During her CES 2021 keynote on January 12, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra announced the creation of a new logistics company called BrightDrop. The new business will create an ecosystem of electrified products, software and services for first-to-last-mile delivery. This includes the EP1, a new electric pallet to shuttle packages, as well as a new commercial delivery truck based on GM’s Ultium battery platform, the EV600 (above). The first customer of the new business will be FedEx Express.
According to GM, BrightDrop’s electrified solutions were created to help businesses reduce costs, maximize productivity, improve employee and freight security and support sustainability efforts. The EP1 pallet will be available in early 2021 and the EV600 light commercial vehicle (LCV) is expected to be on the road by late 2021. The EV600 is GM’s first commercial application of its Ultium battery platform, and the truck will feature both Level-2 and DC-fast-charging capabilities.
“BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” said 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.” BrightDrop is a product of GM’s Global Innovation group, joining OnStar Insurance, OnStar Guardian and GM Defense.
From a growth-strategy standpoint, the new business will target B2B and expansion of the Ultium platform, along with software and service opportunities. GM estimates that by 2025, the delivery market in the U.S. will be worth more than $850 billion; citing statistics from the World Economic Forum, the automaker noted that demand for urban last-mile delivery is expected to increase by 78% by 2030, with a 36% increase in delivery vehicles in the world’s top 100 cities.
BrightDrop’s first product, the EP1, is a propulsion-assisted electric pallet designed to move packages over short distances, i.e., from the delivery truck to a customer’s front door. Developed to reduce physical strain on delivery drivers, the EP1 features built-in hub motors with an adjustable speed up to 3 mph (5 kph), 23 ft3 (0.65 m3) of lockable cargo space and a payload capacity of 200 lb (91 kg). During a pilot program already completed in partnership with FedEx, GM claims FedEx Express couriers were able to manage 25% more packages per day with the EP1.
Purpose-built for delivery service, the EV600 electric commercial truck has an estimated range of 250 mi (402 km) and can accept a peak charge rate of 170 mi (274 km) per hour via 120kW DC fast charging. Available at a GVWR of less than 10,000 lb, the EV600 will feature more than 600 ft3 of cargo space and is tailored to integrate multiple EP1 pallets. A host of standard safety features include front and rear park assist, automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning and an HD rear camera. GM claims customer interest in the EV600 is already strong, and it expects to make the EV600 available to more customers starting in early 2022.
Integrated software platform
Along with the new electric rolling stock, BrightDrop will offer its customers an integrated, cloud-based software platform to provide visibility and access to its products through web and mobile interfaces. Both the EP1 and EV600 feature built-in connectivity to stream data to help improve operations including route efficiency, asset utilization and predictive maintenance insights. The mobile app will let couriers monitor EP1 location, battery and locked status while also enabling over-the-air updates of connected features.
According to GM, the EP1 and EV600 are only the first two products coming out of the new BrightDrop startup, with additional zero-emissions products on the way. The company noted several concepts are already being explored, including a medium-distance solution, and a rapid-load delivery vehicle that can simultaneously unload multiple EP1s via an automated vehicle-side palette ramp that requires minimal sidewalk space.Continue reading »