GM’s BrightDrop to launch second electric van, secures Verizon as first customer

DETROIT — BrightDrop, General Motors’ electric delivery van brand, will launch its second vehicle in 2023, with Verizon as the first customer.

The EV410, a midsize delivery van designed for small, frequent trips, will join the larger EV600 van at GM’s CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. Like the EV600, it will have a GM-estimated 250 miles of range on a full charge.

BrightDrop will complete the first EV600 production builds for FedEx Express this year, the company said in a statement Tuesday. The build timeline was the fastest vehicle program in GM’s history, BrightDrop said.

“This is a strong statement to the market of how our unique operations setup, which marries the cutting-edge innovation, agility and focus of a technology startup with the scale and manufacturing might of a major automaker, can deliver real value to both customers and the planet,” Travis Katz, BrightDrop CEO, said in the statement.

The EV410 has 410 cubic feet of cargo area; a shorter wheelbase than the EV600, at about 150 inches; and a length of about 20 feet.

The midsize van can fit into a standard parking space, which is key for reducing congestion in urban areas, BrightDrop said.

The van was designed for faster, smaller payloads, such as grocery deliveries, or as a service vehicle for companies such as Verizon, which has set a goal for net-zero operational emissions by 2035.

“Mainstream EV adoption by businesses will require the largest fleet operators to work together with innovators like BrightDrop in the development of vehicles that meet the particular needs of our business,” Ken Jack, vice president of Fleet Operations for Verizon, said in the statement.

BrightDrop would not disclose the size of Verizon’s order.

The 20-month EV600 development timeline was driven by GM’s Ultium battery platform, virtual development processes established by the GMC Hummer EV program and an adjusted approach to manufacturing development.

BrightDrop partnered with supplier Kuka in Livonia, Mich., for the initial low-volume production of the EV600 while GM retools CAMI. The Canada plant will begin building the EV600 in November 2022.

GM estimates that fleet managers can save $7,000 annually by going electric with the EV600 compared with similar diesel-powered offerings.

“As e-commerce demand continues to increase and the effects of climate change are felt like never before across the globe, it’s imperative that we move quickly to reduce harmful emissions,” Katz said.

This year, FedEx Express has ordered at least 500 EV600s, and Merchants Fleet ordered 12,600 of them.

BrightDrop has also developed the EP1, a pallet that was designed to reduce package touch points, costs and physical strain on delivery drivers.

GM to revamp customer experience with Ultifi platform in 2023

DETROIT — General Motors plans to launch Ultifi, an in-vehicle customer experience platform, in 2023, aiming to make its vehicles smarter and more personalized, the automaker said Wednesday.

The platform is a critical part of GM’s plan to develop a wider profit net through technology and software and subscription-based services that extend beyond the vehicle purchase. GM and other traditional automakers could boost their revenue as much as 30 to 40 percent with service businesses in the next five to 10 years, analysts told Automotive News in March.

“Today, cars are enabled by software. With Ultifi, they are going to be defined by it,” Scott Miller, GM vice president, software-defined vehicle, told reporters Wednesday.

Ultifi will deliver features, apps and services to customers via over-the-air updates. The system builds on GM’s electric vehicle architecture, called the Vehicle Intelligence Platform. It will be available on new electric and gasoline-powered vehicles.

Customers will receive regular enhancements to their vehicles, similar to smartphone updates, and will be able to choose specific upgrades, personalization options and new apps.

“GM has decades of experience writing vehicle software, creating a solid foundation to build on,” Mark Reuss, GM president, said in a statement. “Now with Ultifi, we will be able to improve our software continuously, and deliver new features and apps to customers in a fraction of the time.”

GM announced the software platform last year, saying it would combine the purchase, onboarding and ownership experience. The platform has evolved since then with a stronger focus on technology, connectivity and personalization, a spokesman told Automotive News.

The automaker will continue to improve the Ultifi technology for new use cases. For example, in the future, internal cameras could be used for facial recognition to start the vehicle. The vehicle could also close the sunroof in a parked car if rain is in the forecast or automatically turn on child locks when children are sensed in the back seats.

The connectivity could also improve vehicle communication with other connected devices and infrastructure, alerting drivers to hazards or changing road conditions, such as ice, GM said.

“The safety parts of this are profound,” Miller said.

Preview: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2-row debuts with 4xe plug-in hybrid, V-8 options

Preview: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2-row debuts with 4xe plug-in hybrid, V-8 options

Jeep kicked off the arrival of its redesigned Grand Cherokee earlier this year by launching a new three-row variant dubbed the Grand Cherokee L. It’s already at dealerships and is priced to start at $38,690, including destination.

The regular two-row version of the redesigned Grand Cherokee was revealed on Wednesday, and is due to reach dealerships toward the end of the year. There aren’t many differences to the Grand Cherokee L but there is a new plug-in hybrid powertrain that carries Jeep’s 4xe (four-by-e) designation first seen on the Wrangler.

The Grand Cherokee 4xe features the same setup as the Wrangler 4xe. It consists of a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 and a pair of motor generators, one replacing the engine starter motor and the other integrated with the transmission, in this case an 8-speed automatic. Peak output is 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, and a 17-kilowatt-hour battery is said to be good for about 25 miles of electric range.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Towing capacity for the Grand Cherokee 4xe is 6,000 pounds. If you’re seeking more, a 5.7-liter V-8 is available. This powertrain is good for 357 hp and 390 lb-ft and has a towing capacity of 7,200 pounds. The final powertrain option is a 293-hp 3.6-liter V-6 which can be configured with rear- or four-wheel drive, unlike the plug-in hybrid and V-8 setups which are four-wheel drive only.

The other big news is the return of the Trailhawk off-road grade, which can be ordered with the plug-in hybrid powertrain. It comes standard with 18-inch wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires, along with steel skid plates, an integrated off-road camera, the Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive system, and an air suspension able to provide up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance for improved approach, departure and breakover angles. Water fording is also up to 24 inches. The real trick is a new sway bar disconnect feature to allow for improved wheel articulation for all you rock-crawling folks. Finally, there’s Jeep’s Selec-Speed Control for managing vehicle speed in 4LO.

The interior design of the 2022 Grand Cherokee is a match with the Grand Cherokee L, though naturally there’s only two rows here. Jeep really stepped up the quality of the interior for the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee, even for the base Laredo grade. We’re talking an 8-way power-adjustable driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep said the 2022 Grand Cherokee will reach dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2021. The 4xe won’t arrive until early 2022, though. Pricing information will be announced closer to the market launch.

Jeep is also yet to confirm whether the 4xe option will be offered in the Grand Cherokee L, but the move is likely given the two Grand Cherokee variants are twins under the skin. Jeep is also quite serious about electrification and is even establishing its own charging stations at trailheads.

Jeep also promises to deliver a zero-emission vehicle in every segment it competes in by as early as 2025. This will be made possible thanks to four highly flexible battery-electric platforms being developed by Stellantis. The platforms are the STLA Small, STLA Medium, STLA Large, and STLA Frame, and they will offer range figures starting at 300 miles and going all the way up to 500 miles.

For more on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, read the in-depth reviews at The Car Connection.

The 2021 Toyota Mirai Is A Luxurious Step Up From Its Predecessor

The 2021 Toyota Mirai Is A Luxurious Step Up From Its Predecessor

While the world seems to be moving en-mass to BEVs, Mat Watson of Carwow takes a look at the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Toyota Mirai to see what it has to offer.

Firstly, it is a huge step forward from its predecessor in terms of its looks and gets an upgrade in platform too. The new Mirai is based on the GA-L platform also used by the Lexus LS as opposed to the outgoing car’s Prius-derived underpinnings. With a remarkably luxurious-looking front end, its back end is designed to complement modern aesthetics, and the side profile boasts a coupe-like silhouette with arch-filling 20-inch alloy wheels.

It doesn’t come cheap, though. The base model costs £50,000 ($68,000 converted), while the range-topping version costs £65,000 ($89,000). While it’s cheaper than its predecessor, the Mirai is in the ballpark of EV competitors such as the Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC.

The Mirai generates electricity using a hydrogen fuel cell and its output is rated at 182 hp and 300 Nm of torque. According to Toyota, filling up its 5.6 kg hydrogen tank gives 400 miles (640 km) of range. The only byproduct of this engine is water, which drains from an outlet beneath the car when it’s stopped.

Watch: James May’s Verdict On His Own Toyota Mirai

While the Mirai is decidedly not intended for speed demons, Watson managed to get a 7.8-second 0–60 mph (0–96 km/h) time — quicker than Toyota’s claim of 9.0 seconds.

The interior has comfortable electric leather seats, an electrically adjustable steering column, wireless charging, and digital displays, among other amenities. The back seats are spacious enough for six-footers, and it offers 321 liters of boot capacity. The two-stage particulate air purification system, cameras that produce a layout of the car’s surroundings on the central display, and noise-canceling speakers on the rear doors are just a handful of the standout features of the Mirai. However, its regenerative braking system might cause the braking response to feel inconsistent.

Because it lacks hefty battery packs, the Mirai is lighter than its rival EVs, weighing in at 1900 kg. As a result, unlike other electric cars with rigid suspension, the Mirai’s setup ensures a soft and comfortable ride even over bumps and potholes. Putting your foot down gives a slight whine from the fuel cell, which Watson refers to as the “supercharger whine of the future.” Also, because the drive comes from the rear wheels, the Mirai pushes you through the twisties, allowing you to have a bit of mildly restrained fun.

There’s a big “but,” though. The biggest catch of owning a Mirai is the absence of hydrogen infrastructure. With only 11 hydrogen filling stations in the UK, owners of hydrogen-powered cars will likely find it challenging to put their vehicles to practical use.

Remember BMW’s titling electric trike concept? An e-bike company is actually building it

Remember BMW’s titling electric trike concept? An e-bike company is actually building it

Earlier this summer, BMW unveiled an interesting electric cargo bike known as the Dynamic Cargo Concept. It used a three-wheeler platform and novel tilting mechanism to make a more stable e-cargo trike.

BMW said at the time that it had no plans to produce the design, but instead was seeking a partner to commercialize the concept. Fast forward several months and it appears BMW has found that partner in German bicycle company Cube.

Cube announced this month that they have licensed the design from BMW and the bike company is now showing off its version of the tilting electric cargo trike.

BMW’s original design featured a larger front wheel and two smaller rear wheels placed on either side of a modular rear cargo area. Typical bicycle-style pedals engaged the electric motor to provide powered assistance.

The cargo area was designed to accommodate different cargo attachments for carrying various items, from packages to children.

While most delta trikes (tricycles with the two wheels at the rear instead of the front) suffer from instability in turns, BMW designed the Dynamic Cargo to lean into turns. The frame pivots just forward of the rear wheels and cargo section, meaning the rider and front-wheel can lean into turns like a conventional bicycle.

Cube took that idea and ran with it, turning BMW’s renderings into a real life e-bike… errr, e-trike.

The titling design is key to the e-trike’s innovation and offers huge stability gains for the rider.

There’s a limit to just how fast a typical rigid delta tricycle can take a turn, or how sharply it can turn even at lower speeds. That’s a fact that is known to anyone who has ever taken a turn too fast on a typical tricycle and felt like they were going to be thrown off the side – or worse, felt that inside wheel lifting up.

BMW and Cube think that the Dynamic Cargo concept e-trike solves that issue for good, explaining:

“Innovative design allows the front of the Concept Dynamic Cargo to lean naturally through corners while the rear, cargo-carrying part remains upright. The result is a natural ride feel, easy handling, super stability and a smooth ride for whatever you’re carrying.”

The rear of the trike is also designed to accomodate a number of various utility-oriented tasks.

Grocery shopping is often one of the key considerations for cargo bikes, offering an alternative to a car trunk for trips to the local market. But kid carriers and other cargo requirements are equally important to many riders, and Cube shows off how the rear cargo bed can be converted for a variety of different cargo tasks.

Junior sitting in back may not get the benefit of the leaning mechanism, since the cargo remains firmly untiling, but at least the lower center of gravity of the rear cargo means it can corner at higher speeds than the upright-seated meat pilot upfront.

When can you get your hands on one of Cube’s tiling e-trikes? The answer is unclear.

Cube is still referring to the e-trike as a concept and hasn’t announced when it may see production. But the wording on Cube’s site says, “This is a concept bike whose serial production is not yet complete,” which sounds like they’re heading in that direction.

There’s also no word on pricing yet, but don’t expect it to be in the budget column. Neither BMW nor Cube are known for low-cost vehicles, so we don’t expect this new ride to be any different.

Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe to the podcast.