But it's not just what powers them that is interesting; it's the whole design.
There’s a lot to love about the cute new electric trucks rolling out in London for Royal Mail. They run up to a hundred miles in all-electric mode, and will be used to move mail between distribution centres. According to the fleet director:
Royal Mail is delighted to be collaborating with Arrival and pioneering the adoption of large electric commercial vehicles. We will be putting them through their paces over the next several months to see how they cope with the mail collection demands from our larger sites.
It’s a neat looking truck, but there apparently is a lot more going on here than just a new electric van. According to the manufacturer Arrival, the four tonne truck costs about the same as a diesel vehicle. After running 100 miles on pure battery power, there is some kind of dual power mode (nobody seems to say exactly what) that "tops up" the batteries.
It’s made of what Designboom calls “ultra-lightweight composite materials“ which reduce weight; it is also designed out of modular components so that a single person can build the truck in four hours, and swap out any component in fifteen minutes.
HGV or Heavy Goods Vehicles are disproportionately responsible for pedestrian and cyclist deaths in London (twenty percent of pedestrian fatalities and over 70 percent of cyclist fatalities, despite HGVs only making up 4 percent of road miles in London). But according to Wired,
The vehicles have a large front window that wraps around the driver's position and allows them to have a wider field of view than in other vehicles. It's also stated the trucks meet Transport for London's Direct Vision Standard, which says drivers or large vehicles should be able to see pedestrians and cyclists without using mirrors or cameras.
The Direct Vision Standard (DVS) assigns up to five stars to a truck design, based on how much the driver can see directly through their windows without relying on cameras or mirrors. As of 2020 truck designs with no stars will be banned from London, and as of 2024, three stars will be the minimum.
What’s so neat about this truck is that it isn’t just electric; lots of companies are trying that. It’s the way it’s designed -- to be light, to be easy to fix, and to play really nicely with everyone else on the road. Let’s hope we see a lot more of them.