General Motors Co. is doubling down on its push into electric vehicles with new luxury and commercial models designed to tap what it expects will be fast-growing demand for battery-powered transportation.
The automaker said it’s creating a wholly owned company called BrightDrop that not only supplies battery-powered vans but also offers fleet-management services. GM also previewed several upscale models for well-heeled retail buyers.
“Global EV market penetration stands at around 3 per cent,” Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive officer, said in a Tuesday speech at CES, which used to be called the Consumer Electronics Show. “We believe that is all about to change.”
GM has sought to align itself with a move into EVs that has excited Wall Street analysts and led investors in recent months to make huge bets on next-generation automotive technology ranging from lasers for self-driving cars to electric-vehicle startups.
The company’s shares pared a gain of as much as 8.8 per cent -- an intraday record -- to trade up 6.4 per cent to US$47.89 as of 2:15 p.m. in New York.
Showcasing EV Concepts
GM showed two futuristic Cadillac EV concepts and gave a peek at multiple vehicles from other brands in its CES presentation, including a red Chevrolet battery-powered pickup that is more of a work truck than the electric Hummer that goes on sale later this year.
These models are part of the carmaker’s pledge to spend US$27 billion on battery-electric and self-driving vehicles and to roll out 30 electric models globally by the end of 2025. GM even updated its corporate logo last week for the first time in almost six decades to better reflect its new focus on electrification.
The commercial-fleet business is the latest salvo in Barra’s efforts to accelerate GM’s development and deployment of electric powertrains. She told CES the world has hit an inflection point and the time is right for buyers to switch to electrics.
BrightDrop -- whose customers will include FedEx Corp. -- plans to sell electric pallet movers this year and an electric cargo van next year, GM said in a statement.
“We believe in an all-electric future, and we think it will take more than electrification of our consumer vehicles to get there,” Pam Fletcher, the company’s chief innovation officer, told reporters.
In addition to the Fedex deal, GM has letters of intent from many other shipping companies, Fletcher said.
US$850 Billion Market
BrightDrop will offer software and services to enable fleet customers to track goods and vehicles and also plan shipping routes. GM estimates the market for delivery of food and packages and related logistics in the U.S. could be as big as US$850 billion by 2025.
Sales of an enclosed cargo pallet known as EP1 and capable of carrying 200 pounds of goods will begin this quarter. GM said the vehicle can be used to move items around a warehouse or from a truck to the front door of a package recipient.
Early next year the automaker plans to launch the electric van, which can travel as far as 250 miles on a single charge and will be dubbed the EV600 -- a play on the vehicle’s 600 cubic feet of cargo space.
The van is bigger than Ford Motor Co.’s planned E-Transit and has twice the range, said Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid.
The new business unit will be led by Travis Katz, who came from online travel company Skyscanner and before that, Trip.com, where he was CEO and co-founder.
A Bigger Bolt
During GM’s CES presentation, Mike Simcoe, head of global design, previewed the two space-age concepts from Cadillac. One is a small self-driving, vertical-takeoff aircraft that runs on electric power and the other is an urban shuttle that resembles a living room on wheels. Like the EP1 and EV600, both also would run on the automaker’s own Ultium battery pack. GM did not say if it will build either one.
Simcoe said GM will start selling a more practical and freshened Chevy Bolt EV compact hatuchback and a slightly larger version of the model -- called the Bolt EUV -- this summer. He also said the automaker will add three new plug-in SUVs to its Buick lineup in China.
GM’s design team also showed off the Celestiq, an ultra-luxury battery-powered car. It will have a glass roof with four panels that allows each passenger select a different level of shading from outside light.