Midwest transportation tech makes a mark at CES

There is a lot going on this week in America, and it is slightly overshadowing what would typically be a huge week for tech. This week is CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place annually in Las Vegas but this year is virtual because of the pandemic.

The first CES took place in New York City in 1967 and eventually overtook the Chicago Music Show as the prime consumer electronics event. The Midwest’s influence has held strong as CES periodically expands its focus, especially in the last couple of years when vehicle technology — especially electric and autonomous vehicles — has become trendy.

Thousands of electronic innovations are announced each year at CES. Transportation tech is considered one of the most buzzworthy topics this year. Yesterday, Detroit-based General Motors provided two of the event’s biggest revelations so far: an electric, flying taxi and a new business arm.

GM intends for its new businessBrightDrop, to develop electric transportation innovations for delivery businesses.

  • BrightDrop’s first product to market is the EP1, a propulsion-assisted electric pallet. It will be commercially available early this year.
    BrightDrop’s EP1. Photo via GM.


  • Another new product will be the EV600, an electric light-duty commercial delivery vehicle. FedEx Express is the first customer and will start receiving vehicles later this year.
  • The new business sector is sure to offer fierce competition for other Midwest EV companies focused on commercial delivery products, such as Workhorse in the Cincinnati suburb of Loveland, Ohio. Michigan-based Rivian (which is building its manufacturing facility in Illinois) last year entered an agreement to create electric delivery trucks for Amazon.

GM also surprised CES viewers with a look at renderings for its Cadillac electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL), or autonomous, electric flying vehicle. The company was vague about where it is in eVTOL product development.

Cadillac eVTOL concept. Image via GM.


Tomorrow I’ll cover some of the other Midwest tech advancements and honors emerging from CES, on the trade show’s final day.

Today’s headlines:

🚙 TRANSPORTATION: In other EV news, Lordstown Motors in Ohio is seeking a government loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to help cover the costs of retooling a factory to build electric trucks, Reuters reports. Although the company does not technically need the loan to execute its production plan, the funding infusion would accelerate its ability to manufacture vehicles.

💧 WATER: Skokie, Illinois, is installing new smart water technology to reduce water main leaks, reports the Chicago Tribune. The continuous monitoring system provides real-time water infrastructure data so utilities can address leaks immediately, thus reducing water loss and hefty costs.

💰 FUNDING: The U.S. Department of Energy announced more than $123 million in funding for 46 projects that improve energy efficiency and facilitate cost-effective energy technology development in manufacturing. Projects in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Ohio are among those to receive a share of the funding.

🎉 NEW ORGANIZATION: A new organization has launched to empower and amplify the voices of women working in the climate tech field. Women in Climate Tech will host monthly members-only meetings for networking and work to include climate issues in STEM education.

🏃 ACCELERATOR: Wisconsin accelerator gener8tor is accepting applications from Black or Brown startup founders for its next Lighting Rounds one-on-one pitch event. The deadline is Feb. 1 and the pitch event takes place on March 4. It also seeks investors interested in participating in the event.


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