It looks like they rolled out a Pixar movie, but they are very real: the nine electric vans of the UK’s national mail service that recently hit the London roads. Designed and manufactured by startup car builder Arrival, it is probably the cutest mail van you have ever seen.

Realistic render of one of Arrival’s smaller eletric vans for mail delivery (source: Arrival)

Nine vans with a capacity ranging between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes will transport packages between mail and distribution centres. They are foreseen of a battery that should last a 100 miles (161 kilometers), more than enough for a daily round. Several distribution centres will be foreseen of charging infrastructure. If the trial proves successful, we might see many more of these cute vans in the future. In the end, Royal mail’s fleet counts about 50 000 vehicles.

One wonders why it took Royal Mail so long to get started with electric mail delivery. The frequent starting and stopping during a delivery round make a combustion engine run terribly inefficient. An electric motor, on the other hand, recovers braking energy. Inhabitants of London are plagued by air and noise pollution and on social media several people welcomed the move. In fact, the electric van even seems to bring back childhood memories to the BBC’s Postman Pat tv-series.

The red little vans of Royal Mail will be produced in Arrival’s new factory in Banbury, which runs nearly entirely on robots and AI (artificial intelligence). Although Arrival is working on self-driving software, it doesn’t seem to be included in this model.

Royal Mail is not the first one to use electric vehicles for city deliveries. UPS for example, already uses electric vans in London. In Germany, Deutsche Post teamed up with Ford to build a fleet of 2500 electric mail trucks. If those companies now cover the roofs of their distribution centres with solar panels, the electric fleet can be charged up with renewable energy after their morning round. Aah, the future looks bright!

Many people were impressed by the design of the new Royal Mail electric van (source: Arrival)