How The Hell Did Arrival Just Build A Car In 7 Months?

The average car takes 72 months to make, but on the 16th of December 2021, Arrival (NASDAQ: ARVL) announced they have completed the prototype of an affordable, purpose-built electric car for ride-hailing drivers, just seven months after announcing their partnership with Uber to do so on Star Wars day (May the 4th) this year.

“This is a key milestone for Arrival and we’re thrilled today to be releasing the first look at the Arrival Car. Over the past six months, we have been working closely with Uber’s drivers to create a vehicle specifically for the ride hailing industry, and making it affordable, durable and great to look at,” said Tom Elvidge, EVP Vehicle Platforms at Arrival. “Electrifying ride-hailing will play a crucial role in reducing the emissions of vehicles in cities globally, providing a sustainable, clean multi-modal transportation system for communities. We are keen on supporting drivers with this transition by developing the best possible product for ride hailing that elevates the experience for both them and their passengers, making urban air clean in the process.”

While everyone including Arrival seems to be focused on the shiny new electric vehicle, it’s mouselike environmental footprint, and how it is going to revolutionise ride hailing vehicles (and rightly so) we should also be looking at how Arrival did this, and why their product development process represents a transformational shift in the way products are designed and made.

According to an official press release from Arrival:

This timeframe and partnership to create a purpose-built vehicle is made possible because of Arrival’s vertical integration utilising technologies that are shared acrossArrival’s entire portfolio of vehicles that also includes the Van and the Bus.

This understatement was buried about three quarters of the way through a one-page press release for the Arrival Car, but the radical approach to creating complex products with interconnected technologies is also possible because of a unique, vertically integrated method of design and production that includes the use of advanced intelligence, strategic partnerships and microfactories.

So what is this vertically integrated approach, and how was Arrival able to make a car in less than 10% of the time of traditional automobile manufacturers?

First of all, Arrival partnered with Uber on the development of their electric vehicle. That strategic partnership enabled them access critical technologies developed by Uber, as well as data on the challenges facing ride-hailing vehicles.For example, an average ride-hail vehicle will, on average, drive 45-50,000 km a year versus 12,000km for a typical vehicle—which requires unique considerations such as cost, uptime and driver comfort, in addition to the typical considerations of safety and convenience. The technologies and intelligence from Uber, not to mention the feedback from Uber drivers that Arrival used in the development process, would have likely accelerated the design and development process.

Secondly, Arrival has developed components, software, hardware and robotics in-house that are used across all their vehicles. This enables them to design and develop electronic vehicles in an agile environment where they are not reliant on third party suppliers for the production of their vehicles. Traditional automobile manufacturers use third party manufacturers to tool every new component within their products, which introduces a myriad of environmentally horrid and time-wasting activities, not the least of which is the unnecessary slinging of materials around the globe on complex supply chains. These global supply chains are becoming increasingly fragile in the face of unpredictable events, such as severe weather, the Covid-19 pandemic or the AdBlue diesel crisis, and are a key reason why there is an emerging push towards microfactories to manufacture products locally for local markets.

And finally, Arrival have a mission to make air clean by replacing all vehicles with affordable electric solutions – produced by local Microfactories. This mission involves creating a more streamlined and sustainable way of making complex products. It appears Arrival has worked hard over the past few years to create products that are zero-emission, desirable and more equitable than traditional automobile manufacturers, to enable cities and governments to achieve their sustainability goals while supercharging their communities.

Jamie Heywood, RegionalGeneral Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe at Uber said: “The first reveal of the Arrival Car is an exciting moment for Uber drivers, who are switching to electric vehicles at a much faster rate than the mass market. Uber drivers have been working withArrival to provide feedback on the design of the first purpose built, fully electric car for the ride-hailing industry. This exciting new vehicle will support our commitment for all cars on the app in London to be fully electric by 2025, helping to drive a green recovery and clean up urban transport.”

It makes sense then, that Arrival has entered the vehicle market with ride hailing vehicles specifically, as this subset of drivers are early adopters in the electric vehicle market. It also presents a unique opportunity to ‘get data quick’ on the efficacy and durability of their vehicles, considering the amount of driving that ride hailing drivers do.

Is this a signpost for the future?

In six short years, Arrival has painted a very clear picture of what the circular economy will look like, albeit in only a few locations so far (Arrival plan is to open microfactories in 150 cities by 2030):

  • Complex, electronic products created using plug-and-play components.
  • Modular design based on grid architecture allowing for quick, robotic assembly.
  • Products that collect data, enabling better performance and the design of better products.
  • Products made with composite materials that improve environmental impact.
  • Products made locally for local markets, with microfactories, city by city.

This radical departure from centralised manufacturing provides multiple advantages for design iteration, manufacturing and the local servicing of complex products for local markets, and effectively signs a death sentence for the centralised megafactories and global supply chains of the industrial revolution.

It is not a matter of if, but when centralised manufacturing will spew it’s last breath of CO2 into the atmosphere, and not just for the automobile industry.Arrival is leading a new wave of product manufacturers who are vertically integrated and are building the products that we need in a more sustainable way.

Image courtesy of Arrival.

So when will the Arrival Car be available?

According to their website, Arrival is beginning the testing phase of their new electric vehicle in early 2022 and are working with ride-hailing drivers to rapidly iterate on the first design as they near production. Arrival have given no clear timeline on when their car will be available, but if I was to make an estimate based on their radical acceleration of the design and manufacturing phase?

If a traditional car takes 18-24 months of testing and design modifications to go from prototype to showroom… the Arrival Car could hit the market in 3-4 months.

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