General Motors Co. is making a push into electric commercial-delivery vehicles starting this year with a new wholly owned company called BrightDrop that not only supplies battery-powered vans but also offers fleet-management services. The pandemic has greatly shifted the logistics sector. Consumers shopping more online while quarantined is putting pressure on businesses to improve their last-mile services.
BrightDrop — whose customers will include FedEx Corp. — plans to sell electric pallet movers this year and an electric cargo van next year, GM said in a statement Tuesday. The automaker announced the new business at CES, which used to be called the Consumer Electronics Show, where Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra gave a keynote speech.
“We believe in an all-electric future, and we think it will take more than electrification of our consumer vehicles to get there,” Pam Fletcher, the company’s chief innovation officer, told reporters.
GM has a deal to sell the van to Fedex and has letters of intent from many other shipping companies, Fletcher said.
BrightDrop will offer software and services to enable fleet customers to track goods and vehicles and also plan shipping routes. GM estimates the market for delivery of food and packages and related logistics in the U.S. could be as big as $850 billion by 2025.
Sales of an enclosed cargo pallet known as EP1 and capable of carrying 200 pounds of goods will begin this quarter. GM said the vehicle can be used to move items around a warehouse or from a truck to the front door of a package recipient.
Early next year the automaker plans to launch the electric van, which can travel up to 250 miles on a charge and will be dubbed the EV600 — a play on the vehicle’s 600 cubic feet of cargo space.
The van is bigger than Ford Motor Co.’s planned E-Transit and has twice the range, said Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid.
The new business unit will be led by Travis Katz, who came from online travel company Skyscanner and before that, Trip.com, where he was CEO and co-founder.
During Barra’s presentation, GM also showed a couple of futuristic concepts from Cadillac. One is a small vertical-takeoff aircraft that runs on electric power and another is an urban shuttle that, like the EP1 and EV600, also would run on the automaker’s Ultium battery pack. GM did not say if it will build either one.