Watch Rivian's electric Amazon delivery van get to work

Amazon's new electric delivery vans are already out on the road, with the Rivian-made fleet puttering into duty in Los Angeles. It's the narrow end of what Amazon promises will be a very wide wedge eventually, with 100,000 of the custom e-vans on order from the electric vehicle startup.

Amazon and Rivian promised when they announced that deal that the first examples of the bespoke delivery vehicles would go into action in 2021. It seems that promise is being delivered upon (pun intended), with an unspecified number of the vans out in action in select parts of the city.

That's expected to grow to up to 15 additional cities in 2021, Amazon confirmed today. It'll roll out more in the coming years; by 2022, Amazon hopes to have as many as 10,000 in operation. "From what we've seen," Ross Rachey, Director of Amazon's Global Fleet and Products, says, "this is one of the fastest modern commercial electrification programs, and we're incredibly proud of that."

Rivian has actually designed a number of different variations on the electric van, promising different capacities and range. Some will have all-wheel drive, too, depending on the local conditions they're likely to face. All use the same core architecture, the so-called skateboard platform the automaker has developed. That combines batteries, electric motors, and other components into a single slice, on top of which various different bodies can be attached.

For example, Rivian plans to use the same core technology for its own consumer vehicles. The R1T all-electric pickup truck and R1S three-row electric SUV will begin production this year, with sales already underway.

Testing of Amazon's vans, meanwhile, has been underway for around four months already, the retailer says, though it's only recently that they've been carrying out consumer deliveries. The current fleet was built at Rivian's studio in Plymouth, Michigan, Amazon says, and can drive up to 150 miles on a charge.

Of course, electric vehicles themselves are only half of the challenge. Amazon says it's also installing new EV charging stations at its delivery hubs in North America and Europe, as well as adjusting buildings for the upcoming fleets.

It's been a bumper 18 months for Rivian. The automaker may still be yet to deliver a single one of its own EVs, but it recently raised another $2.65 billion in a funding round in mid-January. That saw new and existing investors up their stakes in the American company.