|Headquarters||Anderson, Indiana, United States|
|Products||plug-in electric vehicles
Bright Automotive was a startup company in Anderson, Indiana working to create a fuel-efficient line of plug-in electric vehicles. The company was started in 2008 with a team of employees from companies such as Google.org and Alcoa. The company designed its first vehicle, the IDEA a plug-in hybrid electric fleet vehicle designed to reduce fuel costs for corporations that maintain a large fleet. Bright also had a service branch called eSolutions that focused on speeding up the process of car electrification with consulting and conversions. Bright's CEO, Reuben Munger, stated in early press releases that he wished to see the IDEA in production by 2013.
In 2012, after waiting 4 years for a response from the Department of Energy on their application for a loan through the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, Bright could no longer sustain itself and announced they would cease all operations.
Bright Automotive was started in 2008 as the offspring of the non-profit Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) under the leadership of John E. Waters. Waters spent years at General Motors and was the inventor of the battery device used in their first electric vehicle, the GM EV1, in the late 1990s. By the end of 2008, Bright had acquired $17 million of initial funding with plans to obtain more. Then, notably, a new branch of General Motors called General Motors Ventures, LLC invested $5 million in Bright in August 2010 as its first investment in the innovative transportation technology realm. This investment by General Motors Ventures, LLC provided both funds and recognition. Bright also applied for a $450 million loan from the DOE under their $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.
On February 28, 2012 CEO Reuben Munger announced the company failed to receive a federal retooling loan and their portion of the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program. The company is to close operations over the following few days.
The Bright Automotive IDEA was a plug-in hybrid light cargo vehicle that was plannedto get about 100 miles per US gallon (2.4 L/100 km; 120 mpg-imp) for customers who drive 60 miles (100 km) per day. It used pure electric propulsion for the first 40 miles (64 km) of a trip and then changes over to hybrid mode with a 4-cylinder, 2-liter internal combustion engine. The IDEA had 180 cubic feet (5.1 m3) of cargo space with a load capacity of 2,000 pounds (910 kg), and a curb weight of 3,200 pounds (1,500 kg).
One of Bright's main goals in designing the IDEA was to keep the cost of the battery low. This was accomplished by starting the design process from scratch. Bright used aluminum for the body, which is lighter than the customary steel used in other cars. Also, Bright created an aerodynamic car and used low rolling resistance tires to increase efficiency. All these factors led to a car that was light and efficient, allowing the use of a smaller battery. The IDEA was designed as a fleet vehicle for corporations and governments with fuel efficiency and cost-savings in mind. According to Bright, most current light cargo vehicles only have a fuel economy of about 15 miles per US gallon (16 L/100 km; 18 mpg-imp) and the improved fuel efficiency of the IDEA could save companies money in the long run.
In late 2009, Bright launched the eSolutions service, which combined with current vehicle parts manufacturers to help speed up the process of vehicle electrification. This process involves partnering with car component manufacturers to create lighter, more aerodynamic parts that can then be used in future electric vehicles. eSolutions' first contract was with the US Army Tank Command (TACOM) to test electric plug-in technology on non-combat vehicles. This contract, worth $1.4 million, tested whether or not hybrid technology is advanced enough to replace present non-combat military vehicles. eSolutions provided the main income for Bright.
While eSolutions focused on a broad spectrum of electric car services, one of its main focuses was plug-in technology retrofitting. This involves taking a currently combustion engine powered car and turning it either into a hybrid or a fully electric car. Bright advertised the service specifically for the VW Routan, VW Transporter, and the Dodge Grand Caravan; however, they were able to retrofit essentially any vehicle.
Bright Automotive stated that it wished to commence production of the IDEA by 2013. This was pushed back from their initial plan of starting production in the fourth quarter of 2012. The company hoped to manufacture 50,000 IDEAs annually.
The CEO of Bright Automotive was Reuben Munger, the founder of Vision Ridge Partners, which is an investment company specializing in clean technology. Munger was also a Managing Director at Baupost Group, LLC investing firm. Bright’s COO was Mike Donoughe, who spent 28 years working for US Steel, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla.
- Fehrenbacher, Katie. "The First Investment from GM's VC Arm: Bright Automotive: Cleantech News and Analysis «." GigaOM – Technology News, Analysis and Trends. http://gigaom.com/cleantech/the-first-investment-from-gms-vc-arm-bright-automotive/ (accessed January 27, 2011).
- Vaughn, Kelly. "GM's $5M Jumpstart for Bright Automotive | Business | GreenBiz.com." Green Business News, Resources, and Sustainability Career Tools | Business | GreenBiz.com. http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2010/08/16/gms-5m-jumpstart-bright-automotive?page=full (accessed January 27, 2011)
- "Department of Energy says 'no' to Carbon Motors' loan request for police car". Fox News. March 7, 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
- LaMonica, Martin. "Bright Automotive to enter electric-car derby | Green Tech - CNET News." Technology News - CNET News. http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10165562-54.html (accessed January 28, 2011).
- Fehrenbacher, Katie. "Bright Automotive Pilots with Postal Service, Pushes Back Production Plan: Cleantech News and Analysis «." GigaOM – Technology News, Analysis and Trends. http://www.gigaom.com/cleantech/bright-automotive-pilots-with-postal-service-pushes-back-production-plan/ (accessed February 1, 2011)
- "Bright Automotive closes up shop after failing to get fed loan money" - The Detroit News (accessed February 29, 2012)
- "A Bright Idea For Plug-In Hybrids - Forbes.com." Information for the World's Business Leaders - Forbes.com. http://archive.is/20130124130951/http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/20/bright-automotive-business-autos-bright.html (accessed January 30, 2011).
- Ronning, J.J., A.B. Lovins, J.P. Lyons, J.E. Waters, and D.K. Lauzun. "Development of the 100 MPG Bright Automotive™ Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle." Electric Vehicle Symposium 24 (2009). (accessed February 3, 2011).
- "Bright Automotive announces eSolutions, army plug-in hybrid contract — Autoblog Green." Autoblog Green — We Obsessively Cover The Green Scene. http://green.autoblog.com/2009/10/28/bright-automotive-announces-esolutions-army-plug-in-hybrid-cont/ (accessed February 3, 2011).
- Eisenstein, Paul A.. "Is There A Bright Future For Bright Automotive? | TheDetroitBureau.com." TheDetroitBureau.com | The Voice of the Automotive World. http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2010/12/is-there-a-bright-future-for-bright-automotive/ (accessed February 3, 2011)
- "Hybrid Vehicle Manufacturing and Services Company - Bright Automotive." Hybrid Vehicle Manufacturing and Services Company - Bright Automotive. http://www.brightautomotive.com/ (accessed February 3, 2011).