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GM announces new business venture to produce electric delivery vans

Over the past few months, GM has gotten a lot more serious about electrification, unveiling a new EV platform, plans for more investment and more electrified models, and most recently, a new EV-centric marketing campaign. However, some have been pointing out the gap between the automaker’s high-wattage future plans and its flickering present (only one EV in the current lineup and two low-volume halo vehicles in the pipeline).

Now GM has turned up the voltage considerably, announcing not just a new EV, but an entire new “ecosystem of electric first-to-last-mile products, software and services to empower delivery and logistics companies to move goods more efficiently.”

GM says its new business venture, BrightDrop, will produce multiple vehicles. The first on-road EV will be the EV600, a light commercial delivery van built on the Ultium platform. The new e-van will have an estimated range of up to 250 miles, and a charging rate of up to 170 miles per hour via a 120 kW DC fast charging station. The EV600 will have a capacity of over 600 cubic feet, an automated rear door, a 13.4-inch infotainment display and a full suite of driver assistance and safety features.

BrightDrop plans to deliver 500 EV600 vehicles to FedEx Express by the end of 2021, and to start delivering vans to other customers in North America in early 2022.

Before that, we’ll see a new motorized pallet called the EP1, which Car and Driver describes as “an oversize library cart with doors.” The first of these will be delivered to FedEx early this year. The EP1 is designed to streamline the process of delivering packages from a vehicle to a customer. It uses electric hub motors, rolls at up to 3 mph, directed by a courier, and can carry up to 200 pounds. Trials conducted with partner FedEx Express found that the EP1 enabled drivers to handle 25 percent more packages per day, to say nothing of reducing strain on human backs. The EP1 can work with any van, and with a standard cargo lift gate.

BrightDrop also plans to offer an integrated, cloud-based software platform to provide customers with detailed route efficiency and asset utilization data, as well as a range of fleet management services.

Targeting the delivery market looks like a timely move for GM, considering the growing boom in home delivery—the company estimates that by 2025, the market for parcel, food delivery and reverse logistics in the US alone will be over $850 billion. The World Economic Forum expects demand for urban last-mile delivery to grow by 78 percent by 2030.

“Although it’s an ambitious goal to launch its own commercial delivery platform, it’s fortuitous timing for GM to do so considering the e-commerce boom that the industry has seen over the last 10 months,” Edmunds Auto Industry Analyst Jessica Caldwell told CNN.

“BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” said GM CEO Mary Barra. “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.”

Sources: GM, Car and Driver, CNN

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