Bright Idea PHEV van – Click above for high-res image gallery

Following today's announcement that GM Venture would invest money into Indiana-based start-up Bright Automotive, we got a few more details about the partnership and the vehicle from Bright Automotive chairman and CEO Reuben Munger and General Motors Ventures President John Lauckner in a conference call. For the number-hungry out there, we learned that GM's investment totals $5 million and that Bright expects the Idea plug-in hybrid delivery van to get about 38 miles electric of range on the LA92 drive cycle, and then around 350 more miles in hybrid mode. The through-the-road hybrid set-up will use a GM engine and transmission powering the front wheels, while an independent electric system with a "relatively small" battery pack moves the rear wheels.

If those range numbers remind you a bit of the Chevrolet Volt, you're not wrong. But don't expect to see the Bright powertrain make its way into any other GM platforms. Bright and GM representatives called the Idea plug-in hybrid powertrain a "market-appropriate" application as it offers 4WD capability at a "very cost effective" price. How much, exactly? The companies have had a lot of conversations with customers about pricing the vehicle, but are not yet ready to discuss the final price just yet.

GM's monetary approval of the Idea could be good news for Anderson, IN, where Bright envisions the creation of 1,000 direct jobs and around 5,000 indirect jobs in the supplier system. The Idea PHEV has been in development for years, but we now have a new target date for full market availability of, probably, 2013 or 2014. Bright and GM think waiting a bit more to get the van on the road won't hurt them, since the market for this kind of vehicle is 900,000 units per year in America; Bright's full production capacity is expected to be 50,000 units annually.

No one would say how much of Bright GM will get for its $5 million, just that GM would get a "minority percentage" stake in Bright. It's also unknown at this time if the Idea will be sold at GM dealers, but the new partners were quick to point out that the Idea is more cost competitive than the Transit Connect and has more utility than an all-electric delivery van.




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