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GM gearing up for full-scale electric vehicle production in Ontario

General Motors (GM) is planning to build electric vehicles for commercial use on its first large-...

A snapshot of GM’s Oshawa, Ont. production plant. (Courtesy, GM)

General Motors (GM) is planning to build electric vehicles for commercial use on its first large-scale Canadian production line by the end of 2022. The automaker has also announced plans to add a second EV to large-scale production at its CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont. in 2023.

Monday’s news comes almost nine months after GM announced that it would use the facility to produce its new BrightDrop EV600 electric commercial vans starting next year. It also announced that it planned to build a smaller version of the commercial van, the EV410, in 2023.

It was announced along with an additional $500 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments for the CAMI plant, and added the production of light-duty Silverado pickups at the firm’s Oakville assembly plant. The two projects involve a total investment of about $2 billion.

“Working with our government partners, we have reopened GM’s Oshawa plant, creating thousands of new jobs and recruiting a record number of women in production roles. Later this year, our CAMI plant in Ingersoll will begin Canada’s first full-scale electric vehicle manufacturing with BrightDrop,” said Marissa West, president and managing director, in a statement.

Large-scale production is expected to begin at its Ingersoll facility by November, following a four-month plant upgrade once the current production of the Chevrolet Equinox ends in April.

GM had already committed more than $1 billion to convert the CAMI plant to make the EV commercial vans under an agreement ratified by Unifor members in January.

Now the new round of support from both the provincial and federal governments — $259 million each toward the $2 billion projects — will help with plant upgrades and add shifts to plants that have been affected largely due to global semiconductor chip shortages.

More about the BrightDrop

In January 2021, GM’s technology startup, BrightDrop, signed a deal with FedEx Express to deliver the first 500 EV600s and dropped off the first five of the promised 500 vans the following December.

The all-electric, zero tailpipe-emissions vehicles allowed FedEx to take an important step in reaching its goal to be carbon-neutral in its operations by 2040.

“The delivery of the first BrightDrop EV600s is a historic moment, born out of a spirit of collaboration between two leading American companies,” said Mitch Jackson, Chief Sustainability Officer, FedEx, in a statement. “Transforming our pickup and delivery fleet to electric vehicles is integral to achieving our ambitious sustainability goals announced earlier this year. This collaborative effort shows how businesses can take action to help usher in a lower-emissions future for all.”

The EV600 has about 17 cubic metres of cargo space and is a little more than seven metres long. Both can travel about 400 kilometres on a full charge and features Level 2 and DC fast charging capabilities.

GM also unveiled a new addition to its vehicle lineup, the EV410, designed for shorter, more frequent trips. It has more than 11.4 cubic metres of the cargo area and is about six metres long.

A deal was struck with Verizon, one of the largest fleet operators in the U.S., to integrate the EV410 into its field maintenance and service fleet last September — the first company to do so.

“Mainstream EV adoption by businesses will require the largest fleet operators to work together with innovators like BrightDrop in the development of vehicles that meet the particular needs of our business. Adding the EV410 to our fleet is the latest step in our commitment to Verizon achieving net-zero operational emissions by 2035,” said Ken Jack, vice president of Fleet Operations for Verizon, said in a statement.

From concept to commercialization, the EV600 has been named the “fastest-built vehicle in GM’s history,” taking just 20 months to develop, according to a statement from GM.

GM investments targeting net-zero

The transformation of GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll could allow the automaker to reach its goal to become carbon neutral in its global products and operations by 2040.

The company is already planning to introduce 30 new electric vehicles by 2025 and eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035.

If completed by the end of 2022, the CAMI plant in Ingersoll could go a long way in helping GM achieve its decarbonization goals, as it will exclusively build electric light-duty commercial vehicles. The investments will also allow GM to add production lines to its plants to create jobs. Since opening its Oshawa plant last November, the automaker has added 2,600 jobs.

Amid the volatility of the pandemic and the chip shortage, GM’s commitment to making the BrightDrop vans at CAMI will mean some long-term stability for the plant and its workers.

“This partnership with the governments of Ontario and Canada is helping GM build a more diverse, innovative and sustainable industry and EV supply chain for the future – and we are proud to be doing that right here in Canada,” said West.

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