General Motors is taking on the growing urban electric delivery market with electric delivery products backed up by software and services aimed at delivery and logistics fleet operators. As part of the initiative, a new purpose built electric delivery van will be generally available to market in 2022 in the US, but FedEx is slated to receive the first deliveries this year.
The company said a new business, ‘BrightDrop ‘, will offer an ecosystem of electric first-to-last-mile products, software and services to empower delivery and logistics companies to move goods more efficiently. It said the BrightDrop solutions are designed to help businesses lower costs, maximize productivity, improve employee safety and freight security, and support overall sustainability efforts.
“BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” said Mary Barra GM Chairman 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.”
GM says BrightDrop was born out of GM’s Global Innovation organization and joins the lineup of other recently launched Global Innovation startups, such as OnStar Insurance, OnStar Guardian and GM Defense . From a growth strategy standpoint, GM maintains that this new business will unlock areas of B2B, expansion of the Ultium platform and software and service opportunities.
GM estimates that by 2025, the combined market opportunity for parcel, food delivery and reverse logistics in the US will be over $850 billion. According to the World Economic Forum, demand for urban last-mile delivery, fueled by e-commerce, is expected to grow by 78 percent by 2030, leading to a 36 percent increase in delivery vehicles in the world’s top 100 cities. At the same time, this increase in demand is expected to cause delivery-related carbon emissions to rise by nearly one-third.
BrightDrop ‘s first product to market, the EP1, will be a propulsion-assisted, electric pallet developed to easily move goods over short distances – for example, from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s front door. Available in early 2021, the EP1 can help reduce package touch points, costs and physical strain on delivery drivers. EP1 features and benefits include:
- Built-in electric hub motors with adjustable speed up to 3 mph depending on operator’s walking pace.
- Maneuverable in tight spaces.
- Carries and secures approximately 23 total cubic feet of cargo.
- Payload capacity of 200 pounds.
- Adjustable shelving organizes contents.
- Lockable cabinet doors allow for secure, remote access to contents.
More significantly, BrightDrop ‘s second product to market will be the EV600 — an electric light commercial vehicle purpose-built for the delivery of goods and services over long ranges. It will combine zero-emissions driving with a range of advanced safety and convenience features more common in consumer electric vehicles. EV600 features and benefits include:
- Powered by the Ultium battery system, the EV600 is targeted to have an estimated range of up to 250 miles on a full charge1.
- Peak charge rate of up to 170 miles of EV range per hour via 120kW DC fast charging.
- Over 600 cubic feet of cargo area.
- Available at a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds.
- Standard safety features2 include: Front and Rear Park Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Following Distance Indicator, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, IntelliBeam automatic high beams and HD Rear Vision Camera.
- Additional available safety and driver assistance features include: Rear Cross Traffic Braking, Blind Zone Steering Assist, Reverse Automatic Braking, HD Surround Vision, Rear Pedestrian Alert, Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking, among others.
- Cargo area security system with motion sensors to help keep cargo secure.
- A 13.4-inch-diagonal, full-colour infotainment screen.
- Front sliding pocket doors, wide cabin walkways and a large auto-open cargo bulkhead door all contribute to optimize driver efficiency.
GM says early customer interest in the EV600 has been strong, with the first vehicles to be delivered by the end of this year. BrightDrop expects to make the EV600s available to more customers to order starting in early 2022.
BrightDrop offers an integrated, cloud-based software platform, which GM says provides customers visibility and access to their BrightDrop products through both web and mobile interfaces. 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:
- BrightDrop mobile asset management – EP1 connectivity provides customers real-time features, including location monitoring, battery status, remote commands to lock and unlock, and over-the-air updates of connected features.
- BrightDrop EV fleet management – EV600 connectivity provides fleet operators remote access, real-time location, battery and charging management, driver safety coaching and incident recording, remote diagnostics, safety alerts and predictive maintenance insights, and over-the-air updates.
GM says future concepts will come and the EP1 and EV600 are only the beginning. BrightDrop will continue to grow its product offerings over time to include a portfolio of integrated, zero-emissions products to help drive further efficiencies and address emerging customer needs. A number of concepts are being explored, such as a medium-distance solution that transports multiple EP1s, and a rapid load delivery vehicle concept.
Working with FedEx Express
BrightDrop is the result of extensive research and listening to challenges faced by delivery customers and then leveraging GM expertise to develop real-life solutions. An EP1 pilot program has already been completed in partnership with FedEx Express. During the pilot, FedEx Express couriers were able to effectively and safely handle 25 percent more packages per day with the EP1s. FedEx Express couriers shared feedback that the EP1s were easy to maneuver and reduced physical strain.
With plans to continue innovating, BrightDrop and FedEx Express have another pilot scheduled to take place in one of the biggest urban centers of the U.S. this quarter. FedEx Express is also slated to be the first customer of the EV600, receiving their vehicles later this year.
“Our need for reliable, sustainable transportation has never been more important,” said Richard Smith, FedEx Express regional president of the Americas and executive vice president of global support. “BrightDrop is a perfect example of the innovations we are adopting to transform our company as time-definite express transportation continues to grow. With this new suite of products, we will help improve the safety, security and timeliness of FedEx Express deliveries, while reducing our environmental impact and protecting the well-being of our couriers.”
Travis Katz has joined BrightDrop as president and CEO from venture capital firm Redpoint Ventures where he was an entrepreneur-in-residence. Katz has an extensive background as a technology leader, entrepreneur and investor. This, combined with his track record of scaling global businesses, will help BrightDrop further GM’s vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.
BrightDrop will initially serve customers in the U.S. and Canada. It will have a customer support team to assist with every aspect of operating and servicing BrightDrop products, including supporting charging and infrastructure installation, advising on upfitting services, and retrofitting a current fleet vehicle to integrate with BrightDrop products. BrightDrop support services will also assist with maintenance needs, including securing parts and scheduling repairs.