Under the BrightDrop brand, US automaker General Motors wants to build an “integrated ecosystem” of electric delivery vehicles, software and services for logistics from the first to the last mile. The first vehicle is expected to hit the market soon with FedEx as the launch customer.
With the new brand’s offering, GM says it wants to “enable delivery and logistics companies to move goods more efficiently.” General Motors says that the BrightDrop solutions offered are designed to help customers reduce costs, maximise productivity, increase safety for employees as well as freight and, last but not least, assist with their own sustainability efforts.
The concept for BrightDrop was developed in GM’s own Global Innovation Organisation. “BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” said Mary Barra, GM chairperson 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.”
The first model, the BrightDrop EP1, is scheduled to hit the market in just a few weeks. This is not an electric delivery truck but an electrically powered pallet truck. With the EP1, the delivery person will be able to transport goods from the delivery truck to the customer’s front door, but its use in the distribution centre is also conceivable. The EP1 is driven by wheel hub motors, but the maximum speed is 5 kph. It can be regulated depending on the operator’s walking pace. The unit can hold up to 0.65 cubic meters of freight or 90 kilograms. The cargo is to be able to be organised in various racks, which can be secured by lockable doors.
BrightDrop’s first electric delivery truck, the EV600, is then scheduled to hit the market around the end of 2021. The light commercial vehicle is designed specifically for long-distance delivery or services, GM said. In addition to zero-emission propulsion, the vehicle is said to offer “a range of advanced safety and convenience features” common in electric passenger vehicles.
To that end, BrightDrop makes use of the Ultium battery system developed by GM. The Americans do not specify the exact battery capacity, but the estimated range is put at 250 miles (402 kilometres). With its maximum DC charging power of 120 kW, it is said to be able to recharge power for 170 miles (274 kilometres) in one hour. GM quotes the size of the cargo area at 600 cubic feet (nearly 17 cubic meters). Total weight is said to be around 4.5 tons.
Standard equipment is said to include front and rear parking sensors, an HD rearview camera, various driving assist systems and automatic high beams. Other assistants (e.g., automatic braking for cross traffic or pedestrians) and a camera surround view are available as options. The cargo area security system has motion sensors to secure cargo. Drivers are expected to operate the infotainment via a 13.4-inch touchscreen.
Because early customer interest in the EV600 has been strong, General Motors does not expect the vehicles to be available in larger numbers until 2022. Launch customer FedEx Express is scheduled to receive the first EV600s in late 2021.
In addition to the EP1 and EV600, BrightDrop plans to offer a cloud-based software platform to help logistics operators improve their overall operations. Drivers and couriers will also be able to access the platform via apps. The features are available for both the EP1 (such as location monitoring, battery status, remote access, etc) and the EV600 (location, battery and charging management, driver coaching).
After the first two products, General Motors says that BrightDrop plans to expand its offering “over time.” That being said, there was no mention of exactly what vehicles would be included in this expanded offering. Rather, it says a “range of concepts” are being explored, such as a medium-distance solution that transports multiple EP1s and a concept for fast-loading vehicles. GM’s has not yet revealed whether the BrightDrop vehicles will be offered in Europe.
The announcement that GM plans to enter the electric delivery truck business for delivery services with the new brand has led to a sharp rise in GM’s share price on the US stock market: the automaker’s market capitalisation at one point reached $68 billion (56 billion euros). However, the market is competitive. GM rival Ford is entering the race with its recently unveiled E-Transit, along with startups such as Rivian (for Amazon), Arrival (with UPS and Hyundai) and Canoo.
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.