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Bright IDEA Production Models

Directly targeting the light-duty commercial delivery and utility market, the IDEA is strong technical competition for the Ford Transit Connect EV and other, similar vans. It's superior in most every technical detail. Now if only they were building them...

Images courtesy of Bright Automotive

by Aaron Turpen

Specs:

  • Type: Cargo Van
  • Class: Light Vehicle
  • Manufacturer: Bright Automotive
  • Propulsion system: Hybrid-Electric AWD
  • Fuel(s): Electricity, Gasoline
  • Battery system: Lithium-ion
  • Time to full battery recharge: 4-8 hours
  • Price: Not Announced
  • Availability: 2013

Overview

When Bright Automotive first introduced the IDEA concept in 2009, it was met with both excitement and jeers. Most of the negative comments were about the van's looks, which are unique, to say the least. The van, however, is not made to look great at car shows, it's made to be functional and useful on the job.

The IDEA is a commercial delivery/work (light-duty) cargo van. It's shape has two functions: to give it maximum cargo space inside and to give it a 0.30 coefficient of drag ñ a best in class. Larger than the Ford Transit Connect EV, smaller than a truck-like utility van, and operating as a plug-in hybrid electric, the IDEA has a lot going for it.

The first forty miles of operation are all-electric with an efficient gasoline engine kicking in to supply power for the rest of the drive in a parallel hybrid drivetrain. Even on trips as far as 120 miles in a day, the IDEA achieves 50mpg or better. The engine gets 40mpg on its own.

The IDEA's design team had several things in mind when designing the van:

  • Working productivity
  • Maximum fuel efficiency
  • Lower costs of ownership
  • Manufacture as sustainable as possible

The IDEA met all of these goals with the current production prototype. It is primarily made from recycled aluminum and other materials, has best-in-class aerodynamics, has the maximum amount of cargo space and a 3-foot side door for loading, costs less to operate than any competing van, and achieves extremely high fuel efficiency.

Swapping Roles in Management

Recently, Bright Automotive's CEO John Waters has gone back to the Board of Directors while the Board's chairman, Reuben Munger, has moved into the CEO position. Waters is an engineer and now that the company is moving into sales phasing, Munger is better-suited to run the show while Waters continues to focus on Bright's models.

"John and I have been working together to realize a shared vision around Bright Automotive," says CEO Munger.

Bright Automotive is now moving into a new phase they're calling the "execution phase." Within the next six months, a new partnership and cash infusion (possibly from the Department of Energy) will be forthcoming.

The current Bright Idea vans in existence (two powertrain test mules and a concept prototype) will see new iterations as well - a new production mule is nearly complete, with upgrades to both software and drive train components.

What we like

Extremely Efficient design and ergonomics. The IDEA has definitely been built to task with its focus entirely on its planned market. The platform, however, could be altered to meet other markets as well ñ such as the consumer minivan or small pickup markets.

Made in America with design and manufacture happening in Indiana. Bright Automotive got its start at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado.

What we don't

Still Years Away from production and availability, with a target release of 2013. Though the company expects, with fleet sales, to achieve a production rate of 50,000 units annually almost right away.

No Stated Plans for Other Models have been given. That's disappointing, as the cargo and delivery light van market is relatively limited and already sees competition from major players like Ford.

Conclusions

It's still up in the air whether this company will survive the current economic hard times hitting the automotive industry. With a target release set, the company will have to survive until a production model can be released for public consumption.

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