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GM planning electric van - report

By Graeme Roberts | 4 June 2020

General Motors is developing an electric van aimed at business users, joining a growing list of carmakers planning EVs for the same segment which includes customers such as Amazon and United Parcel Service, five people familiar with the plans told the Reuters news agency.

GM's plan to develop an electric van has not previously been reported, Reuters said in an exclusive article.

GM did not confirm the van but has said it plans to introduce at least 20 new all electric vehicles by 2023, in a variety of body styles including sedans, trucks and crossovers.

Suppliers familiar with such plans at GM and Ford told Reuters the Detroit automakers, which count trucks and commercial vehicles among their most profitable businesses, "don't want to leave the door open for Tesla" as they did in consumer passenger cars.

Scott Phillippi, UPS senior director of fleet maintenance and engineering, said the firm believes electric vans have the potential to disrupt the commercial market.

"It's going to be similar to what the Model 3 has done for the consumer market," Phillippi said.

"Now all of a sudden, we're off to the races."

The GM van – code-named BV1 – is due to start production in late 2021, Reuters' sources said. It is believed it will share some components with GM's future electric pickups and SUVs, including the automaker's new Ultium advanced battery system. It is expected to be assembled alongside the electric trucks at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

GM is considering whether to offer the electric van through its traditional truck brands - Chevrolet and GMC - or market it under a different brand such as Maven, the Reuters sources said.

Its first electric pickup truck, due in late 2021, will be sold by GMC dealers under the Hummer brand.

In a statement, GM said it is "committed to an all electric future and is implementing a multi segment, scalable EV strategy to get there. At this time, we do not have any announcements to make regarding electric commercial vehicles".

Reuters noted the GM electric van project is aimed at an important segment of the emerging EV market – commercial delivery vehicles.

It is a segment in which Tesla and its high-profile CEO, Elon Musk, lack an entry to compete for sales and CO2 credits, which allow automakers to offset the sale of non electric vehicles including high margin pickups and SUVs.

In February, Ford said it would introduce an electric version of its Transit van for model year 2022.

"The most critical bet we will be making over the next several years will be our commercial vehicles," Ford's chief operating officer, Jim Farley, told Reuters at the time.

Ford also is an investor in Michigan-based startup Rivian, which is scheduled to begin building the first of 100,000 mid-size electric vans for Amazon next year.

Reuters also noted Amazon rival UPS has commissioned 10,000 mid size electric vans from British startup Arrival, which is backed by Hyundai Motor and sister company Kia Motors.

The combined value of the Amazon and UPS contracts with Rivian and Arrival is estimated at US$4bn at least.