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GM's new e-pallets help couriers safely handle 25% more packages

Launched this week, BrightDrop is GM's new business unit for commercial electric vehicles, debuting with the EV600, an electric van with a range of 250 miles, and EP1, an electric pallet. Additional vehicles, including a rapid-loading van, will be added to create an integrated, low-emission delivery ecosystem.

The electric pallets will hit warehouses and streets early 2021, following a trial with FedEx that demonstrated a 25 percent increase in the number of packages that couriers were able to handle in a day. The units feature hub motors and speed can be adjusted to match an operator's walking pace.

E-pallets are a useful zero-emission addition to last-mile delivery and seem tailor-made for high-density urban areas. Their relatively small size limits the types of packages a unit can hold, but also makes them easy to maneuver on city sidewalks and in buildings. Besides helping move more packages, they should also lessen the physical strain on delivery people.

The battery-powered logistics market is highly competitive — in the past few years, Amazon signed a deal to buy 100,000 electric trucks from Rivian, and UPS ordered 10,000 purpose-built electric vans from UK startup Arrival — but there's also a huge potential for growth, as consumers keep ordering more online, and cities are increasingly concerned about urban air quality.