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GM unveils EV van as part of new commercial unit; FedEx first customer

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General Motors plans to launch a new all-electric van called the EV600 by the end of this year. The first 500 vehicles will be sold to FedEx.

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General Motors said Tuesday it plans to launch an all-electric van called the EV600 this year.

The van – part of GM’s plan to invest $27 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles by 2025 – will be the first vehicle under a new commercial business unit in GM called BrightDrop. The EV600 will be capable of up to 250 miles per charge, according to Pam Fletcher, vice president of global innovation, who will oversee the new division.

“The game changer about BrightDrop is that it’s a one-stop shop ecosystem,” Fletcher said. “End-to-end, BrightDrop could help with the deliveries fleets need.”

Fletcher declined to discuss pricing and other details, but she said BrightDrop products will be sold through a new independent sales and service network. She said GM has a full portfolio of electric products, not just vehicles, planned for BrightDrop.

The first 500 vans will go to FedEx beginning this year, Fletcher said. Broader availability of the vans is expected in early 2022. The EV600 is the first commercial vehicle with GM’s next-generation Ultium battery system, which the automaker has spent billions on as a base for future EVs.

The first product from GM’s BrightDrop will be the EP1, will be a propulsion-assisted, electric pallet developed to easily move goods over short distances – for example, from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s front door.

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The commercial market is expected to be a major growth area for EVs. Other start-up automakers like Amazon-backed Rivian as well as legacy automakers such as Ford Motor and Daimler have announced plans to enter the segment. GM estimates the combined market opportunity for parcel, food delivery and reverse logistics in the U.S. will be more than $850 billion by 2025.

The EV600 will be the second product under the new BrightDrop brand. The first will be a propulsion-assisted, electric pallet called the EP1, Fletcher said. It was developed to easily move goods over short distances — for example, from the delivery vehicle to the customer’s front door. It’s expected to go on sale early this year, Fletcher said.

“The interest for these products have been tremendous,” Fletcher said. A pilot program of the pallets with FedEx last year found drivers were able to deliver 25% more packages per day, she said. The pallets, like all of the company’s products, will be electric and will feature connectivity and tracking features for logistical purposes.

BrightDrop CEO Travis Katz, who joined the automaker this month from venture capital firm Redpoint Ventures, said the company’s mission is to develop a new line of “intelligent, connected products and services” aimed at assisting commercial companies improve efficiency and employee safety.

The first vehicle from GM’s BrightDrop will be the EV600 — an electric light commercial vehicle purpose-built for the delivery of goods and services with up to 250 miles in range per charge.

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From autos to agriculture, top executives hail sustainable tech

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From the invention of the wheel to the advent of the steam train and development of smartphones, humans have been creating new technologies for thousands of years.

Our hunger for innovation has transformed society and turbocharged economies. Now, as concerns about the environment mount, new ideas and innovations could have a big role to play when it comes to creating a more sustainable planet.     

At a recent panel discussion moderated by CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick, ex-Unilever CEO Paul Polman touched upon the subject, referring to the Paris Agreement on climate change in the process.

“One of the reasons we’re moderately optimistic that we can achieve the one and a half (degrees Celsius) … warming target and be net zero by 2050 is obviously technology,” he said. “And this is where the private sector comes in.”

The automotive industry is one area where technology and concerns about the environment have driven change in recent years.

Today, major players such as Daimler, Nissan and Volkswagen are ramping up their electric vehicle offerings in a bid to compete with Elon Musk’s Tesla.

At the political level, a number of governments around the world have pledged to ban the sale of new diesel and gasoline vehicles by the end of the decade.

During the discussion Polman, who’s the co-founder and chair of the social venture Imagine, went on to highlight the pace of change taking place.

“We thought the tipping points for electric vehicles would also be 2050 — we now think that the tipping point is 2024,” he said.

“We’re very close to obsoleting the combustion engine,” he added. “Many countries (are) already making agreements to go out of the combustion engine by 2030, 2035, and most of the major car companies have done the same thing.”

Food production is another industry where digital innovations and technologies are helping businesses find value and conduct operations in smart, sustainable ways.

Last year Polman’s former company, Unilever, announced it would partner with Google Cloud to “use satellite photos to help monitor the ecosystems connected to our raw materials.” The collaboration would initially focus on palm oil, Unilever said.   

“Thanks to technology … like Google Earth, we’re now able to match, (to) … the square meter, concessions that are given to … palm oil plantations with deforestation or with fires,” Polman explained.

Armed with this kind of knowledge, firms are able remove such plantations from their value chain, he added. “That’s a verification or a compliance measure, that is enormous.”

Changing attitudes, hope for the future

It’s clear that technology has an important role to play when it comes to meeting ambitious goals connected to the environment.

But ideas about sustainability rely heavily on financial backing and on major companies — as well as their shareholders — having the will to take steps to alter how things are run. 

In recent years, ideas around ESG — which stands for environmental, social and corporate governance — have started to gain traction at some of the world’s biggest companies.

Earlier on in the panel Jan du Plessis, the chairman of British telecommunications company BT, articulated how much things have changed.

“I have been — either as an executive or as a chairman — dealing with public equity investors in the City of London for more than 30 years,” he said.

“Now, 30 years ago, the idea that they might ask you, when you do these investor visits, about climate change and ESG, it would have been unthinkable,” he added. 

“Twenty years ago, it would not have happened, 10 years ago, they started talking about it but frankly … you could you sense they feel, ‘well, it’s something I should ask about,’ but actually, they’re not interested in the answer.”

“Even five years ago, when they gave more airtime to asking about ESG and climate … you knew full well, they’re going through the motions. That has changed, big time, in the space of 12 to 18 months.”

Du Plessis went on to state he was “extremely optimistic” about what was now going on.

“The end investors, the end providers of wealth, young people, wealthy people, pension funds, are insisting that their fund managers invest in companies with credibility in the climate space,” he said.

“And so the fund managers — surprise, surprise — are hammering companies on their climate agenda.”


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Hero Electric to convert Shree Maruti Courier’s fleet across 5 cities to electric scooters

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Electric two-wheeler maker, Hero Electric on Thursday said it has partnered with Ahmedabad-based Shree Maruti Courier Services Pvt Ltd to convert the latter’s fleet across five cities to electric scooters.

The partnership is part of a pilot project by the logistics firm across Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Chennai and is aimed at initiating a novel concept of creating a green energy supply chain, the company said in a statement.

Shree Maruti Courier Services plans to expand this service to 20 cities and add more than 500 E-bikes in future.

“It has been our endeavor to partner with more and more businesses to convert their fleets into electric two-wheelers. We are happy to have partnered with Shree Maruti Couriers, who are among the largest in our country to create this green corridor with our bikes,” Hero Electric CEO Sohinder Gill said.

Stating that Hero Electric’s new Nyx-HX series is flexible, modular and versatile to answer most of the needs of customers, he said the company will be able to offer longer mileage ranging from 82km per charge to an 210km per charge to address the last mile deliveries.

Shree Maruti Courier Services Pvt Ltd Managing Director Ajay Mokariya said the company has launched a pilot project in the five cities in India and the response for the same has been very encouraging.

“The courier and logistics industry are very price sensitive and fuel cost is an essential element in our business. With the E-bike adoption, we would be able to reduce the fuel cost significantly, contribute to reducing carbon footprints, and provide competitive services compared to the traditional delivery tools,” he added.

Mokariya further said, “this model seems more sustainable and cost-efficient for us and we are planning to roll-out the same in multiple cities in a coming time.”

Shree Maruti Courier Services has a nationwide network of over 2,650 outlets and round the clock working at 89 regional offices across India. It handles around 2.5 lakh courier and consignments a day through air and surface transport routes.


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Tata Altroz Sales: Tata Altroz crosses 50,000-sales milestone |

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NEW DELHI: Tata Altroz crossed the 50,000-sales milestone, revealed a company official on the sidelines of the Tata Safari unveil.
According to the input, the Tata Altroz had already achieved the feat on its first-year anniversary when the Tata Altroz iTurbo was unveiled.

In CY2020, the Tata Altroz managed to retail a total of 47,076 units and the remainder to reach the milestone was achieved in the first month of 2021. According to the data, 44,427 units sold out of the total figure were petrol variants and diesel variants accounted for 2,649 units.
The hot hatch which takes on the likes of the Hyundai i20, Volkswagen Polo, Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Toyota Glanza, managed to retail an average of around 4,000 units every month.
The recently-launched Tata Altroz iTurbo is expected to further accelerate the model’s sales by up to 10%. During the unveiling of the model, the automaker also revealed that its market share in the hatchback category had increased by 5.4% and Tata Motors currently enjoys a 17% market share in the premium hatchback segment.

The Tata Altroz iTurbo expands the existing line-up and the model now offers a total of 3 engine options becoming the only other car apart from Hyundai i20 to do so in the segment.


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