BrightDrop electric vans, the best is yet to come. Interview with Chief Revenue Officer Steve Hornyak
«In just one year since our public debut, we brought our first electric light commercial vehicle from concept to commercialization in just 20 months (the fastest in GM’s history), revealed cutting-edge logistics software, expanded testing of our revolutionary electric delivery carts, and announced leading Fortune 500 companies including Walmart, FedEx Express and Verizon as customers», told us Steve Hornyak.
BrightDrop electric vans are a huge addition to the current scenario of electric commercial vehicles. As a brand belonging to the General Motors group, in only one year (they started their activity at the very beginning of 2021) BrightDrop managed to get some remarkable achievements in terms of design and production of new vehicles, as well as orders from major customers in the U.S. Curious about what’s going to happen in the future – from possible new van models to the interest in further markets worldwide – we made some questions to Steve Hornyak, BrightDrop’s Chief Revenue Officer.
First birthday for BrightDrop electric vans
BrightDrop has just celebrated its first birthday. Looking back at the past year, what’s your opinion on what’s been done so far? Have you been able to achieve the initial targets?
«Absolutely, it’s been a game-changing first 12 months for BrightDrop. Last January, we set out on a journey to pioneer innovative solutions as we race to decarbonize last-mile deliveries and towards an all-electric future, and we’ve made quite the progress.
In just one year since our public debut, we brought our first electric light commercial vehicle from concept to commercialization in just 20 months (the fastest in GM’s history), revealed cutting-edge logistics software, expanded testing of our revolutionary electric delivery carts, and announced leading Fortune 500 companies including Walmart, FedEx Express and Verizon as customers.
The momentum from our first year shows we remain squarely focused on delivering for our customers, and our unique setup allows us to do just that. We are leveraging GM’s many decades of manufacturing expertise, coupled with our speed and agility as a startup, to help ensure that the products we create get to market fast with the quality and longevity you would expect from a GM vehicle.
We don’t have any further BrightDrop products to share at this time, but I can confirm that the EV600 and the EV410 are just the beginning, and we expect to offer an array of vehicles and products designed to meet the needs of different customersSteve Hornyak, BrightDrop’s Chief Revenue Officer
Despite the global supply chain delays and shortages, the EV600 was «the fastest built vehicle, from concept to commercialization, in General Motors’ history», as underlined in the press releases. How was it possible to achieve this result? Is there a new design and manufacturing concept compared to traditional commercial vehicles?
«What we’re doing on the manufacturing side is incredibly innovative and unique to traditional processes. This is where having the backing and integration with GM brings so much to the table. We were able to leverage existing assets and platforms, including the advances in battery technology and the Ultium battery platform, and marry that with a nimble startup mindset, like a two-step manufacturing approach. What I mean by that is that we’re actually building these vehicles in low volume while we develop and refine the tooling that will be used for our large-scale production. This is what helped us to get these vehicles in the hands of our first customer and running in record time».
Holistic approach to last-mile emissions challenge
If you had to pick just one, what is the most outstanding innovation in the whole BrightDrop concept as of electric vans?
«For us, it’s our holistic approach to addressing the last-mile emissions and congestion challenge. We don’t believe the solution to last-mile challenges is one-size-fits-all, and we also don’t believe it’s just adding more vehicles to the road. At the same time, we want to make the transition to an all-electric future as seamless as possible for our customers, and in doing so are providing products and services for nearly every aspect of a delivery journey. That’s why we’re approaching this very differently by offering a holistic solution set designed to help decarbonize last-mile delivery and reduce congestion in our streets. We aren’t just developing EVs, or just a software platform. We are providing an entire ecosystem of hardware and software solutions designed to help fleets lower costs, maximize productivity and improve safety.
If you look at the cost of delivering a package today, only 15% of that cost is related to the vehicle. The other 85% is the opportunity we are targeting with the broader ecosystem. With our backing of GM, we think the EVs are the easy part to understand and we view them as the platform around which we’re building everything else. The real value unlock for a company is in everything else – and that’s where BrightDrop’s holistic ecosystem approach differentiates itself».
Merchants Fleet, FedEx, Walmart. Some very big US-based big groups have already place relevant orders. Is BrightDrop planning to cross the Atlantic Ocean and approach the European market?
«The rise in ecommerce is not just a U.S. phenomenon, it’s a challenge impacting the entire world. While we do not have any current expansion plans to share, we recently announced a collaborative initiative with the Emirates Post Group (EPG) to explore opportunities around sustainable delivery and logistics transportation and services in the UAE. In addition, GM recently appointed Mahmoud Samara to lead a non-traditional start-up in Europe, leveraging GM’s global strategy to transform current operations, identify entrepreneurial opportunities to commercialize global growth strategy investments in that region.
We are focused on ramping up our North American operations to support our customers’ needs in their priority markets, however both of these moves enable the possibility to explore potential collaborations in the future, and we will continue to monitor and consider other locations based on a number of factors including customer needs, market opportunity, infrastructure and government support».
A roadmap for the near future
What is the roadmap in view of the beginning of mass production for both the EV600 and the EV410 van models? Where will the vehicles be manufactured?
«Initial production of our EV600s is already underway at a U.S. supplier partner, and full production at GM’s CAMI facility is expected to begin late 2022. In December 2021, we delivered our first EV600s to FedEx Express and will continue delivering vehicles on a rolling basis as we scale production in 2022. The EV600 was produced in record time of just 20 months from concept to commercialization, making it the fastest vehicle ever produced in GM’s history. With delivery companies announcing pledges to go all electric, we see strong growth opportunities in the commercial fleet business in 2022 and beyond».
Is BrightDrop planning any new model or van size, in addition to the EV600 and the EV410?
«We don’t have any further BrightDrop products to share at this time, but I can confirm that the EV600 and the EV410 are just the beginning, and we expect to offer an array of vehicles and products designed to meet the needs of different customers».
We want to make the transition to an all-electric future as seamless as possible for our customers, and in doing so are providing products and services for nearly every aspect of a delivery journeySteve Hornyak, BrightDrop’s Chief Revenue Officer
Has BrightDrop signed any agreement with some charging infrastructure provider? Are you giving any advice on infrastructure to customers who are turning to electric vehicles?
«BrightDrop, along with trusted industry resources we can connect customers with, can assist customers in modeling their fleet and charging needs as well as the design, installation, and maintenance of their charging infrastructure. Last year, BrightDrop and GM announced Ultium Charge 360, a new fleet charging service connecting fleet customers to services, resources and access to preferred charging providers. Designed to accelerate the adoption of fleet electrification, UC360 provides BrightDrop customers access to four depot infrastructure providers as well as expanded access to home and public charging, providing fleet owners the flexibility to choose a charging solution that best suits their needs».
The EP1 electric cart
Which are the targets for 2022? What are you planning to achieve in another year’s time?
In addition to our electric vehicles, we’re focused on bringing our solutions that go beyond the vehicle to market, including our software platform and EP1 electric cart.
Our EP1 is an electric cart developed to transport goods over short distances – for example, from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s front door. If you think about the last mile of delivery in major urban centers today, you often see delivery trucks double parked, idling and blocking bike lanes, and couriers carrying heavy loads while making multiple trips to and from the vehicle to deliver packages to their final destination. Equipped with propulsion-assistance which allows couriers to move heavier loads, our EP1 is designed to not only reduce the number of trips, but also help reduce package touch points, operational costs, and physical strain on the labor force. And it’s proven to be effective. In our first pilot, FedEx Express couriers were able to safely and effectively handle 25% more packages per day with the EP1s. In another pilot, the integration of BrightDrop’s EP1 allowed couriers to increase package deliveries by 15 percent per hour, remove one on-road vehicle from the delivery route and cut delivery vehicle curbside dwell time in half, when used on routes in a high-density, vertical urban environment – all while reducing physical strain on couriers.
At CES 2022 just last month, FedEx announced their plans to expand its testing of our EP1s to 10 markets beginning this year. We believe this is truly just the beginning for our solutions that go beyond the vehicle, and we remain bullish on the EP1 as a growth driver for the company».