Provide Chain Weekly Wrap-Up 01/27/2023-02/02/2023


Amazon & UPS submit patent for drone delivery integration

Both Amazon and UPS have recently submitted patents on how to integrate autonomous vehicles (AVs) into their supply chain operations. More specifically- How to use AVs in tandem with manual delivery vehicles. As covered in a previous weekly wrap-up, Walmart has been at the forefront of using drones in delivery goods to customers. Now Amazon and UPS hope to adapt to this phenomenon, with targets to optimize their current last-mile delivery strategy into a new age.

According to the UPS patent, they argue that many companies focus on the hardware and navigation aspects of self-driving autonomous vehicles, not enough are looking into other aspects of maximizing a delivery route’s efficiency using AVs. At current the capabilities of autonomous vehicles are not at the level to efficiently deliver goods to multiple locations. There’s a lot of work needed to map, calculate, and select an appropriate delivery time before a delivery is to be made.

The proposed solution to this problem, is to create systems and methods to determine whether it makes more sense to complete a delivery from a manually operated vehicle or through an AV. The patent, which was filed on December 22nd, envisions drones launching from in-transit “intermodal carriers” on trains, containerships, trucks, or other vehicles. These intermodal carriers, which are similar in appearance to intermodal shipping containers, could be equipped with systems for loading, launching, and retrieving the drone.

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Xpeng launches its flagship EVs in Europe

Chinese electric vehicle (EVs) startup Xpeng launched two of its flagship cars in European markets on Friday. This is a continuation of its recent international push away from their native market. The countries in question are Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. This makes sense as Denmark, Sweden and Norway are ranked in the top 5 countries for sustainable development with the Netherlands coming in at 13th.

Brian Gu, president of Xpeng, said in a press release that entering the European market “represents a significant milestone” as the company builds up its European presence. Xpeng has sought to challenge Tesla’s hold over the EV market, however in their home market of China they still remain significantly behind Tesla when it comes to deliveries. It now looks to expand into international markets after a difficult year in China which was hit by a demand slump.

Xpeng’s P7 sedan has a starting price in the Netherlands of €49,990 ($54,917) whereas, Tesla’s Model 3 costs €52,990 ($57,930) in the Netherlands. For Xpeng to find success in this new market, their price needs to remain competitive and potentially lower than Tesla’s to attract new customers.  Xpeng will face intense competition in Europe, not only from Tesla but other Chinese carmakers, for example Nio and European auto giants like Volkswagen, which has already staked its future on electric vehicles.

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GM to invest $650M to develop Nevada lithium mine

General Motors (GM) are planning to invest $650 million in Canada-based lithium mining specialist Lithium Americas. The automaker now looks for a supplier to source the material for its expanding electric vehicle production plans. The deal would see GM and Lithium Americas jointly invest to develop the Thacker Pass mine in Nevada. which the two companies called the largest known lithium source in the U.S. and the third largest in the world.

The Lithium sourced from the mine will be used to produce GM’s Ultium battery cells, which are used in several of the company’s EV lines, including its Hummer EV Pickup, Chevrolet Equinox EV, Silverado EV and others. The company has already secured enough battery materials needed to make more than 1 million EVs annually in North America through 2025, according to Mary Barra, GM CEO. Production at the Thacker Pass mine is expected to begin in the second half of 2026 and will feed into battery production thereafter. This investment is for the long-term success of GM in the EV market.

A joint venture such as this one, can give GM more control over their supply chain and since this mine is located in the U.S., where GM is also located and manufactures their vehicles. No additional tariffs from import and exporting will be added to lower profits.

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