General Motors, Ford Race to Capture Fleet Electrification Market

Six million commercial electric vehicles will be operating globally by 2025, and even today there are 600,000 e-buses on the roads of the world. Now, the two largest North American automakers, General Motors and Ford, competitors for decades, are competing to capture the fleet electrification services market.

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A Proterra battery-electric Catalyst E2, a clean, quiet, zero-emission electric bus that serves Washington, DC as part of a transit system called The Circulator, charges its batteries in a purpose-built charging facility. (Photo courtesy Government of the District of Columbia)

Six million commercial electric vehicles will be operating globally by 2025, and even now there are 600,000 e-buses on the roads of the world, states the "Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021" by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

When they pull into their yards at the end of a work shift, all those commercial electric vehicles must be charged, so fleet owners and managers must be able to plan, finance, deploy and operate charging infrastructure in their fleet yards and depots.

This year, more commercial vehicle customers appear to be considering electric vehicles, but charging management remains a barrier to wider adoption.

Now, the two largest North American automakers - General Motors and Ford - competitors for decades, are competing to capture the fleet electrification market.

General Motors has just announced the Ultium Charge 360 fleet charging service designed to help make the switch to electric seamless for fleet customers by connecting them with services, features and resources in a "holistic and comprehensive" way, GM said in a statement.

The company is making it happen through BrightDrop, a new business created and wholly owned by GM that is rethinking commercial delivery and logistics for an all-electric future.

Ultium is the name of GM's latest battery system, based on a newly developed chemistry for the lithium-ion battery cells. By adding aluminum, GM can reduce environmentally-costly cobalt in Ultium battery cells by 70 percent.

The chemistry will be proprietary to GM products but was developed in collaboration with LG Chem, South Korea's largest chemical company. Two Ultium battery production plants are being built in the United States for Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture of GM and LG Energy Solution of Korea.

Integration of the the Ultium Charge 360 fleet charging service with GM’s fleet management solution, OnStar Vehicle Insights, and also with the BrightDrop fleet and asset management platform, Support, will allow servicing of a wide range of fleet types used for delivery, or sales, for utilities or bus and school bus pools.

OnStar lets fleet managers know where their vehicles are, encourage drivers to perform their best and predict vehicle service needs before they become a problem.

Ultium Charge 360 includes support for home charging and provides drivers access to more than 60,000 public places to charge while on the road.

As part of the fleet electrification transition process, GM is working with preferred providers, including four depot infrastructure providers – eTransEnergy, a Duke Energy company; EVgo; In-Charge Energy; and Schneider Electric,.

"Fleets have a significant impact on the transition to EVs and by expanding Ultium Charge 360 to our fleet customers, GM aims to be a significant industry leader to advance fleet EV adoption at scale and accelerate our goal of reaching one million EV sales globally by 2025," said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president, GM Fleet.

"Fleet electrification is an important element of our growth strategy, and we will leleverage our leadership and expertise in this space to support customers at home, at depots and in public with our suite of providers."

Ed Peper, U.S. vice president, GM Fleet.

"Through Ultium Charge 360, BrightDrop fleet operators will be able to access tools and resources that will help accelerate their transition to sustainable all-electric delivery fleets," said Travis Katz, president and CEO, BrightDrop. "This is a turning point for our industry."

"Our commercial delivery customers are seeking innovative approaches to lower their operating costs as they electrify their fleets. Ultium Charge 360 is the latest innovation to enable BrightDrop, together with our customers, to help decarbonize the last mile," Katz said.

Ford Is Challenging GM to Serve This Growing Market

In June, Ford announced its acquisition of Electriphi, a California-based provider of charging management and fleet monitoring software for electric vehicles. Ford, too, has created a new business within the company to develop advanced charging and energy management services.

Called Ford Pro, the new business will integrate Electriphi’s team and services as it reaches out to commercial customers.

"As commercial customers add electric vehicles to their fleets, they are looking for depot charging options to make sure they’re powered up and ready to go to work every day," said Ford Pro CEO Ted Cannis.

"By adding Electriphi’s existing advanced technology IP to the Ford Pro electric vehicles and services offering, we can enhance the commercial customer experience and become a single-source solution for fleet depot charging challenges," Cannis said.

Ford Pro estimates that the depot charging industry will grow to over 600,000 full-size trucks and vans by 2030. This acquisition supports Pro’s target to capture over US$1 billion of revenue from charging by 2030.

The Electriphi acquisition comes as Ford prepares for the launch of all-electric versions of two of the world’s most popular, high-volume commercial vehicles – the Transit van and F-150 pickup. Ford will start shipping E-Transit to customers later this year; F-150 Lightning Pro will be available in spring 2022.

"Customers have been clear – electrification of their fleets is inevitable, with significant economic and sustainability benefits. They now need solutions that enable a seamless transition to electric vehicles," said Electriphi CEO and co-founder Muffi Ghadiali. "Our synergies with Ford Pro will supercharge this transition."

"We'll dilight customers by helping them reap the benefits of electrification, so they can focus on what matters most - Running their businesses effectively."

Muffi Ghadiali, Electriphi Co-founder and CEO.

Based in Silicon Valley, Electriphi’s team has developed and deployed a purpose-built electric vehicle fleet and charging management platform that simplifies fleet electrification, saves energy costs, and tracks key operational metrics like real-time status of vehicles, chargers and maintenance services.

Electriphi’s charging platform will complete the charging ecosystem services platform for commercial customers, including employee home charging, public charging and e-telematics solutions.

Customers in North America can sign up for Electriphi charge management services now at electriphi.ai. Ford Pro plans on making these services available in Europe at a later date.

 

 

Sources: Statements by General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Electriphi, BrightDrop, eTransEnergy, "Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021" by BloombergNEF, Robotics and Automation News, Forbes

By Sunny Lewis, journalist, founder of Environment News Service (ENS) at: ens-newswire.com, and expert in the field of sustainable mobility in the United States and around the Pacific Rim.