GM debuts BrightDrop EP1, a motorized delivery box at CES 2021
Sure, its styling is a little on the square side, but General Motors' electric pallet could be a delivery worker's best friend.
Craig ColeFormer reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
BrightDrop is General Motors' latest business unit, unveiled on Tuesday during CEO Mary Barra's CES 2021 address. Aside from a new all-electric commercial van called the EV600, GM showed off another, far less conventional EV, a battery-powered package schlepper, the EP1 propulsion-assisted pallet.
Wait, what the heck is a propulsion-assisted pallet? Good question. Think of the EP1 as a motorized box that can help package couriers and logistics companies handle short-distance parcel transport, like moving boxes from a truck to a customer's door, or even moving items inside of a warehouse. Would you rather roll a load of fresh seafood right into a Red Lobster kitchen, gently guiding it along on an electric skate? Or would you prefer to carry all those boxes individually or manually haul them a few at a time using a hand truck? We'll have to try the EP1 for ourselves, but a motorized delivery companion certainly sounds like it could be an easier solution, and potentially a quicker and safer one, too.
GM revealed its new BrightDrop business unit at CES 2021
That said, this EP1, the first product BrightDrop will bring to market, is no speed demon. It features a built-in hub motor that propels it at speeds up to 3 mph, a typical walking pace. The device's speed will vary depending on how fast its user is walking, or how slowly its human companion is dragging their feet. Being self-propelled, the EP1 should help reduce strain, especially since the device can handle up to 23 cubic feet of cargo totaling 200 pounds. Keeping things organized, the EP1 has adjustable shelves and its cabinet doors can be locked. In today's COVID-19-afflicted world, the EP1 even promises to help delivery companies reduce package touch points, potentially curbing the spread of illness.
For added versatility, the EP1, just like BrightDrop's new EV600 commercial van, can be managed remotely. The device's manager will be able to provide real-time location data, keep track of the battery's charge level and even accept over-the-air software updates.
BrightDrop has put a lot of thought into what is essentially a motorized cabinet on wheels, and for good reason. There's big growth potential in this business going forward. GM estimates that in the US, by 2025, the combined market for food and parcel delivery (and returns) will grow to $850 billion. By 2030, the company expects the world's urban delivery business to increase 78%. Now could be a great time for the automaker to get its foot in the door of what promises to be a booming business.
Proving the usefulness of the EP1, GM partnered with FedEx Express for testing. The parcel carrier found that this self-propelled pallet helped its personnel handle 25% more packages per day, a massive jump in productivity. Workers also reported that the EP1 was easy to handle and reduced physical strain.
GM says the BrightDrop EP1 will be available early this year. Pricing and purchase details are not available yet, but the company has fired up a new website, GoBrightDrop.com, that has more information.