General Motors Begins Deliveries of First Electric Trucks, Hummer EV & BrightDrop EV600, Marking Major Turning Point for Automaker – FutureCar.com

Author: Eric Walz

Automaker General Motors was a pioneer in electric cars when they built the EV1 from 1996 to 1999. The EV1 was the first ever mass-produced electric vehicle from a major automaker long before Tesla was a household name. GM followed up the EV1 with the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt in 2010, which preceded the launch of the all-electric Bolt EV in 2016.

Now the automaker is about to begin its major transition to electric vehicles with the start of production and first deliveries of the Hummer EV Edition 1 pickup and EV600 commercial van from the automaker’s new logistics division Brightdrop. The two vehicles are the first electric trucks produced by GM in its history. Both vehicles will be built on the automaker’s new Ultium EV platform.

“This is the first chapter for Ultium – and for GM’s transition to a zero-emissions future,” said GM Chairman Mark Reuss. “Both commercial and residential customers will benefit from the EV experience, from exhilarating acceleration to low operating costs, versatility and the ability to adapt to sales. GM is ideally positioned to provide electric vehicles for every customer in every segment, retail or commercial.”

GM’s dedicated Utium EV architecture and propulsion system will be the foundation of GM’s all-electric future, as the company has bold plans to phase out production of gas-powered passenger vehicles by 2035.

GM says its new advanced EV architecture will position the company to better compete with Tesla, Rivian, Ford Motor Co and other legacy automakers introducing new all-electric models.

GM’s goal is to introduce 30 all-new electric cars globally by 2025, two-thirds of which will be available to customers in North America, and the Utium platform will be the core component of all the new battery-powered vehicles.

In June, GM announced it was increasing its investments in electrification and autonomous driving technology to $35 billion by 2025 as it plans for an all-electric future with dozens of new battery-powered models in the pipeline, many with autonomous driving capabilities. The Hummer EV and EV600 commercial van are just the beginning for GM as it begins its transformation into an electric vehicle company.

The updated plans also include accelerating production of Ultium battery cells in the US. The automaker is building two new battery cell manufacturing plants in the U.S. by mid-decade to complement the Ultium Cells LLC plants currently under construction in Tennessee and Ohio.

Ultium Cells LLC is a joint venture between GM and its battery partner, South Korea’s LG Energy Solutions. The two companies are investing nearly $5 billion in the new battery factories. Production at the Ohio plant is scheduled to begin in August 2022, while the Tennessee plant is slated to open in late 2023. GM is targeting at least 140 gigawatt-hours of battery cell manufacturing capacity in the U.S.

GM’s Utium EV platform will support a wide range of GM’s future EVs. It supports front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive battery-powered powertrains. The platform will enable GM to build everything from affordable crossovers and high-volume passenger cars to full-size pickups and SUVs, performance and commercial vehicles, the automaker said.

According to GM, all of its future Utium-powered EVs will offer competitive range and performance compared to simply adding an electric propulsion system to GM’s existing internal combustion vehicle platforms.

GM’s Utium platform significantly reduces component count and complexity. That will allow the automaker to build more cost-effective electric cars, which will help the company maintain its profit margins as it transitions to electrification. GM currently relies on sales of full-size trucks and electric cars as its main profit driver.

But the Ultium platform will allow the automaker to innovate with new vehicle designs in core areas like the interdependent body frame and battery structure of its all-new electric cars, which GM hopes will lure customers to its electric trucks and SUVs.

The HUMMER EV’s combined battery pack and body structure enable highly capable off-road performance, strong protection of the vehicle’s battery, which acts as a structural and stiffening part of the body, according to GM. The unique design provides enough stability to enable features like removable Infinity Roof panels that GM said would be difficult to achieve on a conventional ladder-frame pickup truck.

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The first BrightDrop commercial electric van was delivered to FedEx.

BrightDrop EV600

In addition to offering all-new electric passenger vehicles such as the new HUMMER EV, GM’s Ultium platform is helping GM grow its EV business in the commercial sector.

BrightDrop is a new technology startup from GM, focusing on electric commercial delivery and logistics for an all-electric future through products, starting with the EV600 light commercial vehicle.

The Ultium EV platform will be key to allowing BrightDrop to rapidly accelerate toward electrifying commercial trucks, while offering zero-emission vehicles to help fleet operators meet their sustainability goals.

BrightDrop is delivering its first EV600 to FedEx starting today, moving from concept to market introduction faster than any other GM vehicle in history, the company said.

GM builds its new Utium-based electric cars at its Detroit Hamtramck plant in Michigan. The factory was recently rebuilt to produce only electric cars and was renamed “Factory Zero” to align with GM’s corporate mission of a future world of “zero emissions, zero crashes” and zero congestion.” The factory is packed with advanced technology with focus on sustainable manufacturing GM invested $2.2 billion to transform the facility.

Factory Zero also represents a changing U.S. auto industry, as GM and rival Ford Motor Co. pivot from building internal combustion engine-powered vehicles to those powered by batteries.

“The electric trucks and SUVs that will be built here will help transform GM and the auto industry,” Gerald Johnson, GM’s vice president of Global Manufacturing, said in October 2020, when plans for its transformation were first announced.

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After the Hummer EV will come electric versions of the popular Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and the recently announced GMC Sierra Denali. The Silverado E will be unveiled at CES in Las Vegas early next month.

GM chairman Mark Reuss said at an investor event in October that electric versions of the Blazer SUV and Equinox crossover, along with another unnamed entry-level EV model, are also in development.

These new GM vehicles included a Chevy-branded SUV based on the Equinox, which could sell for just $30,000. The battery-powered Equinox will be GM’s mass-volume product, since then GM’s second best-selling model in the United States behind the Silverado pickup truck.

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