Canada has officially become a key player in GM’s recently announced BrightDrop electric vehicle delivery service, with the firm’s confirmation that it will invest C$1 billion into its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario to start producing its BrightDrop all-electric delivery van there, which will become the first all-electric vehicle produced by a mainstream automaker in the country.
Members of the Unifor union at the plant ratified the deal officially on Monday, part of over $2 billion GM has committed to its Canadian operations in the past three months, with GM’s deal to bring pickup truck production back to its Oshawa plant, which had shuttered its vehicle assembly operations in December 2019, leaving only some parts production at the time, followed by some continuing mask production at the site as well.
Those GM pickup trucks are expected to start rolling off the new line in early 2022, around the same time the BrightDrop electric vans will start production in Ingersoll, said GM of Canada’s vice-president of corporate and environmental affairs David Paterson.
“The initial (BrightDrop) vehicle builds will take place in the US,” he added, while the plant is making the significant shift from producing gas-powered consumer SUVs with the Equinox to the battery-powered BrightDrop EV600 light commercial delivery van. “They will use our Ultium batteries out of the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, so in the initial builds to FedEx, at least 500 of them will come from the U.S.”
Currently, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is the only plug-in consumer vehicle built in Canada, outside of a handful of niche electric three-wheelers and powersports vehicles, while BrightDrop will join electric school bus and transit bus manufacturer Lion in Quebec as one of the few companies building zero emissions delivery vehicles in Canada.
But recent agreements made with Ford of Canada and Stellantis (formerly FCA) Canada in the past six months are scheduled to bring all-electric consumer vehicle production to both plants in the next two to four years, as Canada catches up to the U.S. and Mexico in terms of North American EV production.
FedEx will start using the BrightDrop EV600 delivery vans by the end of the year, even though BrightDrop itself was announced only last week as part of the virtual CES (online Consumer Electronics Show). Beta testing for FedEx was done in Toronto, while the business concept of the end-to-end ecosystem of electric vehicles, last-mile products, tracking software and services was jointly done in Canada and the U.S., said Paterson.
Not only will the rise in online shopping increase expected demand for GM for these urban vehicles, but also the expected increase in cities with emissions-free zones, at first, and possibly mandated emissions-free cities entirely over the long term.
Support for the CAMI project as the Ingersoll plant to come out of the CAMI plant is expected to be assisted by further funds from the federal government’s recently upgraded Net Zero Accelerator portion of its Strategic Innovation fund that aims to support clean tech initiatives, while Doug Ford has also signaled support to come for the investment, as most such projects in the U.S. and Canada include now as well.