DETROIT – 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 BrightDrop will be an electric-powered 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. Five hundred are to go 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, adding that GM is working with many companies with experience in the field.
Spokesman Stuart Fowle said the company is working with its independent dealers on a separate BrightDrop 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 BrightDrop evolves, it will offer more electric-powered products, including a medium-distance vehicle that can carry multiple pallets, the company said.
GM CEO Mary Barra announced BrightDrop in a keynote address as part of the virtual CES gadget show Tuesday.