Another bright idea hits the road



If you were a hybrid vehicle manufacturer, and you wanted to lower the world's CO2 emissions, would you first...

  •  Try to replace all the privately-owned gas vehicles, that mostly just drive to and from workplaces, one vehicle at a time, or...
  • Replace entire corporate fleets of gas delivery vehicles, that typically spend all day, every day, on the road?

Well, you're supposed to answer 'b'. That's what Indiana-based Bright Automotive wants to do with their plug-in hybrid delivery van, the IDEA. And now that they're close to signing a pact with an unnamed major automaker, they're one step closer to realizing that vision.

The company

Bright Automotive is a product of the Colorado-based green think-tank, the Rocky Mountain Institute. They launched in January 2008, and by the following May, were unveiling the IDEA to the world at the Electric Vehicle Symposium in Norway. The vehicle was designed with input from corporate clients, who dictated what they wanted in the way of comfort, utility and efficiency.

The Vehicle

The IDEA has a claimed 40-mile all-electric range, and gets nearly 40mpg in standard hybrid mode. This is thanks in part to its lightweight, aluminum/composite construction. By Bright's calculations, clients will save $US.18 per mile and 1,500 gallons of fuel per year, over gas vehicles. On a larger scale, a fleet of 250,000 IDEAS should save 30 million tons of CO2 and 2.8 billion gallons of fuel over their 150,000-mile life cycle.

Extra features

The IDEA has more to offer than fuel-efficiency. For starters, its front passenger seat converts into an office that includes a laptop/work surface, file storage, and an electronics charging center. It also has an interactive touchscreen console, and an integrated structural bulkhead, to keep the cargo in the back where it belongs. Most of the materials used in its interior are either recycled, recyclable, or come from natural, renewable sources.

The deal

Apparently Bright's PR flacks aren't the only people impressed by all this, as Automotive News reports that the company is now on the verge of an agreement with a major automaker. It isn't yet known if the agreement will constitute a joint venture or an outright acquisition.

In the past, Bright has been courted by the Chinese government to relocate to China, although that route is reportedly one that the company would prefer not to take. Whoever and whatever the deal involves, it should be finalized within the next six months. It isn't surprising that Bright is looking to partner up, as they have had to push the release date of the IDEA back from 2012 to 2013, while they wait for a possible $US280 million US Energy Department loan.

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