Does GM’s BrightDrop threaten ProMaster BEV?

While most automakers are using existing brands for electric vehicles, GM has taken created not one but two new brands—Hummer, which was brought back from the dead, and BrightDrop. Chevrolet is still making battery-electrics, too, including a forthcoming pickup with impressive specs and a dull name.

BrightDrop is GM’s new brand for electric light commercial vehicles, or eLCVs. Their first dealership will be in Fontana, California, near Los Angeles, and operated by the experienced Mike Caposio, who runs the largest Chevrolet dealership in California (Rotolo).  Mass production will start when the Ingersoll, Canada plant is converted over next year.

2021 Fiat e-Ducato

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Walmart has reserved 5,000 vans, and FedEx has ordered 500 so far, with the first deliveries taking place last month. Merchants Fleet ordered 18,000 of the vans. So far, BrightDrop has announced a small EV410 and a large EV600 (they are named after their cargo space in cubic feet). The EV410 seems to compete directly with Rivian commercial vans, huge quantities of which were pre-ordered by Amazon, while the EV600 goes up against the future ProMaster BEV. The EV410 has a 150 inch wheelbase and a 20 foot length to fit into standard parking spaces. They are based on the new Ultium battery platform, with a 250 mile range; GM claims fleet managers will save $7,000 per year versus a diesel van.

By comparison, the battery-electric Fiat E-Ducato has a range of 113 or 230 miles, depending on which battery is chosen (WLTP City standards, which are different from GM’s EPA measurement method). We bring up the E-Ducato because it is the basis for the future Ram ProMaster BEV. It comes in two wheelbases, 136 and 159 inches, with an extended length version of the 159 inch model. Lengths are 213, 236, and 250 inches—the long wheelbase model bracketing the EV410’s roughly 240 inches.

The payload is up to 1,885 kg. Capacities range from around 353 to 600 cubic feet, making it roughly the size of the GM truck in cargo space depending on how it’s optioned. The top speed is limited to 62 mph in Europe; it remains front wheel drive. The motor itself has 90 kW (121 hp) and 280 Nm (207 lb-ft) of torque. The van has won What Van? and DrivingElectric’s awards.

Moving forward, Ram and Fiat will find North America to be rather full of electric commercial vans; but each has different strengths and weaknesses, and production startup is likely to be slow for both GM and Rivian. In short, Ram has a fighting chance.