There was a crowd of BEVs at CES.
Just a few years ago, the parking lots around the Las Vegas Convention Center were filled with self-driving car demonstrations, but this year was the year of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) – with implications not only for drivers. consumers but also retailers in the years to come. From glittering prototypes and delivery robots to infrastructure games, CES showed how electrification is going to change the retail landscape.
Certainly, CES has had its share of the expected introductions of electric cars and vans. GM CEO Mary Barra took the (virtual) opportunity to unveil the company’s next electric Chevrolet Silverado. GM already has electric versions of the Hummer coming off the line, and startup Rivian’s well-revised R1T EV pickups are already rolling on the freeways. Ford is expected to market its F-150 Lightning EV this spring.
During this time, BMW launched its performance-focused iX M60 SUV at the show, Chrysler tilted the Air flow, Vietnamese car manufacturer VinFast has promised an electric SUV for its debut in the US market this year, and even Sony has entered the EV act, with Sony chairman Kenichiro Yoshida touting a new prototype of its Vision S electric vehicle concept (again) and the formation of Sony Mobility, which will launch Sony EVs. .
But more importantly, commercial electric vehicles are having a moment, with major automakers and startups hoping companies will see electric vehicles as a way to reduce fuel and maintenance costs, improve delivery uptime, and solve some supply chain issues by deploying autonomous delivery vehicles. At CES, commercials ranged from parcel movers similar to warehouse drones, to electric box trucks designed to run around the clock, to ebots to serve curbside pickups.
Big boys go to BEV
GM’s subsidiary BrightDrop started the show off by announcing that Walmart had booked 5,000 of the company’s electric vehicles for last mile home deliveries. The order includes BrightDrop’s EV600 box trucks and its EV410 box trucks. It’s all part of Walmart’s drive to expand its home delivery service from 6 million to 30 million American homes by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, FedEx, which has already completed a pilot project using BrightDrop electric vehicles in New York City, will order 2,000 additional trucks over the next two years and expand the use of electric vehicles to 10 different markets this year. According to companies, it’s not just about reducing emissions and helping the planet. The EV program in New York found that EVs with their unique lower floor designs reduced physical strain on couriers and increased parcel deliveries by 15% per hour.
Competing with FedEx and Walmart, Amazon added electric vehicle ads to the traffic jam. He already has a chord to use Rivian EVs, but added a new partnership with Stellantis, the company resulting from the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot. Amazon plans to become the first customer for the Stellantis Ram ProMaster BEVs when they become available next year. As part of the symbiotic relationship, Amazon’s AWS cloud service will provide the in-dashboard software for Stellantis, including fleet management programs and integration with Alexa voice assistant.
BEVs for the rest of us
The electrification movement is not limited to big box big boxes. Several companies, such as REE Automotive, based in Herzliya, Israel, are designing end-to-end systems and services for small retailers and delivery companies to help them make the transition.
REE Automotive wants to use its unique P7 EV platform announced at CES to build a variety of vehicles for business. The system uses four independent engine, suspension and steering systems close to the wheels to create an open, flat vehicle platform with increased cargo capacity. The design is flexible enough to be used in everything from small vehicles to truck sizes to big box trucks.
“We have also created a complete ecosystem», Explained Daniel Barel, CEO of REE Automotive, in an interview with Dealer. “Customers can start a fleet, including charging systems and financing, any vehicle of their choice and data as a service” from us, he said.
With pilot programs underway in the US and UK, Barel said the company also hopes to bring in independent mom and dad delivery companies who often make last mile trips for FedEx. “How do these people become electric? We’re going to put everything in place and even call the power company, ”he said.
For backend operations, Dubai-based Evocargo focuses on inbound / outbound freight transport in the hub. At CES, the company presented its Smart Evocargo EVO.1, which can handle up to 1.5 tons and work for 20 hours without interruption. Co-founder Andrey Bolshakov told Dealerscope that the company has expanded beyond its original vision of autonomous vehicles six years ago to now offer a full service based on its intelligent electric vehicles.
“So we will take care of the fleet management, the electricity management and the infrastructure part like the load structure,” Bolshakov said. The company expects to have several projects underway in the US and UK by the fourth quarter.
Self-driving still alive
So what happened to all those autonomous vehicles promised at CES shows of the past? They are still alive according to Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt.
“You will first see low-speed city shuttles that can stop safely,” Pratt said. Dealer, “And then we can improve the traffic jam problem. People are used to slow vehicles, so it’s going to come out very soon. “
Such trial programs are already underway on college and business campuses. And Walmart is already experimenting with self-driving box trucks from the start Gatik runs 7 mile loop from warehouse to distribution center in Arkansas. The program covers the middle kilometer of the supply chain. Thus, it could be adapted to go from any warehouse to a retailer with Gatik mapping the route and adjusting the truck driving behavior according to the context (parking lot vs city street, for example).
But it’s not just about moving pallets and people. Ottonomy wants to change the post-pandemic retail experience.
During a CES press conference, Ottonomy’s CEO Ritukar Vijay described how the Santa Monica, Calif., Based company wants to solve labor shortages and personnel issues with drones robot delivery. Essentially, the R2D2 takeout delivery, the landlocked drones can navigate indoor and outdoor spaces to take orders from counter to sidewalk. Vijay said the company is already testing its stand-alone Ottobots for food and retail delivery to the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport.
“Sixty percent of orders in the United States are curbside pickup orders right now,” said Vijay, “and we want to redefine the driving experience” with autonomous robots.
Meanwhile, there’s the question of how we’re going to charge all of those electric vehicles that automakers are hoping consumers will buy this year. Several charging network companies have garnered a lot of attention over the past year, including Blink Charging, which made several product announcements at CES.
In addition to launching new Level 2 home chargers for consumers, Blink has expanded its commercial charging stations, which can be installed in multi-apartment buildings and parking spaces at retail outlets.
“We can be the owner / operator of the stations or partner with the retailer and share the revenue,” Blink CEO Brendan Jones explained in an interview with Dealerscope, “or you can buy it directly”. Typically, retailers hire a site host so that Blink is responsible for installing, maintaining, and servicing charging stations.
Charging stations can of course attract customers and keep them in the store, as it typically takes 30-40 minutes to charge a vehicle. At CES, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made a virtual appearance to talk about infrastructure plans. While recognizing that innovations in electric vehicles and self-driving cars come from the private sector, the government still has an important role to play, he said, especially with the passage of the latest infrastructure bill. , which includes $ 7.5 billion to help build networks of charging stations like Blink Eyes.
The government did not invent the plane, the train or the car, but “the government built airports, laid tracks and built highways,” Buttigieg said.