GM’s never been afraid to spin up (or down) a new brand, and to the surprise of many, it launched a new one mid-pandemic in 2021: BrightDrop. Aimed primarily at fleet customers, BrightDrop offers up a complete ecosystem of mobility solutions, including two electric step vans, a modular electric cart, and a whole suite of software to match the need of partner businesses. We had the chance to poke around and drive the brand’s first-ever vehicle, the 2022 BrightDrop Zevo 600, around the block, and here are a few things we learned about it and the company and the electric van.
BrightDrop Considers Itself a Software Company
Despite the fact that its currently churning out Ultium-based Zevo 600 electric vans for FedEx (and plans to start making deliveries to Walmart in the 2023 model year), BrightDrop says it considers itself a software company first, and a vehicle company second. As evidence of this, BrightDrop says it empowers fleet managers to geofence certain areas to limit speeds, allows for real-time battery and range status updates, provides over-the-air software updates, and more. It even says that the Zevo’s onboard infotainment system can replace the heavy handheld scanners that parcel delivery providers use.
Fast-Charge Capable (But Most Aren’t Using It)
The Zevo 600 in its current form sports a 165 kWh battery pack good for 250 miles of range. It’s capable of Level 3 fast charging at peak rates of up to 120 kW, good for adding 160 miles in an hour. However, BrightDrop says early reports from FedEx indicate that Level 3 charging is rarely used—instead the Zevos typically make it a day or two before needing an overnight recharge on a slower Level 2 charger.
You Can Buy One—If You’re Patient
Although BrightDrop is primarily focused on building Zevos for commercial customers, the company tells us there’s nothing stopping you from buying one from a BrightDrop dealership—provided you’re willing to wait a few years. BrightDrop is currently focused on building Zevo 600s for FedEx and, once GM’s CAMI plant is up and running, Walmart. By 2024, BrightDrop expects to be able to open up the order books for the Zevo 600 and Zevo 400—the latter of which is designed to fit in a standard parking spot—to others. The company has yet to publicly disclose pricing.
Easy to Drive
Despite its massive size, the 2022 Zevo 600 was easy to maneuver on our brief drive. Although officially a dual motor van making 300 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, ours was limited to about half that, utilizing its rear motor primarily for traction assist (remember what we said about BrightDrop being a software company?). Even so, our impressions bode well for upcoming single-motor front-drive versions—our empty Zevo 600 had plenty of off-the-line torque, allowed for one-pedal driving, and was surprisingly maneuverable for its size. The whole experience is remarkably carlike and comfortable compared to the old school (and significantly older) gas or diesel-powered step vans we’ve driven.
Cabin Deja Vu
If you’re familiar with any late model GM product, you’re sure to find lots of familiar parts in the Zevo’s cabin. The steering wheel is shared with trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado, the shifter is from the GMC Hummer EV Pickup, the instrument cluster from the Chevrolet Bolt, and the infotainment system from the GMC Yukon. With slide-away doors, most controls are on the dash to the left of the steering wheel, including power windows, lane keep assist, and power mirror adjustment. HVAC controls are just below the infotainment screen, and cupholders for the two-seat Zevo are spread throughout the cabin.
Though we just had a quick taste of the BrightDrop experience, we’re excited to spend more time behind the wheel of the electric van. Despite its quick launch, the Zevo joins an increasingly hot field—Rivian’s Amazon Prime van launched last year, and the smaller Ford E-Transit hit the streets just before the F-150 Lightning launch. Oshkosh’s NGDV is lurching towards its 2023 launch, while Mercedes-Benz and Ram both promise electric versions of the Sprinter and ProMaster, respectively, in the near future.
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