Automotive & Aftermarket News

What We Learned from General Motors During CES 2021

GM’s BrightDrop is an innovative delivery business venture built upon a fleet of all-new EV600 electric vehicles. (Image/GM)

The annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is underway—virtually of course because of, you know, the pandemic.

Normally for the gearhead community, CES takes a back seat to larger automotive-focused shows like SEMA or the North American International Auto Show. But as the line between automobiles and computers continues to blur, more and more auto manufacturers are using CES as a forum to announce tech innovations.

And General Motors certainly did just that this year, unleashing a trove of juicy details on their future plans. So let’s recap some of the noteworthy points.

GM’s Electric Future

Fresh on the heels of its new “Everybody In” vision to get more folks in electric vehicles, GM doubled down on battery electric vehicles (BEVs). From charging infrastructure to battery design, more details emerged on how GM is approaching electrification.

More importantly, it reinforced the earlier promise of bringing dozens of new electric models to dealer showrooms. Given the breadth of that line, we’re assuming GM has models (and pricing) aimed at virtually every market segment.

The GM Ultium Platform Looks Legit

This is the Ultium platform. If it looks familiar, GM teased a similar concept with its “skateboard” about 20 years ago. (Image/GM)

Call us cynical, but it seems like EV companies tend to over-promise *cough* Fisker *cough*. That’s why we’re glad to see more details on GM’s Ultium platform. Building on the skateboard concept it teased almost two decades ago, GM hopes Ultium (in some form) will underpin the radical mix of electric vehicles it’s bringing to market.

At CES we saw that Ultium is somewhat modular, allowing it to carry a different matrix of batteries, depending on the vehicle application. GM also indicated that its new Ultium platform carries a flexible propulsion system dubbed “Ultium Drive.” GM says this system uses interchangeable motors to provide front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive capabilities to Ultium—again, depending on the vehicle it’s being used for.

All told, GM indicated that, in the right configuration, the Ultium platform has the potential to carry a vehicle up to to 450 miles on a single charge.

A 450 mile range. Gauntlet thrown.

Lots of New Electric Vehicle Models

We’ve alluded to it a few times already in this article, but let’s say it again: GM is planning to launch 30 new electric vehicle models in the next few years.

Some are already here (or at least are knocking on the showroom door), like the GMC Hummer EV and the Cadillac Lyriq—but that’s just the first wave.

The Cadillac Lyriq is hitting dealer lots soon and incorporates a lot of the innovative battery and drivetrain tech that GM plans to showcase in vehicles from other marques like Chevy and Buick. (Image/Cadillac)

Cadillac is already poised to get a new flagship model, the Celestiq. At CES we learned that it’ll boast a ton of leading-edge features, like a massive, full-width touchscreen, four-wheel steering, and a “smart” glass roof divided into four quadrants that allows each occupant to independently adjust transparency. GM has designed the Celestiq to offer each passenger “an equal and individual experience,” but the company says it won’t be here until 2025.

It appears Chevrolet is getting an electric pickup truck, which makes sense considering how well trucks are represented in Chevy’s sales mix (and because Ford already has an all-electric F-150 on the way). Buick is also getting several new electric vehicles, including one that bears a striking resemblance to a Corvette-based SUV.

Buick’s an obvious choice to carry GM’s electric vehicle mantle. It sells a lot of cars in China, which mandates that car manufacturers must make an increasingly growing percentage of their fleet electric.

Super Cruise

It’s worth mentioning that GM talked about its Super Cruise technologies, too. While it’s been in Cadillac models for a few years now, GM claims it’s only getting better. Super Cruise is positioned as the next generation of cruise control, and GM’s not shy about describing it as “hands-free driving.”

It’s just another step forward in the quest for truly autonomous vehicles.

BrightDrop

Finally, let’s talk about BrightDrop. It’s not a vehicle, rather it’s an entirely new delivery buiness model. GM calls it “an integrated ecosystem of electric products, software and services for the first to last mile.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that BrightDrop will help delivery companies deliver packages more efficiently, thanks to computer-driven logistics, new EV600 electric delivery trucks, even a fancy electric-powered cart/hand truck called the EP1.

These technologies and tools could revolutionize the way companies ship packages and FedEx is already lined up to be BrightDrop’s first customer.

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