General Motors announced at this week’s Consumers Electronics Show (CES) an intent to increase its presence in the electrically powered parcel transportation segment. These commercial vehicles will be in addition to GM’s ongoing electrically powered consumer vehicle offerings in the coming months, all of which will leverage the automaker’s in-house designed battery technology.

BrightDrop a wholly owned subsidiary of GM will provide not only electrically powered vans but fleet management services as well.  Plans were unveiled to sell electrically powered pallet movers this year, and the deemed BrightDrop EV600 electric cargo van next year which will feature 600 cubic feet of cargo space.

GM BrightDrop Electric Van

Source: GM BrightDrop

During a video appearance at the CES event, GM chief executive Mary Barra indicated that the services model aims to assist commercial parcel delivery companies work more efficiently and sustainably as they contend with exploding online retail and commerce demand.  In Q4 of this year, demand for new or used parcel vans skyrocketed as delivery companies attempted to increase their fleet resources.

According to reporting by Bloomberg citing an industry expert, the van is bigger than Ford Motor’s planned E-Transit van with twice the driving range, estimated to be 250 miles on a single charge. Reporting by The Wall Street Journal indicates that these vans will be powered by GM’s Ultium battery family, with a $2.3 billion Ohio battery production facility scheduled to be brought online by supplier partner LG Chem Ltd.

An initial lighthouse customer will be global parcel transportation services provider FedEx, with a reported order to purchase 500 of the vehicles. GM further pointed to indications of letters of buying intent from other unnamed customers.

Another provider in this space is Rivian Automotive which in September 2019 announced a 100,000-parcel delivery vehicle order from online retail platform and logistics last-mile provider Amazon. Equity investors in Rivian include both Amazon and Ford Motor, the latter partnering with Rivian for the future electric powered model of Ford’s F-150 pick-up truck. Recent televised commercials sponsored by Amazon feature initial trials of the Rivian designed parcel van.

FedEx rival UPS announced in February 2020 that the carrier has ordered 10,000 new purpose-built electric delivery vans from electrical vehicle manufacturer Arrival.  The move was reported as an effort to accelerate overall fleet electrification. Similar to Amazon’s fleet equipment procurement practices, UPS additionally made a minority equity investment via its venture capital arm UPS Ventures. Such an investment will likely provide this parcel carrier with priority to acquire additional electric vans after this initial purchase. Future purchases are contingent on successful tests of initial vehicles.

Without a doubt, the electric powered utility van space is garnering increased manufacturer attention and the race is on for both first mover and preferred partner advantage among commercial fleets.

 

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