GM Begins BrightDrop EV600 Production, Moves Renewable Energy Target Forward

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General Motors sees an opportunity to get a jump on the competition when it comes to bringing electric delivery vans to market. It has created a new division called BrightDrop to build electrified last-mile delivery vehicles. Its first offering will be the EV600, which will use GM’s Ultium battery technology to power a van with 250 miles of range and a carrying capacity of 600 cubic feet.

The first of them are being built by an unnamed private contractor in Michigan while the company completes a retrofit of a production line at its CAMI factory in Ingersoll, Canada. They will be used by FedEx to deliver packages during the upcoming holiday season. The company will offer a smaller version called the EV410 that will use the same Ultium platform but a capacity of 410 cubic feet. Its first customer will be Verizon, according to ArsTechnica.

“Getting our first electric vehicles on the streets in record time before another peak holiday shipping season is the best gift we could receive this year, especially when we consider the supply chain headwinds the world is facing right now,” said Travis Katz, BrightDrop president and CEO. “As e-commerce demand continues to increase and the effects of climate change are felt like never before across the globe, it’s imperative that we move quickly to reduce harmful emissions. BrightDrop’s holistic delivery solutions are designed to help tackle these challenges head on.”

“Folks on the commercial side don’t really care about the technology — they care about the economics,” Brett Smith, director of technology at research firm CAR, tells TechCrunch. Reduced expenses from a combination of lower maintenance and lower fuel costs are what get the attention of fleet managers, who typically track total operating expenses down to the tenth of a cent per mile.

“BrightDrop offers a smarter way to deliver goods and services,” said GM CEO Mary Barra when she announced the new startup at CES. “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.”

More Renewable Energy Sooner

GM has previously said all of its US operations will be powered by electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This week, it announced it is moving that timeline forward a full 5 years to 2025, which will avoid 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions that otherwise would have found their way into the atmosphere during that period, according to the Washington Post.

“We know climate action is a priority and every company must push itself to decarbonize further and faster,” said Kristen Siemenm, the company’s chief sustainability officer, in a statement reported by the Washington Post. GM says it will meet the 100% renewable energy standard for its global operations by 2040.

Several factors should enable GM to eliminate electricity from fossil-fuel-powered plants, the company’s announcement said. Among them are the introduction of more energy efficiencies to reduce overall demand for electricity, investment in renewable energy power sources, and the development of new energy storage technology such as batteries to enable the company to overcome intermittent production by wind or solar farms.

The automaker also said it will track its real-time carbon emissions through a collaboration with TimberRock, which has developed software to gauge emissions of a customer’s energy consumption, and PJM Interconnection, the electricity transmission operator for the region that extends from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Virginia, and west as far as northern Illinois.

With the start of BrightDrop production and the pulling forward of its renewable energy intentions by five years, the company is signaling its intent to stick around a little while longer in the vehicle manufacturing business. Like most legacy automakers, it was slow to accept that the EV revolution was real. Now it is playing catchup and trying not to let leaders like Tesla get too far ahead. Will its strategy be enough? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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