CES 2021

GM launches BrightDrop, an electric first-to-last-mile solution for deliveries

General Motors has launched a new business initiative, BrightDrop.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is expanding its business offerings to include first-to-last mile delivery solutions for delivery and logistics companies. The new business is called BrightDrop and will offer its own all-electric vehicles and software solutions beginning in early 2021.

"BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services," said Mary Barra GM Chairman and CEO. "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."

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. According to the World Economic Forum, demand for urban last-mile delivery, fueled by e-commerce, is expected to grow by 78 percent by 2030, leading to a 36 percent increase in delivery vehicles in the world's top 100 cities. At the same time, this increase in demand is expected to cause delivery-related carbon emissions to rise by nearly one-third.

To take advantage of these market opportunities, BrightDrop is developing an integrated set of solutions. BrightDrop will initially serve customers in the U.S. and Canada.

BrightDrop EP1

BrightDrop EP1

Photo courtesy of General Motors

The BrightDrop EP1 will be the company's first product to market. It will be a propulsion-assisted, electric pallet developed to easily move goods over short distances. It can reduce package touch points, costs, and physical strain on delivery drivers. It has built-in electric hub motors with adjustable speed up to 3 mph, the ability to secure and carry approximately 23 total cubic feet of cargo, a 200-pound payload capacity, adjustable shelving, lockable cabinet doors, and tight space maneuverability.

An EP1 pilot program has been completed in partnership with FedEx Express. During the pilot, FedEx Express couriers were able to handle 25 percent more packages per day when using the EP1s. FedEx Express couriers shared feedback that the EP1s were easy to maneuver and reduced physical strain.

The BrightDrop EP1 will be available early this year.

BrightDrop EV600

BrightDrop EV600

Photo courtesy of General Motors

The BrightDrop EV600 will be the company's second product to market. It's an electric light commercial vehicle that will be purpose-built on GM's Ultium platform for the delivery of goods and services with up to 250 miles of range. It has a peak charge rate of up to 170 miles of EV range per hour via 120 kilowatt DC fast charging.

The vehicle also has 600 cubic feet of cargo area, a cargo area security system with motion sensors, auto-open cargo bulkhead door, wide cabin walkways, and front sliding pocket doors. It is available at a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds.

GM is installing a number of safety features in the vehicle including front and rear park assist, automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, following distance indicator, front pedestrian braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and a high-definition rearview camera. It comes with a 13.4-innch full-color infotainment screen.

The EV600 is set to take on the 2022 Ford E-Transit, which has a targeted range of 126 miles. GM will deliver the first EV600 models by the end of the this year. BrightDrop expects to make the EV600s available to more customers to order starting in early 2022.

Software-enabled services

BrightDrop app

Photo courtesy of General Motors

In addition to vehicles, BrightDrop offers an integrated, cloud-based software platform, which provides customers visibility and access to their BrightDrop products through both web and mobile interfaces. Built-in connectivity provides businesses with detailed data and insights that can help improve overall operations, including route efficiency, asset utilization and product upgrades. Drivers and couriers can utilize the mobile application for a variety of tasks.

Ford offers something similar with its Ford Telematics data system for Transit fleet owners.

FedEx Express is slated to be the first customer of the EV600, receiving their vehicles later this year.

Future product

​GM says that EP1 and EV600 are just the beginning. The business is committed to growing its product offerings to include a portfolio of integrated, zero-emissions products. Among the concepts currently being explored are a medium-distance solution that transports multiple EP1s, and a rapid load delivery vehicle.

BrightDrop will establish a customer support team to assist with every aspect of operating and servicing BrightDrop products, including supporting charging and infrastructure installation, advising on upfitting services, and retrofitting a current fleet vehicle to integrate with BrightDrop products. BrightDrop support services will also assist with maintenance needs, including securing parts and scheduling repairs.

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Interesting backstory

Volkswagen Bus part inspired popular dog toy

The classic VW Bus inspired one of the most popular dog toys of all time.

Volkswagen

Product designs sometimes take inspiration from the places we expect the least. Moments of genius are driven by finding solutions to unique problems, and as it turns out, that's exactly how we ended up with KONG. The beefy, durable dog chew toy is modeled after a Volkswagen Bus part.

Joe Markham's shop Markham needed a dog for security, but he unexpectedly got a chew-crazy pet.Volkswagen

KONG's inventor, Joe Markham, adopted a German Shepherd to help with security at his auto repair shop in downtown Denver, CO. The dog, while a great addition to the shop, came with a few bad habits. The dog's most worrisome hobby was chewing, which he would do with almost anything he could find, especially rocks. As you might imagine, chewing on rocks is not good for the dog's teeth. Markham needed a durable chew toy, but nothing seemed to work, from animal bones to radiator hoses.

The solution came from an unlikely place: While working on a 1960sVW Type 2 Bus, Markham discovered that the rubber axle stop made a perfect chew toy. The dog had gotten ahold of the rubber stop, and while he was chewing viciously, neither the stop nor his teeth were damaged.

The discovery led Markham to spend the next six years experimenting with various rubbers, sizes, and shapes for his dog toy. After working with rubber experts in Germany, the design was finalized and the KONG was born. The shape for the toy ended up being very close to that of the axle stop. The funky, bulbous design meant that the toy wouldn't bounce like a ball, and would instead flop around randomly, which is similar to the way that small animals run away from predators.

VW Bus axle stop The axle stop from a VW Bus inspired KONG's shape.Volkswagen

It's worth noting that you should not intentionally let your dog chew on any part of your vehicle. Even unused automotive parts can contain chemicals and other harmful materials that could make your dog sick or worse. This isn't a pitch to buy a KONG, just a warning about the hazards of car parts being used as dog toys.

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The concept has been extensively modified for a life lived off the beaten path.

GMC

Overlanding has become a world of its own, with several parts and vehicle customization companies, media publications, and guide services popping up all over the place. GMC realizes this, and to capitalize on the overlanding craze, the automaker built a Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX off-road concept to show off at the Overland Expo Mountain West 2021, which took place last week.


GMC Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX Concept The OVRLANDX concept carries a kitchenette, solar panels, and more.GMC


Some of the upgrades on the truck include:

  • Cast-iron control arms
  • A heavy-duty front bumper with winch
  • Front and rear electronic locking differentials
  • An off-road jack and mount
  • Multimatic DSSV dampers
  • Off-road rocker panel protectors


Listing the rest of the upgrades would take more words than anybody cares to read but rest assured that they are plentiful and impressive. GMC says that the concept truck gained legitimate capability from the upgrades. The approach angle is 27.7 degrees, and the truck can ford water up to 32.1 inches, which come thanks to a ground clearance of 10 inches and a custom-built snorkel system. The truck rides on 17-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch BFGoodrich KM3 mud-terrain tires.

Since it's an overlanding concept, the truck needs the ability to support its passengers well off the beaten path. To do that, GMC gave the Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX a cooler and kitchenette, solar panel, and a truck bed storage system with drawers.



GMC Canyon AT4 OVRLANDX Concept You can build something similar to the concept with off-the-shelf parts.GMC


As a concept truck, it's unlikely the AT4 overlanding rig will make it into production as it sits. That said, it's an interesting idea for an intrepid Canyon owner to use as a blueprint. Outside of the chassis work, most of the parts and upgrades can be purchased and installed without a major hassle, but if you're in the market to build a rig, it's best to research your truck's payload capacity and capabilities before overloading for overlanding.

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