BrightDrop electric vans rolling off the line in Ontario

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by Emily Atkins

Electric delivery vans made by GM subsidiary BrightDrop have begun to roll off the line in Ingersoll, Ontario.

At an official opening event on December 5 attended by prime minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario premier Doug Ford, GM and BrightDrop celebrated the reopening of GM’s Cami plant, which has been retooled to make the EVs.

An employee at the BrightDrop plant in Ingersoll, Ont., calibrates headlights with the help of collaborative robots. (Emily Atkins photo)

“Electric-vehicle manufacturing in Canada is no longer something that’s happening in the future. It’s here and it’s now. That’s good for Canada, and good for the planet,” said GM Canada president Marissa West.

The company also announced that DHL Express Canada will be its first Canadian customer. While the number of vans DHL has ordered was not disclosed, BrightDrop has already produced 155 Zevo 600s for its launch customer, FedEx. Most of those vans were delivered in the Spring of 2022, and are on the road in the US.

GM says the retooling of the Cami plant was the fastest in its history. Production on the Chevrolet Equinox SUV, which had been built at Cami since 2017, was halted in April 2022. The retooling began on May 1, and the first Zevo 600 rolled off the line in the final week of November, just seven months later.

GM spent $1 billion on the reconfiguration of the assembly facility, helped by contributions of $250 million from both the federal and provincial governments.

At the event, premier Ford called the plant a “made in Ontario” success story. He said the plant is the first step in Ontario returning to being a global vehicle manufacturing centre.

GM’s strategy in developing the BrightDrop spinoff was to take advantage of the “greenspace” in the electric delivery sector, said Steven Hornyak, BrightDrop’s chief commercial officer in an interview. The gambit appears to be taking off, as BrightDrop now has more than 25,000 orders and commitments from FedEx and DHL Canada along with giants like Walmart, Hertz, and Verizon.

Hornyak said that with the opening of the Cami plant, BrightDrop has more than enough capacity to meet its orders several times over. Full production is slated to begin in January, with a second shift to be added early in the year. The company currently has 400 workers trained on the highly automated line, and says it will be hiring another 1,200 in the coming year.

BrightDrop offers a suite of products including the Zevo electric delivery vans, the Trace eCarts, and the BrightDrop Core software platform.

BrightDrop offers a suite of products including the Zevo vans, the Trace eCarts, and the BrightDrop Core software platform. A smaller Zevo 400 will be introduced next year.