GM announces new BrightDrop commercial arm spearheaded by EV600 vans, self-propelled pallets

Van will hit the road next year with FedEx as the launch customer

BrightDrop EV600 FedEx Express
BrightDrop EV600 FedEx Express
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DETROIT — The market for battery-powered delivery vehicles and equipment has so much potential that General Motors is forming a new business unit to serve it. Dubbed BrightDrop, it will be GM's one-stop shop for commercial electrified vehicles and business-facing services. 

The BrightDrop EV600 electric delivery van will anchor the new arm. Billed as the second product in the lineup (the first being the EP1, which is essentially a self-propelled roadie case), GM claims the EV600 will offer more than 600 cubic feet of cargo space (hence the name, we assume) and up to 250 miles of all-electric range on a full charge. 

On spec, that's already a pretty significant challenge to Ford's E-Transit, which is aiming for a more modest 126 miles of electric range. Like Ford, GM will offer supporting services tied into its new electrical architecture (dubbed VIP for "Vehicle Intelligence Platform"). 

"BrightDrop offers an integrated, cloud-based software platform, which provides customers visibility and access to their BrightDrop products through both web and mobile interfaces," GM's announcement said. "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."

While that's fairly vague, we expect GM's approach will track with the plans outlined by Ford, which will leverage the company's existing commercial connected services to deliver greater logistical and operational support. This will include not just over-the-air updates and other niceties that come with an always-on connection, but it will also allow operators to more reliably track, maintain and support their fleets and drivers. The E-Transit's onboard monitoring systems can detect break-ins, enforce geofencing, and report other activity without an intermediary system. 

GM has already confirmed that BrightDrop will offer location services, battery status and remote unlocking. We expect more will be announced as the platform takes shape. 

But GM doesn't intend to get into the delivery business, said Pamela Fletcher, GM's vice president of global innovation. “One thing we are not is a logistics company,” she said, adding that GM is working with many companies with experience in the field.

Since late 2018, Fletcher, has been in charge of monetizing GM technology by turning ideas into businesses. “We really need to leverage our electrification expertise to other industries,” she said.

During GM's Consumer Electronics Show keynote, Fletcher said the EP1 pallet can travel up to 3 mph, carrying up to 23 cubic feet of cargo weighing up to 200 pounds. The pallets can reduce the strain on workers but would not operate autonomously, at least to start.

(This article contains reporting by the Associated Press.)

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