Bright’s IDEA to hit truck market in 2013

WASHINGTON D.C. The IDEA, a new aerodynamically shaped plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) delivery van concept developed by Bright Automotive, aims to have its prototype ready for production in the first quarter of 2013, the company said. (View photos of the new vehicle)

The sleekly-styled van, first introduced in April 2009, recently received a technology upgrade so it can deliver 40 mi. of all-electric range and nearly 40 miles per gallon (mpg) operating in standard hybrid mode, Lyle Shuey, Bright’s vp-marketing & sales, told FleetOwner here at the Washington Auto Show. (View video of the vehicle)

He noted that each IDEA van should save the typical commercial or government fleet 18 cents per mile, reduce gasoline use by 1,500 gal. per year, and reduce carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions by 16 tons per year.

Paul Bishop, manager of Bright’s development test lab, said the driving concept behind the IDEA is to combine off-the-shelf standard components – a standard 4-cylinder light truck gasoline engine, electric motor, battery pack – with new designs, such as an aerodynamic all-aluminum body with a drag coefficient of just 0.3, along with the use of carbon fiber and recycled materials to further reduce vehicle tare weight.

“The target weight of our van concept is about 3,200 lbs. – that’s almost half of what a standard van this size weighs,” Bishop told FleetOwner. “Even with the battery pack adding 200 to 300 lbs. to the vehicle, we can still offer payload capacity of 2,000 lbs.”

The recent upgrade to the IDEA is a 13 kilowatt-hour (kw-h) battery pack, which allows the van to operate for 40 mi. in electric-only mode, and then switch to a “standard hybrid” mode, with the gasoline and electric motor working together to achieve a minimum of 36 mpg when the vehicle is empty, compared to the standard 8 to 12 mpg most vans in this class achieve, Bishop said.

One unique feature is a passenger seat that folds up into a work station even with the driver’s midsection. “Our research found that the passenger seat only got used 1% to 2% of the time, so we added this feature to take advantage of that underused space,” he noted.

Other interesting specifications include a 70/30 split rear door assembly, so opening the entire cargo bay won’t obscure the driver’s rear view mirror. “That’s a safety feature our research indicated van drivers needed,” Bishop explained.

Anderson, Indiana-based Bright launched in January 2008 with the help of the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute and is staffed with veterans of the automotive industry, including John Waters, Bright’s CEO, who developed the battery pack for the General Motors EV1.

Bishop noted the company’s goal is launch pilot tests of the IDEA van in the coming year, with the first quarter of 2013 the target for building production-level vehicles.

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