GM enters the EV delivery van war behind the cloak of BrightDrop
In the evolving fight over “last mile” deliveries, GM’s recent announcement takes a holistic approach, aiming to tackle nearly every step of the consumer goods journey. Such an ambitious project couldn’t possibly reach our ears without edgy visuals, of course. In tired, techy, pop culture fashion, BrightDrop says hello through an icon that layers a blocky lowercase “d” onto a “b” inside of a chat bubble. While the logo’s unlikely to get a supply chain manager’s juices flowing, the actual goods from BrightDrop promise to make that executive set down their oat milk latte.
The bell cow of BrightDrop is the EV600, an electric delivery truck aimed at the same commercial clientele as Ford’s recently announced E-Transit. BrightDrop’s truck boasts a larger range and a more capacious bay than the E-Transit thanks to GM’s Ultium battery architecture, a platform that offers up to 250 miles of range. That figure is roughly double the 126-mile stat thrown around for the low-roofed Ford E-Transit. The EV600 can tote around 600 cubic feet of cargo, whereas the E-Transit (though it sacrifices no capacity compared to ICE Transits) will only net you 404.3 cubic feet in its high-roof, extended-wheelbase configuration.
Both GM’s EV600 and Ford’s E-Transit are zero-emissions vehicles, but their combustion-free powertrains do more than assuage the end-consumer’s guilty environmental conscience. On a more serious note, 2020 has proven that a shake-up in normal leads to new ways of living. Demand for parcel deliveries has skyrocketed. Zero-emission deliveries are all for the better, and a virtually unanimous pursuit among automakers.
The main obstacle for GM and BrightDrop, however, will be the launching of a sales and service network that can rival Ford’s pre-existing commercial infrastructure. That’s the tricky thing about the sexy Venn diagram below. One of the circles has a lot of catching up to do, lest it begin to retard the others.
The EV600 van isn’t the only vehicle in BrightDrop’s portfolio. The EP1 delivery battle droid propulsion-assisted electric pallet offers something truly novel for deliveries. Electric hub motors power the lockable container to speeds up to 3 mph. An EP1 can corral 23 cubic feet of cargo for a 200-pound max payload, thus saving its human operators some work jogging around warehouses and up and down driveways.
Research conducted in partnership with FedEx Express is eye-opening. Pilot findings showed that the self-assisted EP1s enabled couriers to handle 25 percent more packages a day. Although there are many more studies to be done, GM’s Global Innovation branch has good reason to be optimistic about its new “first-to-last-mile” plan of attack.
“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.”