Home » Brightdrop Zevo 600: GM’s Electric Delivery Van Proves That The Future Is Cooler Than We Ever Imagined

Brightdrop Zevo 600: GM’s Electric Delivery Van Proves That The Future Is Cooler Than We Ever Imagined

Gm Big Move
ADVERTISEMENT

I’m calling it right now: The BrightDrop Zevo 600 is the most exciting vehicle I’ve driven all year. More exciting than the Hyundai Ioniq 6, more exciting than the 2024 Ford Mustang GT, and more exciting than something I bought with my own money last week.

This is despite most people having never heard of BrightDrop, and the fact that the everyday person won’t be able to walk into a showroom and buy one for themselves. However, this isn’t some sort of sold-out seven-figure exotic machine forged by artisans out of pure unobtanium. Its acceleration figures, grip figures, and Nürburgring time simply don’t matter. Not that anyone would attempt a ‘Ring time in this astonishing slab of machinery. (Editor’s Note: Well, now I want to. —PG) Instead, the BrightDrop Zevo 600 might soon be at your doorstep, dropping off parcels—if you’re lucky enough to live near where the first deliveries have taken place, it may have already done just that.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

When I was invited by a friend to drive a BrightDrop Zevo 600, how could I say no? This wasn’t a media event per se, as evidenced by the leagues of upfitters and fleet managers in attendance. However, an event is an event, and a vehicle like this felt too important to miss. So sit down, pour yourself a beverage, and get ready to learn a bit about an electric delivery vehicle you never knew you wanted.

Can Someone Tell Me What A BrightDrop Is?

Img 2323

Certainly, General Motors has always been a company of diverse products, and BrightDrop is its crack at the electric commercial vehicle market—specifically targeting last-mile delivery, which means the final step of a parcel’s journey to your doorstep. Like Cruise on the robo-taxi side, GM sees some real potential in delivering goods in a zero-emission fashion, which will be just as crucial to combatting climate change as passenger cars.

ADVERTISEMENT

In addition to offering automated warehouse carts, BrightDrop dropped a van line as intriguing as it is pioneering. Fitted with GM’s Ultium modular battery packs and built at the same CAMI plant that once assembled Geo Metros, the BrightDrop vans (the smaller 400 and larger 600) are looking to shake up the last-mile delivery arena.

FedEx is already trialing the vans, with the first 150 delivered in June of 2022. Right now, customers include Ryder, Purolator, Hertz, Walmart, DHL Express, and American Tire Distributors, with thousands of vans planned to roll out of CAMI in the next few years.

The Inside View

Img 2333

Let’s start inside the most important part of the BrightDrop vans: The cargo area. Unsurprisingly, both of the BrightDrop vans are positively commodious, affording genuine walk-in height for reasonably tall people and plenty of wall space for shelving.

You could carry an awful lot of car parts, clothing, electronics, and whatever people are shopping online for in the back of one of these babies, up to 615 cu.-ft. in the Zevo 600. The cargo area of the Zevo 400 is pictured above, so just know that things get nearly 50 percent bigger than that.

ADVERTISEMENT

BrightDrop Zevo 600 dashboard

All the modern driver assistance systems imaginable are on deck, from automatic emergency braking to a handy 360-degree camera system. GM’s latest infotainment system is here, too, the same one you’ll see in vehicles like the Chevrolet Trax and GMC Canyon.

However, beyond all the driving and connectivity gadgets and gizmos, there’s a small set of features delivery drivers are sure to be particularly stoked for.

Img 2357

It’s long been said that GM starts with an air conditioning system and then builds a car around it, and that truly feels the case here. Not only is the Zevo 600’s climate control immediate, it’s unexpectedly strong for a commercial vehicle, and that’s before we get to creature comforts like a heated driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, and heated mirrors. It’s a stark contrast from the often non-air-conditioned cabins of traditional delivery vehicles, and it should reduce driver fatigue, which could increase safety and well-being.

ADVERTISEMENT

Img 2356

Beyond climate-focused creature comforts, the interior of this van is clearly well thought-out. There’s a cupholder atop the dashboard on the left of the steering wheel for a morning cup of joe, a set of bright red seatbelts for easier location, amazing dual-folding visors for blocking particularly low sun, and convenient grab handles for ease of entry and egress in slippery conditions.

I didn’t expect build quality to feel this tight. Sure, almost everything from the dashboard plastics to the rubberized floor coverings is installed with hardiness in mind, but I couldn’t find a single creak or piece of misaligned trim. Cadillac division, take note.

Get Shorty

BrightDrop Zevo 400

While the BrightDrop Zevo 600 has been spotted out and about doing courier duties, its smaller Zevo 400 brother only just started production, and it’s looking to take some of the traditional cargo van market’s lunch money with a total length of 239 inches. That’s an inch shorter than a standard-length Ford Transit, while a total height of nine feet clocks in at a little more than two inches lower than a high-roof Transit. The BrightDrop Zevo 400 is a remarkably van-sized van, it just looks enormous because it’s shaped like a brick.

ADVERTISEMENT

BrightDrop Zevo 400

With a massive 412 cu.-ft. of cargo volume and a maximum payload of up to 2,450 pounds, the BrightDrop Zevo 400 should be an ideal option for city-focused businesses that aren’t height-constrained. You certainly aren’t fitting this thing in a parking garage and many drive-thrus are out of the question, but it has the right sort of footprint for broader appeal.

However, the Zevo 400 at the event was an unfinished model full of blank buttons and featuring a non-finalized underbody. To get a taste of what BrightDrop’s vans are like to drive, I’d need to step into the big boy Zevo 600.

Driving The BrightDrop Zevo 600

Img 2365

You might expect maneuvering more than 24 feet of step van to be intimidating, like navigating the Suez Canal knowing full well what the internet will do if you cock things up. However, this enormous package hauler is friendlier than a labradoodle, and easier to drive than most full-size pickup trucks. How did GM manage that?

ADVERTISEMENT

Let’s start with visibility. The view out of the front is truly panoramic thanks to an enormous windshield and useful A-pillar windows, while the microwave-sized mirrors feature convex elements to show you exactly where your rear wheels are. Even without resorting to the 360-degree camera system, drivers will know exactly where their wheels are at all times.

Img 2324

Then there’s the comfort afforded by designing a commercial vehicle around an electric drivetrain from the start. The BrightDrop Zevo 600 is unbelievably quiet, like a six-figure vehicle of vastly different stripes. Even with a cargo box the size of an average New York City apartment behind you, this thing would be ’90s Lexus quiet if it weren’t for the clunking of metallic shelves over potholes and speed bumps. Oh yeah, then there’s the phenomenal ride quality afforded by independent front suspension, a solid rear axle with composite leaf springs, and BrightDrop’s construction techniques. There’s none of the body-on-frame wobble associated with heavy vehicles, and the damping feels spot-on.

Add in light steering, a relatively tight turning circle, and impeccably smooth one-pedal driving, and you get a formula that makes driving a breeze. Next to the BrightDrop Zevo 600, even a Chevrolet Tahoe feels cumbersome and unrefined, to say nothing of the litany of combustion-powered step vans currently in use. I’m not suggesting you toss the keys to someone on their learner’s permit, but this thing’s as stress-free as a motorized apartment building gets. Dare I say, it might be my favorite EV I’ve ever driven since it’s a comprehensive leap forward over its combustion-powered predecessors with no desirable traits lost in the switch to electric power. Imagine jumping out of an oxcart and into the USS Enterprise. That’s how different the BrightDrop Zevo 600 feels.

The Future’s Electric

Img 2332

ADVERTISEMENT

Driving away from the event, I thought about how often we could be seeing BrightDrop vans over the next few years.

Really, local delivery is a perfect use case for electric vehicles. Vans cover relatively short routes within an extremely localized radius, are constantly stopping and starting, and come home to a depot overnight. The stop-start efficiency of electric powertrains, the ability to charge overnight, and the modest 250-mile range are an excellent fit for parcel drop-offs, and could, in theory, make neighborhoods of the future cleaner, quieter, and more pleasant overall.

What might the future hold for BrightDrop? Well, GM doesn’t have the greatest history of fresh subsidiaries. Saturn was slowly smothered with the aged, yellowed pillow of stuffy corporate bureaucracy, and more recently, its Cruise autonomous vehicle startup isn’t exactly going smooth as butter. However, BrightDrop isn’t stepping on any existing product’s toes; building an electric commercial vehicle with a lot of existing parts bin tech certainly seems feasible, and it feels like GM might have something here.

A BrightDrop representative confirmed that small fleet sales and even chassis cab variants are in the cards for the future. One use case the vans might not be fit for? Recreational vehicles. Although a BrightDrop rep claimed that the RV industry has expressed interest in the van, payload concerns may prevent it from being a viable option. Even with the option box for an 11,000-pound GVWR ticked, payload capacity only clocks in at 2,800 pounds for the Zevo 600 and 2,450 pounds for the Zevo 400. Once you add water tanks, furniture, interior paneling, rear HVAC, and a commode, load capacity for humans and their stuff starts to run awfully thin.

Img 2328

ADVERTISEMENT

With any luck, the BrightDrop Zevo 600 might be the Tesla Model S of commercial vehicles. It’s a massive leap forward for urban delivery fleets, both in driver comfort and in the cost of running.

Although battery-powered step vans have historically been dalliances, GM’s latest crack could make combustion-powered alternatives feel like they’re from decades ago. We never know what the future holds, but if these funky BrightDrops are part of it, I’m all here for it.

You can keep your flying cars, I’ll take an electric delivery van.

(Photo credits: Thomas Hundal)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

ADVERTISEMENT

Relatedbar

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
65 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scott
Scott
4 months ago

Unsurprisingly, I LOVE the Brightdrop and Amazon (Rivian) EV vans, and my lust to own a shorty model to use as a daily driver is considerable. 😉 Have you driven the Amazon van Thomas? Though I’ve seen many positive reviews of the Amazon van, I’d love to know how it compares to the Brightdrop, in the opinion of someone who’s driven both.

I know consumers can’t buy either van at present, but hope springs eternal! Has anyone heard anything about Rivian eventually being able to offer the Amazon van to buyers other than Amazon, since Amazon renegged on it’s purchase commitment?

Jayson Elliot
Jayson Elliot
5 months ago

Obviously the thing to do here is buy one for Mercedes so she can convert it to an RV.

Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson
5 months ago

I just saw one of these monday in Toronto,I was wondering what it was.

Max Finkel
Max Finkel
5 months ago

I wonder whether starting a new brand for this will have made sense in hindsight. I know they have somehow made GMC into the premium truck brand, but why not show Chevy or GMC shoppers that the same EV platform that they’re buying is capable for fleet-level use?

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
5 months ago

It would nice if they made a passenger van version for businesses that need shuttle buses and people who want to use them as campers or for those with large families.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
5 months ago

It would be a great airport shuttle.

BOSdriver
BOSdriver
5 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Weight might be a problem. People plus luggage would likely exceed the payload.

MegaVan
MegaVan
5 months ago
Reply to  BOSdriver

Most 1 ton passenger vans are around 2,500 lbs… I’d take the 400 as a 12 passenger. The sort of wagon style wheels is really interesting.

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
5 months ago

Is the new brand just a way to avoid Chevy and GMC dealer networks?

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
5 months ago
Reply to  Racer Esq.

Is that bad?

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
5 months ago

I have no love lost for car dealers, although I do think the advantages of getting rid of dealer networks have been overstated and getting rid of dealers carries a lot of risk. Also, I think sophisticated buyers do better with an independent dealer network. Looking at the current strike, if GM owned the dealer work I’m sure the UAW would try to unionize it. Can you imagine a unionized F&I person? “Sorry, my work rules prohibit me from charging under 10% or allowing outside financing.”

However, thinking about it more I think GM is keeping this a separate brand so it can IPO a small portion of the shares as a pure electric play at some point in the future, taking advantage of the absurd valuation that traders have put on everything from Tesla to VinFast.

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien
5 months ago

I always assumed that the point of those brightly colored seatbelts was that a supervisor looking into the cab could see at a glance whether the driver was wearing it or not.

Redfed
Redfed
5 months ago
Reply to  Sean O'Brien

Possibly supervisors, but more likely to allow CMV law enforcement officers to see that truck drivers are wearing their seat belts. I’ve seen numerous officers parked on a bridge a half mile before a weigh station looking at CMVs through binoculars to see if drivers are belted up.

Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
5 months ago

Since Sabine Schmitz’s Ring adventure in a Ford Transit, really anything goes. 😀

Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin Ibert

the candle that burns the brightest lasts the shortest. RIP.

65
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x