The GM announcements keep coming at CES 2021 this year. Today GM CEO Mary Barra announced a new division called BrightDrop that would be building electric delivery vehicles and the technology to go along with it.
Today General Motors announced BrightDrop, a new division and brand, which will offer an “ecosystem of electric first-to-last-mile products” for logistics companies.
The first of these products will deliver this year in the form of 500 FedEx delivery vehicles, but we’re told GM has many other partners who have signed letters of intent, and those will be announced later and start rolling out in 2022.
‘BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,’ said Mary Barra, GM 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.’
Bright Drop will obviously be playing in the same space as Ford’s announced electric E-Transit vans as well as the Rivian-Amazon partnership products we’ve already seen. Many more players are already in this space or planning to enter this space, like Workhorse, which announced 100,000 fleet orders earlier this week.
BrightDrop’s EV600 delivery vehicle has some interesting specs: 250-mile range, 170 miles/hour charging on 120kW CCS Combo via GM’s Ultium battery and drivetrain technology. That should be more than enough for initial local vehicles. GM stated that initial trials for FedEx and others have been in high-density urban environments.
The details of BrightDrop were sent via press release and are included below:
To help meet this surge in demand, while reducing the impact on the planet, BrightDrop is developing an integrated set of solutions to help improve almost every aspect of first-to-last-mile delivery. The BrightDrop ecosystem includes:
BrightDrop EP1 – BrightDrop’s first product to market, the EP1, will be a propulsion-assisted, electric pallet developed to easily move goods over short distances – for example, from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s front door. Available in early 2021, the EP1 can help reduce package touch points, costs and physical strain on delivery drivers. EP1 features and benefits include:
- Built-in electric hub motor with adjustable speed up to 3 mph depending on operator’s walking pace.
- Maneuverable in tight spaces.
- Carries and secures approximately 23 total cubic feet of cargo.
- Payload capacity of 200 pounds.
- Adjustable shelving organizes contents.
- Lockable cabinet doors allow for secure, remote access to contents.
BrightDrop’s second product to market will be the EV600 — an electric light commercial vehicle purpose-built for the delivery of goods and services over long ranges. It will combine zero-emissions driving with a range of advanced safety and convenience features more common in consumer electric vehicles. EV600 features and benefits include:
- Powered by the Ultium battery system, the EV600 is targeted to have an estimated range of up to 250 miles on a full charge 1.
- Peak charge rate of up to 170 miles of EV range per hour via 120kW DC fast charging.
- Over 600 cubic feet of cargo area.
- Available at a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds.
- Segment leading safety features
- Standard safety features2 include: 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 and HD Rear Vision Camera.
- Additional available safety and driver assistance features include: Rear Cross Traffic Braking, Blind Zone Steering Assist, Reverse Automatic Braking, HD Surround Vision, Rear Pedestrian Alert, Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking, among others.
- Cargo area security system with motion sensors to help keep cargo secure.
- A 13.4-inch-diagonal, full-color infotainment screen.
- Front sliding pocket doors, wide cabin walkways and a large auto-open cargo bulkhead door all contribute to optimize driver efficiency.
Early customer interest in the EV600 has been strong, with the first vehicles to be delivered by the end of this year. BrightDrop expects to make the EV600s available to more customers to order starting in early 2022.
BrightDrop offers an integrated, cloud-based software platform, which provides customers visibility and access to their BrightDrop products through both web and mobile interfaces. Built-in connectivity provides businesses with detailed data and insights that can help improve overall operations, including route efficiency, asset utilization and product upgrades. Drivers and couriers can utilize the mobile application for a variety of tasks.
BrightDrop mobile asset management
EP1 connectivity provides customers real-time features, including location monitoring, battery status, remote commands to lock and unlock, and over-the-air updates of connected features.
BrightDrop EV fleet management
EV600 connectivity provides fleet operators remote access, real-time location, battery and charging management, driver safety coaching and incident recording, remote diagnostics, safety alerts and predictive maintenance insights, and over-the-air updates.
TheEP1 and EV600 are only the beginning. BrightDrop will continue to grow its product offerings over time to include a portfolio of integrated, zero-emissions products to help drive further efficiencies and address emerging customer needs. A number of concepts are being explored, such as a medium-distance solution that transports multiple EP1s, and a rapid load delivery vehicle concept.
Innovating with FedEx Express
BrightDrop is the result of extensive research and listening to challenges faced by delivery customers and then leveraging GM expertise to develop real-life solutions. An EP1 pilot program has already been completed in partnership with FedEx Express. During the pilot, FedEx Express couriers were able to effectively and safely handle 25% more packages per day with the EP1s. FedEx Express couriers shared feedback that the EP1s were easy to maneuver and reduced physical strain.
With plans to continue innovating, BrightDrop and FedEx Express have another pilot scheduled to take place in one of the biggest urban centers of the US this quarter. FedEx Express is also slated to be the first customer of the EV600, receiving their vehicles later this year.
“Our need for reliable, sustainable transportation has never been more important,” said Richard Smith, FedEx Express regional president of the Americas and executive vice president of global support. “BrightDrop is a perfect example of the innovations we are adopting to transform our company as time-definite express transportation continues to grow. With this new suite of products, we will help improve the safety, security, and timeliness of FedEx Express deliveries, while reducing our environmental impact and protecting the well-being of our couriers.”
Travis Katz has joined BrightDrop as president and CEO from venture capital firm Redpoint Ventures where he was an entrepreneur-in-residence. Katz has an extensive background as a technology leader, entrepreneur, and investor. This, combined with his track record of scaling global businesses, will help BrightDrop further GM’s vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.
BrightDrop will initially serve customers in the US and Canada. It will have a customer support team to assist with every aspect of operating and servicing BrightDrop products, including supporting charging and infrastructure installation, advising on upfitting services, and retrofitting a current fleet vehicle to integrate with BrightDrop products. BrightDrop support services will also assist with maintenance needs, including securing parts and scheduling repairs.
Customers will connect with BrightDrop through an independent sales and service network, leveraging a newly established BrightDrop dealer network to support vehicle sales and service.
For more information on BrightDrop and its products and services, visit gobrightdrop.com.
There’s a lot to unpack here, no pun intended. Yesterday we didn’t know that GM was even considering a delivery van, now we know they are betting big here. So the 500 EV600 FedEX trucks while seemingly small, represent a big move.
Yesterday on the call with GM’s Pam Fletcher, who is the former head of the Chevy Volt and Bolt programs, we learned that there are many other partners GM will announce later this year and will be shipping in 2022. Fletcher wasn’t able to drill down into specifics of the vehicles but 250 mile range on these trucks seems like more than a day’s worth for local deliveries in urban and even suburban settings.
The EV600 seems like a good general purpose transporter and with 250 mile range can do a lot more than local deliveries. I’m surprised that GM seems to be targeting shorter hauls here. The 120kW charging might be the big bottleneck at the moment.
The EP1 pallet mover also seems like an innovative product but similar products already exist in the marketplace. The integration into GMs logistics systems will hopefully prove valuable as an integrated solution.
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Author: Seth Weintraub