General Motors Co (GM) on Tuesday unveiled plans to build electric vans under the new BrightDrop brand, in a move aimed at creating a new ecosystem for delivery of goods.
“BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” GM chairman and chief executive Mary Barra said as she unveiled the new brand at the virtual Consumer Electronics Show.
GM is partnering with delivery giant Fedex Corp to test the new vehicles and offer what Barra called a “one-stop-shop solution.”
The move comes with GM and other automakers racing to keep pace with electric-vehicle (EV) maker Tesla Inc’s dizzying growth and as Amazon.com Inc is set to launch its own electric delivery vans from the start-up Rivian Automotive Inc.
GM said the new brand aims to offer “an integrated ecosystem of electric products, software and services.”
The new business unit would offer a platform for transport from warehouses to retailers as well as for home deliveries, according to the US auto giant, aiming for a piece of what it sees as an US$850 billion market for parcel, food delivery and other logistics, fueled by surging online commerce.
Its “electric pallet,” called the BrightDrop EP1, would be available early this year and is to be a propulsion-assisted system to move goods over short distances, such as from a vehicle to the customer’s front door.
“Don’t be surprised to see couriers leading EP1s down our sidewalks in the next few months,” Barra said in her streamed presentation.
The first electric van, called the EV600, would be on roads later this year, GM said.
“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,” Barra said.
GM also unveiled a new fast-charging system for the vehicles to be known as the Ultium platform.
The EV600 is targeted to have an estimated range of up to 400km on a full charge.
GM said it has been testing the pallets with FedEx Express and found that couriers were able to boost their deliveries by 25 percent, while reducing physical strain.
FedEx also would be the first customer for the EV600 vehicles to be delivered later this year.
“Our need for reliable, sustainable transportation has never been more important,” said Richard Smith, FedEx Express regional president of the Americas.
GM has been ramping up efforts to shift to electric vehicles, and on Tuesday offered a preview of its Cadillac EV, to be called Celestiq, and a new version of its Bolt EV.
“All of this advanced technology puts GM in an incredible position to help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles,” Barra said.
GM separately unveiled its concept for an autonomous air taxi at the electronics show.
The US auto giant offered few details, releasing only a video of the Cadillac brand electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft on its digital exhibit page.
Several aeronautics firms and start-ups have shown similar flying vehicles in the past few years, although there are no apparent plans for any immediate commercialization.
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