UK electric van startup Arrival plans more microfactories this year

British electric van and bus startup Arrival Ltd will announce investments in more “microfactories” throughout 2021 as it expands its global manufacturing presence, executives said on Thursday.

“Through the course of the year, you’ll certainly see some more,” microfactory announcements, Mike Abelson, head of Arrival’s North American operations, said. “What you’ll start to see now is the footprint start to expand pretty dramatically.”

Arrival, which just merged with CIIG Merger Corp, a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), starts trading on Thursday.

Feverish investor interest in finding the next Tesla Inc and bringing them to market via SPACs has included commercial EV startups like Canoo Inc and Arrival.

Critics say SPACs are a quick way to market, lacking the scrutiny of an initial public offering.

“When you look at what Arrival is, it’s irrelevant whether it’s a SPAC or an IPO,” Arrival President Avinash Rugoobur said. “Our company has reached a level of maturity that’s reflected in ourtechnology and our products.”

Arrival’s strategy relies on small plants – dubbed “microfactories” – that will take up less space and require lower investments than conventional vehicle factories.

Arrival said last week it would build a second U.S. microfactory – in North Carolina – geared mostly to fulfilling an order from package delivery company UPS for up to 10,000 vehicles. UPS owns a stake in Arrival, which is also building a microfactory in South Carolina.

The company has a plant in England as well.

Rugoobur said a light manufacturing footprint will enable Arrival to produce vehicles for local orders anywhere.

“What we’re going to see is basically a microfactory in every major city around the world,” Rugoobur said. “You’ll see the rollout expand pretty rapidly.”

Tightening CO2 emissions targets in Europe and China combined with improving battery technology are giving commercial electric vehicles (EVs) their moment in the sun after years of waiting.