Mon. Jan 25th, 2021

TOM KRISHER, by AP Auto Author

DETROIT (AP) – There is so much potential in the market for battery-powered delivery vehicles and equipment that General Motors is forming a new business unit to service it, a move that raised the automaker’s stock to a multiyear high .

The first product for the new venture, called Brightdrop, will be an electric wheeled palette that will carry goods from the warehouse to trucks and from trucks to destinations. GM will then roll out a clean electric delivery van.

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

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

But GM did not intend to get into the delivery business, said Pamela Fletcher, GM’s vice president of global innovation. “We are not a logistics company,” he said, adding that GM has been working with many companies with experience in the field.

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 since the company left bankruptcy protection in 2010. The stock was up $ 48.95 after trading up 4.9% to $ 47.23 in Monday afternoon trading.

Fletcher would not comment on whether Brightdrop products would be sold through existing GM dealerships or directly by the company. But spokesperson Stuart Foley Company is working with its independent dealers on a separate Brightdrop sales network, with details to come later.

On a webcast, Fletcher stated that the EP1 palette can travel at 3 mph, carrying up to 200 pounds of cargo weighing up to 23 cubic feet. Pallets can reduce stress on workers but will not work autonomously, at least to begin with.

They are already testing with FedEx, GM said in a statement, allowing workers to transport 25% more packages per day.

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

As Brightdrop develops, it will offer more power-driven products, including a medium-range vehicle that can carry multiple palettes, the company said.

GM CEO Mary Barra announced Brightdrop as a part of the virtual CES gadget show on Tuesday.

He said some countries have set limits on petroleum-driven delivery vehicles to fight pollution, when coronoviruses have dramatically increased packages. “The epidemic has only intensified those challenges because the region has become our lifeline for goods and services that we can no longer reach in person,” she said.

During its CES presentation, GM featured a video showing a four-rotor autonomous flying Cadillac pod concept vehicle.

Fletcher said she expects Brightdrop to contribute to GM’s bottom line very quickly, as its products go on sale.

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

GM has promised to spend $ 27 billion to land 30 new electric vehicles globally and develop them by 2025. New vehicles coming this year include an electric GMC Hummer pickup, a Chevrolet Bolt electric utility vehicle and a Cadillac Eric luxury SUV.

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