Update: ‘FedEx’ sub-section of ‘Production & Deliveries’ and ‘Brightdrop Canada’ updated.
Under BrightDrop, its new brand that caters to the commercial delivery and logistics industry, General Motors unveiled the first model at CES 2021 – BrightDrop Zevo 600 (originally called BrightDrop EV600). Here’s everything we know about the new electric van.
Though big and boxy, the BrightDrop Zevo 600 looks quite contemporary for a vehicle of its type. The slim headlights, the curved surfaces, and the vertically positioned sleek taillights lend a modern touch to the exterior.
Video Source: YouTube/Roadshow
Designed as an EV from the outset, the Zevo 600 sits lower than traditional delivery vans, as CNET Roadshow’s Craig Cole notes in his first look video on YouTube (embedded above). Moreover, it has noticeably large doors that are nearly 3 ft. wide. Entering and exiting the Zevo 600, especially with large and heavy packages in the hands, should be easier and safer compared to traditional delivery vans.
Inside, the Zevo 600 is quite appealing, thanks to a minimalist, car-like design. The contemporary design of the dashboard, the free-standing digital instrument cluster and (13.4”) central touchscreen, and the sleek right AC vents and compact central AC vents lend a low-profile, sophisticated styling to the interior. Two roof options are available: translucent and solid. People as tall as 6’4″ can stand up safely in the Zevo 600.
GM has borrowed several parts from its existing models from other brands. The steering wheel is similar to the one found in the Chevrolet Silverado and other trucks, the shifter takes on the unit of the GMC Hummer EV Pickup, the infotainment system reminds of the GMC Yukon, and the instrument cluster comes from the Chevrolet Bolt.
Features & Safety
One of the major convenience features of the Zevo 600 for fleet operators is a fleet management platform. They can get a real-time status of the Zevo 600, track it, and apply geofencing to restrict usage outside the designated area. Moreover, it’s possible to manage non-BrightDrop vehicles, which makes the BrightDrop platform a one-stop fleet management solution. Remote Diagnostics and OTA updates allow remotely analyzing vehicle data and fixing certain technical issues in the vehicle. Below are the other fleet management features:
- Safety Incidence Recording
- In-Vehicle Driver Coaching
- Battery and Charge Management
- Energy Management For Route Planning
- Vehicle Health and Predictive Maintenance
- Diagnostic/Safety Alerts
- Maintenance Scheduler
- Part Pre-Staging and Inventory
- Repair Order and Part Ticket Management
- Warranty and Core Management
To ensure the security of the goods, GM equips the Zevo 600 with a cargo area security system and motion sensors, an auto-locking mechanism for the sliding bulkhead door, and motion-activated interior LED lighting. On the safety front, Front and Rear Park Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Braking, and HD backup camera are part of the standard equipment. HD Surround Vision around view monitor, Rear Pedestrian Alert, and Blind Zone Steering Assist are available optionally.
Speaking to Forbes, Zevo 600 Chief Engineer Bill Venner said that GM built the new electric van with learnings obtained from its customers. The company laid emphasis on aspects like the seating position and comfort, the step-in height, and features like iPlay, air conditioning, sliding doors, and a cargo door. Safety, which most van makers don’t pay a lot of attention to, didn’t go unnoticed either. Unlike many commercial vans, the Zevo 600 has airbags, AEB and LKA.
The BrightDrop Zevo 600 is a full-size electric van GM developed in just 20 months, which was a new development timeline record for the company. It enables customers to make tailpipe emission-free delivery of goods and services over long ranges.
The Zevo 600 measures 290” in length, 87” in width, and 109” in height. Its rear doorway is 58” wide and 72” tall. Thanks to a gross vehicle weight rating of under 10,000 lbs. (9,900 lb.s), there’s no need for additional licensing to drive it. The full-size electric van offers over 600 cubic feet of cargo space and up to est. 2,200 lbs of payload capacity.
GM hasn’t disclosed the energy content of the Zevo 600’s battery pack yet (reportedly 165 kWh), but it has revealed it’s a 20-module Ultium battery pack that can provide a range of up to 250 miles (GM est.). This battery pack powers two motors that give the EV an AWD drivetrain layout. According to a GM Authority report, the upcoming FWD variant gets a 24-module battery pack and a single motor, which should offer a longer range. The Zevo 600 AWD’s peak DC fast-charging rate is 120 kW, and GM estimates charging using that method for an hour should provide 160 miles of range.
Motor Trend has driven the Zevo 600 and shared first impressions. The American magazine got to drive an upcoming single-motor FWD configuration which has half the power (max: 300 hp) and torque (max: 390 lb.-ft.) available in the dual-motor AWD configuration. It says that the new electric van is easy to drive.
Without cargo, the Zevo 600 single-motor FWD offered plenty of torque right from the start and allowed one-pedal driving. It was easily maneuverable for a van its size, to a surprising extent. Overall, compared to old-school ICE step vans, it was a car-like and comfortable experience, MT concluded. One more point from the report that’s worth noting is that most customers aren’t using the 120 kW fast-charging capability, finding Level 2 charging overnight convenient enough.
Ars Technica had a go in the Zevo 600 and shared a short review. The tech publication suggests the electric van misses the refinement one expects from an EV, but given that it’s a commercial vehicle, it doesn’t hold it against the van. It’s easy to drive despite the size, and one-pedal driving works perfectly. The steering is light, and the turning circle is impressively low, which means the electric van scores impressively in maneuverability.
There’s a good amount of connectivity tech and other vital electronics needed in today’s world, and there’s plenty of room. The space between the door and the cargo is particularly wide. The energy efficiency reading on the instrument cluster during Ars Technica’s brief drive was a decent 1.8 miles/kWh over 348 miles. No less than 260 miles of the drive was at highway speed.
Guinness World Record attempt
BrightDrop driver Stephen Marlin has successfully attempted a Guinness World Records range drive in the Zevo 600. Marlin drove the Zevo 600 for nearly 260 miles in a trip from New York City to Washington, D.C. on a single charge. This is the longest distance an electric van has covered on a single charge. Marlin made stops at some iconic destinations during the trip, including landmarks in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Production & Deliveries
Production of the BrightDrop Zevo 600 takes place at a Kuka factory in Livonia (Michigan), USA. GM plans to relocate the production to its CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll (Ontario), Canada. During GM’s Q4 2021 earnings conference call, Mary Barra, the company’s Chair and CEO, briefly talked about manufacturing the Zevo 600 at the Canadian factory. She said that the second production site will have an annual capacity of 30,000 units initially and nearly 60,000 units by the middle of the decade.
Additional BrightDrop EV600 (BrightDrop Zevo 600) production begins at CAMI late this year, where we’ll launch with an annual capacity of 30,000 units and the ability to nearly double production by mid-decade.Mary Barra, Chair and CEO, GM (Q4 2021 earnings conference call on February 1, 2022)
Ingersoll plant under transformation
On April 4, 2022, GM revealed that the production of BrightDrop electric vans at CAMI Assembly plant will commence in December 2022. The company plans to finish retooling the plant by the summer to keep it ready well ahead of the SOP at the end of the year.
GM started retooling and reengineering its CAMI assembly plant in Ontario on April 29, 2022, for the BrightDrop electric vans. The plant is on track to become Canada’s first full-scale electric vehicle assembly facility. According to General Motors, the construction of the building and installation of the production equipment will be done by September 2022. The production of the BrightDrop Zevo 600 starts in Q4 2022 at this plant, while the Zevo 400 will enter production in 2023.
GM plans to have a small dealer network of BrightDrop in the U.S., and it has started opening touchpoints. The company inaugurated its first outlet (BrightDrop Greater Los Angeles) in Fontana, California in December 2021.
BrightDrop Zevo 600 deliveries started on December 17, 2021, with FedEx Express taking the keys to the first five units in Inglewood, California. FedEx initially reserved 500 BrightDrop electric light commercial vehicles, and these are a part of that order. Later, the company made a reservation for 2,000 BrightDrop electric delivery vans. Further ahead, it could add up to 20,000 additional BrightDrop EVs.
On June 21, 2022, FedEx announced FedEx Express has received its first 150 BrightDrop EVs from GM. The company’s Chief Sustainability Officer Mitch Jackson thinks that’s an impressive delivery number given the problems in the auto industry, including chip shortages and supply chain issues. GM delivered the first 150 units throughout Southern California. FedEx is building charging infrastructure at its facilities to support the adoption of EVs. The company has installed 500+ charging stations across California. By 2040, the entire FedEx parcel pickup and delivery (PUD) will switch to pure electric vehicles.
Walmart has also decided to purchase BrightDrop electric delivery vans, and it has signed an agreement to reserve 5,000 units of Zevo 600 and Zevo 400 (a midsize electric LCV) combined. Merchants Fleet is also among the customers of BrightDrop electric vans. GM says that it has more than 25,000 reservations for BrightDrop EVs, and the Rivian EDV 700 (Rivian Amazon van) is the closest competitor of the Zevo 600.
Is Amazon next?
On May 10, 2022, GM Authority reported that its photographers spotted two BrightDrop Zevo 600 electric vans parked at Amazon’s Robotics Fulfillment Center in Pontiac, Michigan. Amazon has placed an order for 100,000 Rivian electric vans, but there are no official reports of the e-commerce giant considering the BrightDrop Zevo 600. Amazon might be looking to diversify its electric vans range by testing the EV for its future delivery operations. Likewise, the Ram Promaster Electric van will be added to Amazon’s American fleet from 2023.
GM said in its shareholder letter dated February 2, 2022, that it recorded EBIT-adjusted financial results of USD 14.3 billion in 2021. This will allow GM to invest more in its BrightDrop business and expand its commercial portfolio. GM said that the use of EVs will allow customers to make their delivery operations efficient and green. With GM’s USD 7 billion investment for expansion of battery cell and EV assembly capacity, expect GM’s subsidiaries like BrightDrop to fare even better in the future.
GM will launch BrightDrop in Canada as early as the end of 2022, suggests a new report from Automotive News Canada. The company plans to open the first BrightDrop dealership in Canada before the end of the year, as per the report. “Active discussions” for the first Canadian BrightDrop dealer are on, Steve Hornyak, the brand’s chief revenue officer, told Automotive News Canada on April 20, 2022. It won’t be a widespread network, with Hornyak saying GM plans to have “very select dealers.”
Further, Hornyak said there is interest from Canadian companies to order the Brightdrop electric van models, but made it clear that none have placed an order. Pre-sales of the MY2023 and MY2024 Zevo vans should begin this year in the country, the BrightDrop executive added.
In Canada, the Zevo 600 will likely be eligible for incentives up to CAD 10,000 under the Incentives for the Government of Canada‘s Medium- Heavy-duty Zero-Emission Vehicles (iMHZEV) program. Class 2B vehicles, which are utility vans, full-size pick-ups, and step vans with a GVWR of 8,501 – 10,000 lbs. as per Transport Canada‘s classification, are eligible for these incentives.
The maximum incentive of CAD 10,000 is available for purchasing and also on leasing for a 48-month period. For 36-, 24-, and 12-month leases, the incentive reduces to CAD 7,500, CAD 5,000, and CAD 2,500, respectively. Transport Canada has confirmed that the Ford E-Transit is eligible for all these incentives.