GM launches electric vehicle unit for first and last mile logistics

AJ Gonzalez | January 15, 2021

DC Velocity, Staff, Jan 13, 2021

Known for its passenger cars, manufacturing giant sees huge growth potential in package delivery and last-mile traffic.

Automotive powerhouse General Motors is turning its attention to logistics operations and parcel delivery with the launch of a new business unit that will provide electric products, software, and services “for the first to last mile,” the company said Tuesday.

Known for its consumer vehicle brands like Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac, Detroit-based GM has now launched BrightDrop, a division designed to produce a suite of products for the delivery and logistics sector in North America.

To be led by Travis Katz, a  venture capitalist who was named as BrightDrop’s CEO and president, the unit plans to roll out its EP1 electric-powered pallet cart and EV600 electric light commercial vehicle in 2021 for pilot projects with FedEx Express. Additional platforms will include the introduction of GM’s Ultium battery brand to the commercial vehicle segment.

Together, those tools are designed to help users address the swelling demand for package delivery and last-mile traffic. GM estimates that by 2025, the combined market opportunity for parcel, food delivery, and reverse logistics in the U.S. will be over $850 billion. And it cited the World Economic Forum in forecasting that demand for urban last-mile delivery, fueled by e-commerce, is expected to grow by 78% by 2030, leading to a 36% increase in delivery vehicles in the world’s top 100 cities.

According to GM, its products can support that rapid growth by helping businesses move goods more efficiently while lowering costs, maximizing productivity, improving employee safety and freight security, and supporting sustainability goals.

“BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” Mary Barra GM’s chairman and CEO, said in a release. “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.”

Of course, the logistics industry is already rife with options for electric material handling vehicles, from the fast-growing automated guided vehicle (AGV) and autonomous mobile robot (AMR) sectors to battery-powered forklifts to delivery vans from companies like Workhorse Group Inc.Daimler, and Rivian.

But GM will bring deep pockets and extensive scale to the party, as well as the ability to complement its vehicles with technology like cloud based software and mobile apps to support functions like asset management and fleet management.

The vehicles themselves are designed to focus on specific niches of the package delivery process. The BrightDrop EP1 was developed to move goods over short distances, such as the trip from delivery vehicle to a customer’s front door, running at 3mph and carrying a payload up to 200 pounds with adjustable shelving and lockable cabinet doors. And the BrightDrop EV600 will be an electric, light commercial vehicle purpose-built for the delivery of goods and services over long ranges, boasting a range of 250 miles per charge and offering 600 cubic feet of cargo area.

“Our need for reliable, sustainable transportation has never been more important,” Richard Smith, FedEx Express regional president of the Americas and executive vice president of global support, said in a release. “BrightDrop is a perfect example of the innovations we are adopting to transform our company as time-definite express transportation continues to grow. With this new suite of products, we will help improve the safety, security, and timeliness of FedEx Express deliveries, while reducing our environmental impact and protecting the well-being of our couriers.”

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