GM Invests In Plug-In Hybrid Truckmaker Bright Automotive

June 15th, 2010

General Motors announced today that it will invest in start-up of Bright Automotive, which hopes to begin production engineering of the final ideas are plug-in hybrid vans draft later this year.

GM Ventures, the venture investment arm automaker, all such funds to Bright this week, formal agreements are signed later this year. It seems unlikely that the old, bureaucratic, pre-banktuptcy General Motors would have the operation done in that order.

Bright Idea: lightweight, high-efficiency

Based in Anderson, Indiana, Bright Automotive unveiled its design for a plug-in hybrid light truck in April 2009. We were able to ride the prototype idea, briefly, around the time that Bright said his would be an electric range 40 miles away.

The lightweight Bright Idea is powered by an electric motor driving the rear wheels, making a low platform in the van body.

A 13-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack gives 40 miles of electric range, and Bright said the front-mounted engine and transmission to its prototype, the front wheels drive back 36 miles per gallon in range expansion of the mode.

(Note that Bright has the reach and efficiency numbers were based on a packed bus.)

Dump Dodge, GM do?

The prototype was driven range expansion of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine of a Dodge Caliber. We suspect that Bright can now switch to a GM engine – maybe even the 1.4-liter range extender used in GM’s 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car.

If the range of 80 miles per day, would run half the IDEA on electric power and then half on gasoline. The last 40 miles would use about 1.1 liters gasoline, making a total effective fuel economy of 70 mpg over 80 miles. If the route were only 60 miles, but the actual gas mileage will increase to over 100 mpg.

In both cases the bright idea of fuel economy significantly higher than the competition, including the new Transit Ford’s Connect small van, driven by a four-cylinder gasoline engine rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.

From any perspective Volt

Earlier this year, GM showed a concept for a larger five-seater people carrier he calls the Volt MPV5. But it said nothing about any plans for commercial vehicles based on the Voltec extended-range electric vehicle powertrain.

Bright clear gains some important assets of the deal: Cash to develop engineering and begins production of the Idea, access to global parts bin GM’s, and the legitimacy finish transmitted through the support of GM, which may be vans a less risky purchasing for fleet managers.

And, “perhaps as important,” in the words of Chairman and CEO Reuben Bright Munger, at GM “we get a strategic partner with a world leader in the electrification.” Bright is also engaged in a low interest loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy’s advanced technology vehicle manufacturing program.

First deal for GM Ventures

GM, on the other hand, gets a stake in the success of a high-mileage small business that technologically far more advanced than the competition. And that some one may add incremental volume production of the expensive electric drive components.

Bright is the first investment of GM Ventures, earlier this year founded and directed by Jon Lauckner, formerly head of GM’s vehicle development. Once the papers are signed, GM will own a minority stake in Bright Automotive.

“Our financing of Bright Automotive,” Lauckner said, “will be the introduction of advanced propulsion and light-weight technologies in the market for cars to accelerate.”

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