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Exclusive first look: BrightDrop EV600 electric delivery van

This cleverly designed commercial vehicle should help logistics companies do way more with a lot less.

BrightDrop is General Motors' new logistics-focused business unit that's aiming to redefine commercial delivery. Back in January, the company announced the EV600, an all-electric van that provides real benefits over conventionally powered rivals. More recently, we got an exclusive first look at this vehicle and it's plenty impressive.

A commercial workhorse

As its name suggests, this van has more than 600 cubic feet of cargo space inside. With an estimated payload of 2,200 pounds and a gross vehicle weight rating a whisker less than 10,000 pounds, it should be perfect for all kinds of delivery companies. And really, that's the focus here. The EV600 is aimed at fleet customers, not normal drivers, so don't expect to buy one as your daily commuter.

Tailor-made for commercial clientele, the EV600 is conservatively projected to save operators around $7,000 per year compared to similar diesel-powered delivery vans, which is incredible amount. How is it able to do that? Well, for starters, the cost of electricity is far lower than fuel and maintenance is greatly reduced.

Helping deliver those huge savings, the EV600 is a clean-sheet design, meaning it was created from day one to be all-electric. According to BrightDrop, this gives it advantages over the competition, which are usually combustion-powered vans converted to run on batteries. Here, there were no bulky axles to worry about accommodating, plus, the step-in height is lower, which is great news for drivers who typically get into and out of their delivery vans 100 or 150 times per day.

Thoughtful touches

That low step-in height is one of the EV600's greatest assets. This van sits noticeably closer to the ground than some rivals, but not only that, it has a large step and a 3-foot-wide sliding curbside front door, things that should make it much easier for couriers to deliver heavy or bulky packages without tripping as they get out of the vehicle. Keyless entry is also standard, so it will be a snap to get back in.

Up front, the dashboard features a colossal bin on the passenger side, one that's large enough to accommodate a couple Postal Service boxes. This allows drivers to have their next delivery or two within easy reach and ready to go, so they don't have to get up and shuffle into the back of the van with each stop they make.

This interior is super versatile and should help make the lives of delivery drivers much easier.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The EV600's bulkhead door (the divider between the cabin and cargo area) is also nice and wide, again for easy access when carrying bulky packages. In the cargo area, there are motion-activated LED lights, which should be super handy and you can get this van with either a solid or transparent roof. The latter lets a lot of natural sunlight in, though the tradeoff is it does heat the interior up more in warm weather. Tall-folk friendly, drivers up to 6-feet, 4-inches tall should be able to get into and out of this van without banging their head on anything.

When it comes to safety, the EV600 can be had with up to five airbags, which doesn't sound like much considering some passenger vehicles feature 10 of these inflatable restraints or more, but it's actually a significant amount. Many step-vans on the road today have zero airbags, so this is a monumental safety upgrade.

Loads of driver aids are either standard or available in the EV600.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

A welcome bit of tech is the EV600's 13.4-inch full-color screen. Impressively large and easy to reach, it should be a great help. This van also offers plenty of driver aids, many of which are standard and a few are optional. This includes things like automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, a high-definition backup camera and parking assist, to name a few.

Fleet management features are another major component of this van. Operators will be able to remotely lock, unlock or start their vehicles; monitor the battery's state of charge; record any safety incidents; and track their EV600s in real time so they know how long their drivers are sitting in the Waffle House parking lot.

The whys and the hows

Multiple configurations will be offered, but when it goes on sale, the EV600 should provide an impressive 250 miles of range between charges. This is about double what the upcoming Ford E-Transit is expected to have and that's a huge difference.

This BrightDrop van has more than 600 cubic feet of space inside. 

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Even though many delivery vehicles only average around 100 to 150 miles per day, BrightDrop wanted to make sure its van was more than up to the challenge. If the EV600 is driven like a race car, or the temperature is below zero, or if it's driven like a race car in sub-zero conditions, this van should be able to get the job done with plenty of range to spare. There could be few worse things for a delivery company than having their vehicles run out of juice in the middle of the day.

Providing the power is a 20-module Ultium battery, similar to what will come in a host of future GM EVs including the reborn Hummer family. Aside from providing a healthy buffer against the unexpected, with all that range some customers will only have to recharge every other day, simplifying logistics.

When it's time to top-off that battery, the EV600 supports up to 120-kilowatt DC fast charging, meaning it can absorb a maximum of 170 miles of range in just an hour, though this can vary based on the charger and other factors. All-wheel drive is standard equipment, at least at launch, though a front-drive variant will be offered in the future, giving customers even more choice.

The EV600 could be a major foil to Ford's upcoming E-Transit commercial van.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

On sale this year

BrightDrop's EV600 is slated to go on sale this year. The first 500 units are allocated to FedEx, though another company called Merchants Fleet, a vehicle management company, intends to buy some 12,600 of them.

Pricing has not been announced, but the similar Ford E-Transit starts at about $45,000 for a cutaway model or about $4,000 more for a fully enclosed van. The EV600 will probably be similar to that, but we'll have to wait and see. BrightDrop might just pull a rabbit out of its hat and undercut the blue oval by offering a delivery van with tons of clever features and twice the range of that E-Transit.