Morgan Olson Chooses Rivian Skateboard For Electric Delivery Vans

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Stepvans are everywhere, but hardly anybody notices them. They deliver stuff to manufacturers, stores, and customers all across North America. Their cargo can be potato chips or computer chips, and paint to printed circuit boards. Morgan Olson, a division of JP Poindexter & Co, has been making step vans since 1945. During that time, they have learned how to outfit these boxes on wheels to fit the needs of thousands of customers. Now they have been chosen to manufacture battery electric delivery vans for Canada Post. Rivian will supply the platform for those vans.

Morgan Olson already manufactures the C250 step van, which was chosen by Canada Post last year. Now that truck will be converted to a battery electric vehicle that uses the skateboard Rivian created for the delivery vans it is manufacturing for Amazon.

At the annual NTEA Work Truck Week in Indianapolis last week, Morgan Olson COO Joe Thompson told FleetOwner the JB Poindexter group sees Rivian as the answer to the need for light-duty commercial vehicles. “We’ve come to the conclusion that Rivian produces the best, most reliable, most tested EV chassis available,” he said.

The decision to electrify the C250 was made before deciding what chassis to put under it, said Mark Hope, president of EAVX, the innovation hub of JB Poindexter. However, “the challenge with that scale and that size of vehicle is getting the right chassis partner. Rivian is that chassis partner. It’s the most complete chassis in the market in that class.”

The JB Poindexter partnership with Rivian came about after a visit by John Poindexter and other company leaders to the Rivian manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois. Poindexter said his group thought the facility was “impressive.” He and other JBPCO leaders established relationships with Rivian, which led to the partnership. “This announcement is really the culmination and potentially the first step of a very strong partnership,” Tom Solomon, senior director of B2B business development for Rivian, told FleetOwner. “This represents the foundation.”

Courtesy of Rivian, via FleetOwner

The Morgan Olson C250e will feature the same platform as the Rivian commercial van but in the form of a stripped chassis, or a “skateboard,” as Solomon called it — and it’s also a company milestone. “The first non-Rivian van application for that skateboard is this partnership with Morgan Olson and the JB Poindexter family of companies,” Solomon said.

Because the C250e is designed for the Canadian postal service, Rivian will have to make a few design changes to the chassis to accommodate a right-hand drive configuration. But Solomon said essentially the chassis for the C250e is “primarily the off-the-shelf platform,” with few alterations to the manufacturing facility or additional internal investment.

While it has a Morgan Olson body, the C250e will be packed with Rivian technology, such as Rivian’s user interface, user experience, and software stack, Solomon said. It could also feature Rivian’s safety features, such as automatic emergency braking, driver assistance features, and a 360-degree camera system. The C250e will be fitted with a 100 kWh lithium-ion-phosphate (LFP) battery pack.

The Beginning Of A Beautiful Relationship For Rivian

The partnership could potentially bring Rivian-based delivery vehicles to commercial fleets all across North America, now that Amazon’s exclusive rights to the Rivian commercial van platform ended last November. With the exclusivity period over, Rivian wants to make its presence in the fleet space known. “Partnerships like this are foundational to it,” Solomon said.

There is a demand for smaller EVs in the commercial vehicle space, Hope said, and Rivian was a “fit” for the C250e. But JBPCO leaders said this is just the first innovation of many with the EV manufacturer. “We expect to put [the Rivian chassis] under a number of bodies or develop prototypes with individual customers who will be interested in the combination of body technology,” Poindexter said.

Thompson added that with the Morgan Olson brand, additional applications that would suit a Rivian-powered Morgan Olson body would be smaller grocery delivery and other Class 2B applications with a GVWR of 8,510 to 10,000 lb.

JB Poindexter is already looking to the future and exploring how to use the new partnership to continue innovation in the commercial vehicle space. Jacob Larimore, senior director of business development at EAVX, said there have already been preliminary conversations with Rivian about how far their partnership can go and what it can become. “What you’re seeing [with the C250e] is a starting point,” Larimore told FleetOwner. “We’re hopeful that it will continue to evolve.”

Rivian Partnering With AT&T

Image courtesy of AT&T & Rivian

Rivian had a tough year in 2023. Sales of its R1T were lower than expected and production of the new R1S SUV didn’t get started until late last year. It has announced layoffs and just recently said it is putting its plans to build a new factory in Georgia on hold.

Then last week, it announced not one but three new electric vehicles designed to sell for $45,000 or less. Has Rivian turned a corner? The signs are there that things are slowly turning around for the company. In addition to the new partnership with Morgan Olson and JB Poindexter, AT&T will also begin testing Rivian electric vans and trucks in its commercial vehicle fleet in 2024. AT&T wants to evaluate how these vehicles can improve safety, reduce costs, and cut its carbon footprint.

AT&T has made a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. Its strategy includes optimizing routes, switching to hybrid and EVs, and reducing the overall size of its fleet. AT&T also uses AI to make its fleet more efficient, helping it drive 20% shorter routes this year, reducing emissions by 51 million pounds.

“We’re excited to purchase Rivian EVs for our fleet,” said Hardmon Williams, senior vice president at AT&T Connected Solutions. “This pilot is another important step in our ongoing efforts toward sustainability, reducing our carbon footprint, and embracing a cleaner future for our operations. With advanced connectivity and a vision for a sustainable future, Rivian is setting the standard for the evolving demands of modern transportation.”

AT&T is the exclusive provider of connectivity to Rivian vehicles in the U.S. and Canada, enabling a smarter, safer, and more connected driving experience. With AT&T connectivity, Rivian uses over-the-air software updates to consistently improve its vehicles with new features that improve the driving experience for its customers.

“We couldn’t be happier to collaborate with AT&T as we work together to help cut emissions and protect our environment,” said Dagan Mishoulam, vice president of strategy and fleet sales at Rivian. “Around a quarter of CO2 emitted in the transportation sector in the U.S. comes from commercial vans, so it’s imperative we do all we can as soon as possible to help cut emissions. Our category-defining vehicles offer some of the most advanced technology in the sector and are continually improved through over-the-air updates. We’re very much looking forward to expanding our relationship with AT&T to help them achieve their climate goals.”

The Takeaway

Nobody is saying it out loud, but Rivian could become a competitor to GM’s Brightdrop division which intends to manufacture battery electric delivery vehicles in Canada. The Brightdrop vans look a lot like the vans Morgan Olson produces, but a box is just a box. It’s hard to make one box look much different from someone else’s box.

There was a hint in 2023 that Rivian might be skating toward the edge of bankruptcy. It still is losing a lot of money as it struggles to ramp up production. But things don’t appear quite so gloomy for the company now that it is expanding its commercial vehicle business and adding more affordable options to its passenger car and truck offerings.

Commercial customers are finding electric vehicles can save them money in reduced fuel and operating costs — factors that most individual drivers care little about. The fact that EVs don’t use an internal combustion engine that pumps pollution into the air all day every day is a plus, too. One can only wonder why the US Postal Service chose a military vehicle manufacturer to build its next generation delivery vans instead of someone like Morgan Olson, who actually knows a thing or two about making delivery vehicles.


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