GM expands its Ultium Charge 360 electric-vehicle charging initiative to fleet customers
Detroit — General Motors Co. on Thursday announced the expansion of its Ultium Charge 360 electric-vehicle charging initiative to commercial fleets, a move the Detroit automaker said is aimed at accelerating EV adoption among business customers.
GM in April introduced Ultium Charge 360, what it has billed as a "comprehensive" approach to EV charging. At that time, the automaker announced it had signed agreements with seven charging providers. Via GM's vehicle mobile apps, the initiative opened up a suite of services and tools to retail customers.
Thursday's announcement marks an expansion into a new customer segment, a move GM is making under the umbrella of its BrightDrop business. GM formed BrightDrop earlier this year to aid delivery and logistics companies with electric software, services and products.
Ultium Charge 360 now will be available to fleet customers, giving them access to a network of preferred charging providers from which they can select.
“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 1 million EV sales globally by 2025,” Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of GM Fleet, said in a statement.
“Fleet electrification is an important element of our growth strategy," he added, "and we will leverage our leadership and expertise in this space to support customers at home, at depots and in public with our suite of providers.”
The announcement comes amid an aggressive electrification push by GM. The automaker last month announced it was increasing its investments in electric and autonomous vehicles by 30%, to $35 billion through 2025.
"I think what GM's doing is really important, and in many ways similar to what we're seeing from Ford through their Ford Pro effort," said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst leading e-mobility research at Guidehouse Insights, referring to Ford Motor Co.'s new commercial vehicle business unit.
"For both companies, the commercial sector is enormously important," he said. "And for electrification as a whole, commercial vehicles are going to be a really important customer base."
Many experts see commercial customers as strong candidates for early adoption of electrification, given the potential cost savings on everything from fuel to maintenance that EVs promise. And automakers see commercial customers as key sources of new revenue streams from products and services tied to electrification and digitally-connected vehicles.
“They recognize that capturing that business ... is more than just providing the vehicles," said Abuelsamid. "You’ve got to hand-hold your customers through the entire process, from sales and service to deployment, fleet management. There’s a lot of opportunities there for new revenue streams for GM.”
The new service for fleet customers will offer fleet and facility management tools. It also will integrate with both GM's fleet management solution, OnStar Vehicle Insights, and the BrightDrop fleet and asset management platform. It will help "new and existing fleet customers identify providers, tools and solutions required to plan, finance, deploy and operating charging infrastructure in fleet yards and depots," according to a news release.
Along with helping to set up depot charging options, Ultium Charge 360 for fleet customers also will support home charging for employees who take their work vehicles home and provide drivers with access to more than 60,000 public charging places, GM said.
The preferred providers with whom GM is working on the initiative include four depot infrastructure providers: eTransEnergy, EVgo, In-Charge Energy and Schneider Electric. Additionally, GM is expanding its relationship with QMerit for assistance on at-home charging installation for fleet drivers.
The initiative will allow fleet customers in the U.S. and Canada to devise custom plans and select from the list of preferred providers.
“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,” Travis Katz, president and CEO of BrightDrop, said in a statement.
BrightDrop has introduced two products: The EV600 delivery van that will be built at the CAMI Assembly plant starting in November 2022 and the EP1, an electric pallet that can be used to move products over short distances. FedEx Express has ordered 500 of the EV600 trucks.
The option for fleet customers to begin working with GM's preferred providers launched Thursday.
"Anything that can be done to facilitate that transition to electrification for (commercial) customers will help build up scale and create a demand-driven customer base instead of a supply-driven base," said Abuelsamid. "A lot of what we've seen with electrification so far has been driven by incentives. Here there's a real viable economic case for going electric."