Diversifying its product offerings and further drawing on its growing expertise in building all-electric vehicles, General Motors introduced an entirely new business, BrightDrop, during CEO Mary Barra's keynote address on Tuesday. With a range of products and services, the company says, BrightDrop is designed to help the world's logistics and service companies do more with less.
The new division's core product will be a line of battery-powered delivery vehicles. This range will include the just-introducedcommercial van, which offers a maximum driving range of 250 miles. But the brand won't just be about vans. For CES, GM also virtually revealed the , a self-propelled transport pallet (read: motorized box on wheels) designed to simplify the lives of delivery personnel.
The Detroit-based automaker says these two new battery-powered machines will help logistics customers lower their costs, boost productivity, improve security and be more sustainable since electric vehicles emit no tailpipe emissions. Beyond all that, some of BrightDrop's offerings may also help improve worker safety, lowering exposure to noxious vehicle emissions and reducing workplace injuries from strained backs and muscle fatigue.
Aside from dedicated delivery vehicles, BrightDrop will also offer a range of different services, including an integrated, cloud-based software platform for fleet managers. Customers will be able to monitor their fleets in real time, keep track of battery status, report incidents, remotely diagnose problems and execute remote vehicle commands, like locking or unlocking the EP1's doors.
Why is GM getting into the logistics business, something that seems only tangentially related to building cars and trucks? Well, basically, GM believes there's room for growth, lots of room. By the year 2025, the automaker estimates the combined market for food and parcel delivery (and returns) will grow to a whopping $850 billion. And that's just in the US. In addition, by the year 2030, GM expects urban delivery traffic to swell by 78%, a development that the company says will increase the number of commercial vehicles in the world's top 100 biggest cities by a whopping 36%, creating more congestion and emissions.
Aside from plenty of on-paper advantages, real-world research is another feather in BrightDrop's cap. After conducting an EP1 test program with FedEx Express, it found that the parcel carrier's personnel were able to handle a whopping 25% more packages in a day, and employees did so with less physical strain. Unsurprisingly, FedEx Express is slated to become GM's inaugural EV600 van customer, receiving the first 500 vehicles starting later this year. Additional customers will be able to get their hands GM's electric vans starting in early 2022.
Likeand , BrightDrop was born out of the automaker's global innovation organization. BrightDrop is designed to be a "one-stop solution" for commercial customers and will initially serve customers in the US and Canada. Potential clients will be able to connect with the new company through an independent sales and service network, as well.
BrightDrop is the auto industry's latest foray into North America's burgeoning ecosystem of EV-based logistics services. Certainly, there is no shortage of legacy automakers and startup companies vying to overhaul today's gas- and diesel-powered commercial delivery business into a cleaner, greener enterprise. Other players making big bets in this emerging segment include Ford and Mercedes-Benz, as well as newer companies like Amazon-backed Rivian, , and, of course, Tesla with its forthcoming , a Class 8 tractor.
More details surrounding all this BrightDrop news will be released at a later date. Stay tuned to see if GM's latest electric baby can deliver something the market wants -- and at a price that companies can afford.