GM Doubles Down on Electric Vans, With Verizon As Its First Customer

The smaller EV410 complements the already announced EV600, which will get to FedEx by the end of the year.

The Brightdrop EV600, under construction at a Michigan supplier.
The Brightdrop EV600, under construction at a Michigan supplier. .


Brightdrop, set up by General Motors to make electric delivery and maintenance vehicles, said on September 28 that it is expanding its fleet to include a smaller van that can fit into a normal parking space—and that Verizon is its first customer.

The first Brightdrop van, the light commercial EV600, was announced at CES last January by GM CEO Mary Barra. The van has a 250-mile range and, as the name implies, the ability to carry 600 cubic feet of cargo (with a payload of 2,200 pounds). It’s fast-charge capable at 120 kilowatts DC and can add 170 miles of range in an hour. The EV410, on a smaller 150-inch wheelbase, can carry 410 cubic feet. 

Brightdrop President and CEO Travis Katz said during an online press conference, “We announced at the time we were building a holistic ecosystem for last-mile delivery that includes electrified containers. We have now built the first EV600, and despite the pandemic and strong headwinds on global supply chains and semiconductors, we are on track to deliver vehicles to FedEx Express, our first customer, by the end of the year. Our team spent hundreds of hours riding along with FedEx drivers, to deliver a product that is perfect for their needs.”  

FedEx is getting 500 vans. A second customer for the EV600 is Merchants Fleet, which will take 12,600

GM is wildly upbeat about the prospects for its working EVs. “What’s so exciting about the commercial space is that we’ve crossed the tipping point,” Katz said. “The economics of owning EVs is actually better—they’re radically less expensive over the long term. The average fleet of EV600s can save a company $7,000 per vehicle per year. The fuel is dramatically less expensive, and also the maintenance costs are a lot lower. We expect to see commercial fleets transition very quickly, because they’re doing the math. And we’re seeing incredible demand across the board.”

The Brightdrop EV600 will get to FedEx by the end of the year.
The Brightdrop EV600 will get to FedEx by the end of the year.


Katz said Brightdrop was able to develop its first vehicle in just 20 months, instead of the usual 50, because of fast-track production methods that included building the first run of EV600s at a supplier in Michigan, rather than at the CAMI Assembly facility in Ingersoll, Ontario that will eventually house the tooling. That Canadian plant currently makes the Chevrolet Equinox, but it could be producing Brightdrops in three shifts by 2024. The company can also tap into GM’s Ultium battery packs, which are demonstrating strong range performance.

Katz said GM felt some urgency, both to get its vans out for the coming holiday season, and also to help combat climate change. “July 2021 was the warmest month on the planet to date, and we’ve had wildfires and flooding,” he said. “It’s pressing and urgent need to get these vehicles on the road.” Also perhaps adding urgency is the emergence of competition from startup companies like Rivian, which is producing delivery vans for Amazon. 

The EV410 is a midsized delivery vehicle that’s appropriately sized for online grocery service and telecoms, Katz said. “It was designed from the ground up for electric delivery, with features such as low step-in height, because our research shows that drivers enter and exit as much as 150 times a day,” he said. “It’s just under 20 feet long, fits in a standard parking space, and is easy to maneuver. We’re delighted to be working with Verizon, which will use the EV410 in its service and maintenance fleets. It’s great to be working with a company that shares our values—Verizon, like GM, has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2035.” It’s unclear how many vans Verizon ordered, or how much any of the company’s products will cost. 

Tushar Porwal, Brightdrop’s director of field operations, said that low-volume production of the EV600 in Michigan will come first, followed by the Canadian assembly line in the late fall of 2022. “We’re using 3D printing to mock up parts on the fly,” he said. “And we’re doing it on the supplier’s floor, which means we will be able to get to market much faster than if we used a traditional approach.”

The EV410 will follow the EV600, in 2023, using many of the same tooling and battery modules. Brightdrop confirmed that the vans will eventually have a range of battery sizes, an affordable option for customers whose routes are less than 100 miles a day. 

Brightdrop is also fielding EP1, an electric, motorized and connected palette that can “drive” itself with a handler across a warehouse at 3 mph. It can move 23 cubic feet of cargo, weighing up to 200 pounds, from one delivery point to another. 

General Motors is all in on electrification, committing $20 billion and planning for three sizable battery plants. Although some have predicted coming battery shortages, Katz said, “We are confident we will have enough batteries to meet our needs.”

Here’s an introduction to Brightdrop on video: