, exchange damaged hardware or simply upgrade it to keep up with tomorrow’s innovations.
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Arrival’s ride-hail bus will be priced somewhere between an internal combustion engine and a competitive electric vehicle, according to Rugoobur. Recalling that most EVs are branded as luxury vehicles and come with a high upfront price, Rugoobur said the goal is to make the car “affordable, affordable and unaffordable by [total cost of ownership]†
In comparison, General Motors and Honda recently teamed up to build an affordable EV, which Honda estimates would cost about $30,000.
Earlier this month, Arrival said the planned electric bus model… obtained certification in the European Union and is conducting closed-course trials, with customer models expected to be produced in the second half of this year. The startup also said its Van model is almost through its own certification process and is expected to go into production in the third quarter of this year.
Arrival expects to produce 400 to 600 vans in the second half of 2022, plus a small production of buses. the company’s first quarter 2022 earnings report† The report also notes that Arrival collected a total of 143,000 non-binding letters of intent and orders for its vehicles in May, including UPS’s commitment to buy up to 10,000 vehicles from the startup in the US and Europe.