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Takeaways From Mary Barra’s EV-Focused GM CES Keynote

From the announcement of a new EV delivery vehicle business unit and  battery-powered delivery vehicle to concepts for a flying Cadillac, GM’s CES keynote was full of surprises.

Considering the major strides the company made toward an all-electric future in 2020, it’s no surprise General Motors (GM) Chairman and CEO Mary Barra’s virtual keynote address during this year’s all-virtual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was largely a reflection of its dedication to electric vehicles (EVs). In addition to highlighting GM’s major electrification goals to the global release of 30 new EVs and the company’s recent push to spend more than $27 billion on its electric and autonomous vehicle programs by 2025, the keynote also featured some new announcements.

Perhaps the most notable was Barra’s unveiling of BrightDrop – GM’s new battery-powered delivery vehicle and equipment business venture for commercial customers. FedEx will be the company’s first partner in the endeavor. 

The first product that GM’s new BrightDrop division will roll out is the EP1, which arrives early this year. This electric pallet will assist in delivering goods from vehicle to customer. As Car and Driver reports, “The electric box on wheels rolls at up to 3 mph while being directed by a courier and can carry up to 200 pounds. Modular shelving and locking cabinet doors keep items of various sizes secure, and it’s claimed to be easy to maneuver in tight spaces.” Trials conducted by GM and FedEx Express indicated that the EP1 helps workers transport 25 percent more packages a day, according to a statement from the automaker.

GM’s upcoming electric pallet, EP1 / Photo: GM press release

Next will come EV600 – an electric delivery van that will utilize GM’s Ultium battery system with an estimated range of up to 250 miles. EV600 will boast a charge rate of up to 170 miles per hour with a 120.0-kW DC fast-charging station. Can you guess why it’s called EV600? The 600 reflects the 600-plus cubic feet of cargo-area capacity the vehicle will own. EV600 will be shipped to customers like FedEx by the end of the year and available for order in the U.S. early next year. BrightDrop represents a larger industry trend toward electric delivery vehicles as EV startups like Rivian, Bollinger, and Canoo make inroads with their own production.

EV600 wrapped in the FedEx logo / Photo: GM press release

GM’s keynote sent shockwaves through the industry when Barra presented its futuristic concept for a flying (yes, a flying) Cadillac in a video. The totally autonomous and all-electric vehicle concept is a single-passenger vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone and the automaker’s first venture into aero-mobility. The vehicle will transport passengers to and from city rooftops at up to 55 miles per hour and will be fitted with a GM Ultium battery pack. GM also teased its concept for a less-intense Cadillac electric shuttle with sliding doors and a panoramic glass roof that will be “arriving soon,” according to the video.

Barra’s keynote also included various overviews of several highly-anticipated EVs on the way to the U.S. like the Cadillac LYRIQ and the GMC Hummer EV. The automaker also teased two new Buick EVs, its upcoming Cadillac CELESTIQ – called its “future flagship sedan,” as well as a mystery EV, all coming soon. Additionally, the keynote featured an in-depth look at GM’s innovative Ultium battery technology and GM’s all-new logo.

“At GM, we believe that after one of the most difficult years in recent history, this moment will prove to be an inflection point,” said Barra. “The moment when our world’s reliance on gas and diesel-powered vehicles will begin transitioning to an all-electric future. And GM intends to lead that change. Not only to help accelerate the rollout of more electric vehicles but to help ensure an equitable and inclusive transition to a net-zero carbon future.”


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