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General Motors Enters Electric Delivery Business

General Motors’ Brightdrop division will supply FedEx with electric trucks, pallets, and a coordinated tracking system.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

January 20, 2021

4 Min Read
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GM Brightdrop EV600General Motors Co.

As many traditional product markets shift from hardware to services, General Motors has introduced its plan to cater to delivery companies like FedEx with a new subsidiary that provides a combination of both vehicles and the services to manage them.

Anchoring this business is the EV600 electric delivery van and EP1 electrically motorized shipping pallet, which are coordinated by Brightdrop’s management and tracking application.

The planning that Brightdrop makes possible, along with the automation of the movement of shipments and the use of GM’s Ultium battery pack to power it all promises to provide delivery services with improved speed and efficiency while reducing the resulting carbon emissions from the process.

“BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” said Mary Barra General Motors Chairman and CEO. “We are building on our significant expertise in electrification, mobility applications, telematics and fleet management, with a new one-stop-shop solution for commercial customers to move goods in a better, more sustainable way.”

GM forecasts that the combined market opportunity for parcel, food delivery, and reverse logistics in the U.S. will top $850 billion by 2025. The World Economic Forum says demand for urban last-mile delivery, fueled by e-commerce, is expected to grow by 78 percent by 2030, leading to a 36 percent increase in delivery vehicles in the world’s top 100 cities. At the same time, this increase in demand is expected to cause delivery-related carbon emissions to rise by nearly one-third.

Related:General Motors Adding 3,000 Tech Jobs for EV Development

Brightdrop is GM’s effort to prevent that increase in delivery-related carbon emissions and head off traffic-choking increases in the numbers of delivery vehicles needed to do the job.

The mission starts with the main building block of Brightdrop’s system, the EP1 electric pallet, which is scheduled to be available in early 2021. FedEx was announced as the launch partner for Brightdrop’s products and services.

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The automated EP1 reduces physical strain on delivery workers, and it also speeds their work with built-in electric hub motors with adjustable speed up to 3 mph depending on the operator’s walking pace. The EP1 can carry approximately 23 total cubic feet of cargo securely inside its lockable space. The EP1’s internal shelves are adjustable to accommodate different-sized items and it can transport a payload of 200 lbs.

When the EP1 wheels to the curb, that 200 lb. load goes into the EV600 delivery van on an electric lift, sparing workers any need to lift the packages.

The EV600 looks pretty similar to existing delivery fleets, but its automatic loading, ability to coordinate through the Brightdrop app, and electric drivetrain set it apart from the familiar rumbling trucks.

EV600 is slated to be on the road by the end of this year and FedEx has reserved the first 500 of the vans, though other still-unnamed customers are lined up for more of them, according to GM.

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The vans have a driving range of 250 miles and can recharge at Level 2 AC and DC fast-charging stations. When the EV600 is plugged into a 120 kilowatt DC fast charger it achieves a peak charge rate of up to 170 miles of EV range per hour of charging time.

The van contains more than 600 cubic feet of cargo area and includes a raft of electronic technology, such as Front and Rear Park Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Following Distance Indicator, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, IntelliBeam automatic high beams, HD Rear Vision Camera, Rear Cross-Traffic Braking, Blind Zone Steering Assist, Reverse Automatic Braking, HD Surround Vision, Rear Pedestrian Alert, and Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking.

While GM is poised to make Brightdrop a key partner to logistic companies, the company is not interested in getting into the parcel delivery business itself, said Pam Fletcher, vice president of global innovation for GM. “One thing we are not is a logistics company,” she said. “We are working with many companies”

This business promised to be lucrative, Fletcher added. “It is worthy of us making significant investments. The contributions to the bottom line will start very quickly.”

About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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