General Motors’ newly launched BrightDrop cargo brand began as an internal start-up operation called Smart Cargo and was originally the brainchild of the automaker’s Global Innovation team.
The GM Global Innovation team, led by GM’s vice president of global innovation Pam Fletcher, is essentially an internal start-up incubator tasked with thinking up new ways to expand GM’s business and diversify its streams of income. BrightDrop is one of the first ideas to come out of the Global Innovation incubator, Reuters reports, and was originally conceived in 2019 as a cargo management company called Smart Cargo.
Smart Cargo only encompassed BrightDrop’s cargo management software and other similar data-driven solutions for logistics companies like FedEx. The Global Innovation team figured this software could help companies like FedEx save money by making their operations more efficient and shift some responsibility from delivery drivers to a computer. The revelation to create BrightDrop came about when Fletcher’s team decided to marry the software suite with GM’s burgeoning electric vehicle programs – in turn paving the way for the BrightDrop EV600 delivery van and BrightDrop EP1 electric delivery pallet.
The BrightDrop EV600 is a purpose-built electric delivery van that uses GM Ultium batteries and Ultium Drive electric motors. The van offers up to 600 cubic feet of cargo space, is available at a GVWR of under 10,000 lbs and will be able to travel an estimated 250 miles on a full charge. The EV600 has been designed to carry the BrightDrop EP1, a propulsion-assisted, electric pallet that was developed to move goods over a short distance – like from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s front door, for example. Fleet customers who use the EP1 will also be able to tap into BrightDrop’s mobile asset management software, which provides customers with real-time location monitoring for their pallets, along with other info like current battery status. The software also gives users the ability to initiate remote commands like locking and unlocking the pallet’s doors or switching it on and off.
GM says the EP1 and EV600 are only the beginning for BrightDrop, as the company “will continue to grow its product offerings over time to include a portfolio of integrated, zero-emissions products to help drive further efficiencies and address emerging customer needs.” The company says it is currently developing a medium-distance solution that can transports multiple EP1 pallets at once, as well as a new rapid load delivery vehicle concept.
“We expect BrightDrop to be a very big and very profitable business,” BrightDrop’s recently appointed CEO, Travis Katz, told Reuters in a video call this week.
The first BrightDrop EV600 vans will be delivered to FedEx later this year.