Richmond Times-Dispatch

GMcharges up a newbusines­s effort to sell battery-run delivery vans, gear

- BY TOMKRISHER

The market for battery-powered delivery vehicles and equipment has so much potential that General Motors is forming a new business unit to serve it, a move that lifted the automaker’s stock to a multiyear high.

The first product for the new venture called Bright Drop will be an electricpo­wered wheeled pallet that will take goods from the warehouse to trucks and from trucks to destinatio­ns. Then GM will roll out a clean electric delivery van.

The pallet, named EP1, will go on sale early this year, with the EV600 van on the roads late in the year with 500 going to FedEx, the company’s first customer.

BrightDrop also will offer software and operationa­l support for delivery businesses such as location services, battery status and remote unlocking.

But GM doesn’t intend to get into the delivery business, said Pamela Fletcher, GM’s vice president of global innovation. “One thing we are not is a logistics company,” she said.

Since late 2018, Fletcher, has been in charge of monetizing GM technology by turning ideas into businesses. “We really need to leverage our electrific­ation expertise to other industries,” she said.

Showing Wall Street’s fascinatio­n with electric vehicles, GM shares rose to their highest intraday price of $48.95 since the company left bankruptcy protection in 2010. Shares closed Tuesday at $47.82, up 6.24%.

Fletcher wouldn’t comment on whether Bright Drop products would be sold through existing GM dealership­s or directly by the company. But spokesman Stuart Fowle the company is working with its independen­t dealers on a separate Bright Drop sales network, with details to come later.

On a webcast, Fletcher said the EP1 pallet can travel up to 3 mph, carrying up to 23 cubic feet of cargo weighing up to 200 pounds. The pallets can reduce the strain on workers but would not operate autonomous­ly, at least to start.

They’re already being tested with FedEx, allowing workers to transport 25% more packages per day, GM said in a statement.

The EV600 van will have a range of up to 250 miles when fully charged, Fletcher said.

As Bright Drop evolves, it will offer more electric-powered products including amedium-distance vehicle that can carry multiple pallets, the company said.

GMCEO Mary Barra announced Bright Drop in a keynote address during the virtual CES gadget show on Tuesday.

She said some countries have set limits on petroleum-powered delivery vehicles to fight pollution at a time when the coronaviru­s has brought dramatic increases in packages. “The pandemic has only accelerate­d those challenges as this sector became our lifeline to goods and services we could no longer access in person,” she said.

During its CES presentati­on, GM even showed a video an autonomous flying Cadillac pod concept vehicle.

Fletcher said she expects Bright Drop to contribute to GM’s bottom line very quickly after its products go on sale.

Last year, Ford Motor Co., GM’s main U.S. competitor, announced plans for an electric commercial van that will go on sale late in 2021.

GM has pledged to roll out 30 new electric vehicles globally and spend $27 billion developing them by 2025. New vehicles coming out this year include the electric GMC Hummer pickup, a Chevrolet Bolt electric utility vehicle and the Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV.

The new electric products come as General Motors is changing its corporate logo and launching an electric vehicle marketing campaign to reshape its image as a clean-vehicle company, rather than a builder of gas-powered pickups and SUVs.

GM is scrapping its old square blue logo and replacing it with a lowercase gm surrounded by rounded corners. The company says it’s the biggest change to its logo since 1964. The ‘m’ in the logo is underlined to look more like an electrical plug.

“We felt it was just such a transforma­tive moment that this is the time that we would change again,” said Deborah Wahl, GM global chief marketing officer. “Our message here is that we believe there should be an EV for everyone.”

 ?? GENERAL MOTORS VIA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? The EP1 pallet is among the electric equipment and vehicles developed by BrightDrop, a newGeneral Motors business unit.
GENERAL MOTORS VIA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The EP1 pallet is among the electric equipment and vehicles developed by BrightDrop, a newGeneral Motors business unit.

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