May 13, 2022

GM’s BrightDrop EV sets record in mass production rush

General Motors’ BrightDrop electric utility vehicle subsidiary celebrated Earth Day with a record-breaking 260-mile drive from New York to Washington DC on a single charge. As every fifth-grader knows, a record isn’t a record until it’s been certified by bar-bet experts at Guinness Brewery, who have called it a Guinness World Record. official.

The van, which will serve as a FedEx package delivery van, has been freshly dubbed the Zevo 600 rather than the original EV600 designation. The “600” part of the name refers to the cargo capacity of the van in cubic feet. For comparison, the familiar brown UPS trucks are 700 cubic feet.

260 mile highway driving does not seem particularly relevant to the utility of an urban delivery vehicle, as urban driving with stops and starts at low speeds experiences less aerodynamic drag and presents more opportunities for energy recuperation braking, so the urban autonomy could be longer.

However, the ability to make a nonstop trip from New York to Washington helps illustrate that the 20-module Zevo 600 Ultium battery has excess range for city driving. That’s important, according to FedEx sustainability director Mitch Jackson, because the excess range means the vans won’t need to be charged daily and won’t need to be charged to 100% at every time. Recharge cycles and 100% charges are key factors that reduce battery life, so avoiding them is crucial.

“Excess range gives us the ability to make opportunistic charges,” Jackson explained. “There is no need to fully charge every vehicle every night. If you can reach 80% and reach your [delivery driving] requirements, this is a key factor for us.

Fleet operators like FedEx maximize their investment in vehicles by using them for as long as possible. So when they switch to electrified vehicles, it will be important to be gentle with their batteries for extended use. “We like to keep these vehicles for a long time,” Jackson said.

The cost of fueling and maintaining these vehicles is another critical issue for fleet operators like FedEx. Walmart plans to buy 5,000 of the 28-foot Zevo 600s, and Verizon Wireless plans to buy a fleet of 20-foot, 410-cubic-foot-capacity Zevo 410s. Total BrightDrop orders are now over 25,000, according to the company.

In addition to long life, low fuel and maintenance costs are important to these customers, and BrightDrop predicts annual savings of $7,000 for businesses using a Zevo 600 in place of a commercial van. conventional diesel engine. At least, that was the first conservative estimate. Based on recent increases in fuel prices, “we could see that double,” said BrightDrop chief revenue officer Steve Hornyak.

It’s not just fuel that costs less. “Electric vehicles are easier to maintain because they have far fewer moving parts,” Jackson observed.

Image courtesy of BrightDropBrightDrop-EV600-Walmart-101.jpg

Walmart has ordered 5,000 Zevo 600 vans.

BrightDrop’s challenge is to fulfill all of these orders. Currently, the company outsources assembly to Kuka Systems, which was critical to the company’s ability to deliver vans just 20 months after the product was announced. Later that year, mass production begins at GM’s CAMI assembly plant in Ontario, Canada.

The rapid production expansion was also made possible by BrightDrop’s use of the same GM Ultium drivetrain components as the GMC Hummer EV, Cadillac Lyriq and other upcoming GM electric vehicles. While the Hummer carries 24 battery modules with a total capacity of 205 kilowatt hours, the Zevo 600 has 20, giving the van a capacity of 170 kWh.

The Zevo 600 can fast charge DC at 120kW or for daily charging can charge at 11.5kW using a Level 2 AC charger. Its front and rear electric motors deliver 300 horsepower and 390 lb- ft. four-wheel torque. Behind the wheel, that power is delivered smoothly, without the sometimes abrupt torque jolt on start-up that causes even fuel-efficient EVs like the Nissan Leaf to swerve away from stoplights with an unintended tire chirp.

Indeed, BrightDrop team engineers specifically tuned the power delivery to mimic that of the 6.2-liter GM DuraMax V8 diesel used in trucks today. Drivers who are used to the response they get from their diesel trucks today will have exactly the same experience when they switch to electric power in the future.

The van is well thought out, with a low entry height of 15 inches compared to the typical 18-inch entrance as a greeting. The driver’s seat is elevated, naturally, with excellent vision through the expansive windshield and power-adjustable exterior mirrors.

Image courtesy of BrightDropFedEx-BrightDrop-GUINNESS-WR-101.jpg

As promised, the power delivery is linear, making it easy to pull off the pavement without incident and in silence. The steering is quite direct for a utility vehicle and the one-pedal steering that allows the van to start and stop quickly without having to use the brake pedal works efficiently.

Unlike many utility vehicles, the Zevo 600 benefits from the full range of GM standard safety features such as front and rear park assist, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, indicator distance monitoring, front pedestrian braking, lane keeping assist with lane departure warning, IntelliBeam Automatic High Beam and HD rear view camera. Additional optional features include Rear Cross Traffic Braking, Blind Zone Steering Assist, Reverse Auto Braking, HD Surround Vision, Rear Pedestrian Alert and Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking.

In addition to the driver’s side airbags, the Zevo 600 also has airbags for the right jump seat, where package delivery trucks often carry an assistant during peak periods like December.

On the road, there’s quite a bit of rattling coming from the door that separates the cockpit from the cargo hold, but professional drivers are probably used to that. Some of the welds on the aluminum bulkhead separating the two seemed less well executed, so hopefully the welders will improve with experience.

If that’s the main challenge BrightDrop has to overcome in the mass production rush in November, the company can consider it a job well done.