Arrival, a U.K.-based electric vehicle startup backed by Hyundai and Kia that’s preparing to make electric delivery trucks for UPS, is building a small-scale “microfactory” in South Carolina that will be able to make as many as 1,000 battery-powered buses per year.
The company is investing just $46 million to set up its first U.S. production facility in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and will employ 240 workers when it opens late next year. Arrival unveiled its transit bus design in June, featuring a subway-car like interior, and says it cost less than competing electric models owing to the use of relatively lighter, smaller battery packs, lower-cost materials and a cheaper assembly process. The microfactory is the company’s first in the U.S. and “is the beginning of a paradigm shift in the EV space,” said Mike Ableson, Arrival’s North American CEO, a former General Motors GM executive overseeing the automaker’s electric vehicle strategy. Recommended For YouTesla’s Network Goes Out And Shows A Design FlawWatch Out Tesla, Volkswagen Is Coming!Transport Secretary Grant Shapps Sends Cycling Letter To Local Authorities Reminding Them That Motoring Gets More FundingFounded in London in 2015 by entrepreneur Denis Sverdlov, who made an undisclosed fortune from his sale of Russian cellular company Yota in 2012, Arrival aims to be a leading provider of electric trucks and buses as demand for emission-free vehicles expands. The company says its commercial vans will cost the same as conventional models running on diesel or gasoline and that its buses will be the most affordable on the market, allowing them to be sold without heavy public subsidies. Arrival’s Rock Hill, South Carolina, microfactory opens in 2021. Arrival Arrival thinks it can hold down the cost of its high-tech vehicles by using lighter-weight materials, including aluminum instead of steel for the frame, and body panels made of proprietary composite materials developed in-house. The company’s microfactory concept is also intended to make the manufacturing process as inexpensive as possible. Rather than requiring hundreds of acres of land and a purpose-built structure, the company says it can set up and equip a microfactory in a conventional warehouse space in about six months. Microfactories don’t use costly metal stamping presses, welding or paint shops and don’t use fixed assembly lines. Instead, its flat, skateboard chassis is put together from extruded aluminum components, body panels are joined with aerospace-style adhesives and coloring is done by dying the composite material or wrapping a vehicle. Automated guide vehicles carry sections of the body to assembly cells throughout the factory. The company’s first microfactory is in Bicester, England, where it’s fine tuning the assembly process, near an R&D facility in Banbury. Arrival isn’t identifying customers for the battery buses that will be made in South Carolina or saying how much they’ll sell for. Diesel-powered transit buses cost about $500,000 and electric models, such as those produced by Proterra and BYD, can be at least $200,000 more expensive. Buses built in South Carolina will range in size from 35 feet to 45 feet with range per charge of up to 300 miles. The company says its buses weigh 35,250 pounds when fully loaded with passengers. That appears to be 6,750 pounds lighter than the total weight with passengers for Proterra’s 35-foot Catalyst model. South Carolina is home to one electric bus factory, a plant in Greenville operated by Silicon Valley-based Proterra, and BMW has a massive plant making luxury vehicles in Spartanburg. The state’s automotive manufacturing base was key to its selection, Arrival spokeswoman Victoria Tomlinson said. The startup came out of semi-stealth with a bang early this year when Hyundai and Kia bought a 100 million euro ($110 million) stake. That boosted its valuation to more than $3 billion. Soon after UPS, which is also an investor, said it would buy up to 10,000 Arrival electric delivery vans for its fleet in a deal that ultimately could be worth nearly $500 million. Arrival’s electric vans go into production late next year. Arrival