Bright Automotive Chief Operating Officer Mike Donoughe invoked President Barack Obama's recent call for U.S. companies to create American jobs while developing alternative energy sources for transportation by requesting that Congress speed up the company's federal loan process.
The company, which is developing the Bright IDEA plug-in hybrid-electric cargo van, is "ready, willing and able" to create as many as 2,500 direct and indirect U.S. job once production is up and running. The hold up? Its loan request from the U.S. Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Program hasn't yet been processed, something that Donoughe said in a statement this week should be done "swiftly."

Bright Automotive said last November that it reached an agreement to make the IDEA at the AM General Corp factory in Mishawaka, IN, where the Hummer H2 was previously built. At the time, the company estimated that about 300 people would be employed there. The IDEA is expected to deliver about 40 miles on electricity, then switch over to gasoline power, giving the delivery van a range similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt.

The company, which was founded in 2008 by the battery specialist who helped develop General Motors' EV1 electric vehicle and spun off from the Rocky Mountain Institute, said late last year that the IDEA may be available for government and fleet purchases as early as 2014. The company had initially planned on having its plug-in truck ready by this year, but development was put on hold during the recent recession and financial crisis.
Show full PR text
Midwest Hybrid Electric Vehicle Manufacturer Says It's Ready to Fulfill President Obama's State of the Union Blueprint for U.S. Jobs and Alternative Energy Technology Leadership

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich., Jan. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A Midwest-based plug-in hybrid electric vehicle manufacturer is calling on Congressional and media critics to put their partisanship aside and heed President Obama's call to create American jobs and spur the development of alternative energy technology by swiftly processing its loan application under the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Program – which Congress authorized in 2007.

"These loans enable automotive companies (established and start-ups alike) to lead America forward – towards energy independence, better national security and an improved environment; creating thousands of American jobs in the process," said Mike Donoughe, Bright Automotive COO. "This is exactly what the President is calling for tonight and Bright Automotive is ready, willing and able to answer that challenge for our country."

Bright Automotive is an Indiana and Michigan-based company developing the Bright IDEA vehicle. The vehicle is a plug-in hybrid electric commercial van that delivers unprecedented fuel economy and utility while significantly lowering the total cost of ownership. Bright's technology is on the road and is being tested by the Department of Defense and other fleets. The company reports it has anxious customers ready to buy its vehicles, with half of its customer base small businesses – the growth engine of jobs in America – which will save thousands of dollars per vehicle every year.

Many experts believe plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are the best opportunity going forward to thwart expensive and volatile oil prices that likely will exceed $100 a barrel for the foreseeable future, meaning $4 a gallon gas at the pump nationwide sooner rather than later.

"Yes, we are about cleaner energy," said Donoughe. "But our belief is that 'you have to be green to be green' – meaning it is not enough to be green environmentally, if you are not green economically. That is why it is crucially important that we are a smart play for businesses operating fleets of vehicles; from service professionals like Comcast and FedEx to your local plumber or florist."

A typical business fleet currently spends about $5,000 to $7,000 annually on gasoline per vehicle. The Bright Idea PHEV saves $4,000 to $5,000 in fuel costs annually. For a small business that has 15 trucks in its fleet, this is significant operational savings. For larger businesses with 100 vehicles or more, the savings can reach a million dollars or more per year. For Federal and state government and public service fleets, totaling more than 400,000 vehicles with a target to be alternatively-fueled in the next few years, it represents literally billions of dollars in fuel costs saved for taxpayers.

The Bright IDEA vehicle will be developed in Rochester Hills, Michigan, while its hybrid electric powertrain will be engineered in Anderson, Indiana. When production begins, it will be assembled in Indiana at a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. These new operations will conservatively create more than 2,500 direct and indirect jobs and will be 100 percent U.S.-based.

"Our business plan has been thoroughly vetted by the government since submission in December 2008 and we have received tremendous bipartisan support from legislators in Indiana, Michigan and across the country," said Donoughe. "That support has helped us get the ball into the red zone, but not yet into the end zone. Michigan Congressman John Dingell told the Detroit News there is an attempt being made by certain members of Congress to kill this program. That prospect could end our plan to build our vehicle and create great jobs in the heart of America."

Consistent with President Obama's call for action in his pre-State of the Union video, Donoughe argues these loans are exactly the type of investments our government should be making - supporting companies like Bright Automotive in advancing proven technologies and creating good jobs to help small business owners improve their operations.

"They are doing it in Germany and China and elsewhere – and we must do it in the United States to regain and retain our manufacturing base and competitive edge," said Donoughe.

President Obama said in a January 11th speech heralding companies that were "insourcing" work back to the United States: "I don't want the next generation of manufacturing jobs taking root in countries like China or Germany. I want them taking root in places like Michigan and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina."

Donoughe noted that if the ATVM Loan Program is scuttled, U.S.-based private financing will likely not commit and companies like Bright will be forced to look at foreign sources; most likely China. Typically, the jobs follow the investment.

"If jobs aren't important enough, let's talk about our national and energy security," said Donoughe. "Dealing with our nation's security vulnerabilities requires sustained commitment and targeted involvement by the federal government, including leveraging programs already in place like the ATVM loan program. We mustn't let volatility- in Washington or by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz -undermine our commitment to investments in modernizing our transportation technologies. One member of the Saudi royal family recently noted, OPEC doesn't 'want the West to find alternatives.'"

"We stand ready to deliver American advanced technology developed and built by Americans," added Donoughe.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 20 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Comon this is Autoblog Green shouldn't we be pro-EV? In my book, we need more supply of EVs and more of them on the road. The issue is supply not demand. Plus most of the EVs coming out are small cars (Volt, Leaf, Coda, Focus EV, Prius EV, Fit EV, etc etc ) I like that they are now making electric trucks.
        marcopolo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ Steven Wilson EV's like all automobiles are a business. If these guy's were using their own money on this dubious vehicle, no one could object. But when EV's are built with government (tax-payer) money, it makes all EV's look bad when they fail.
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcopolo
          @Steven I think all, or nearly all of us (there are the Fuel Cell/Hydrogen people out there) support electrics, and are optimistic (well, again, most...) about the future of electrics, but there are quite a few Green Venture Capitalists out there, plus those like Warren Buffet who are good at recognizing potential, and others. I think there is healthy skepticism when we hear of someone with their hand out to the government, and as Marco and Dan point out (look at them, agreeing.... :) ) when one goes bad, it looks bad for the industry. Me being my 'look on the bright side' self - I would say that I wonder if larger, commercial vehicles are the way to go for the short term. Defined routes, known mileage on a day in/day out basis make me wonder if with the current batteries, if they are more practical. Of course, Smith is now building trucks in the USA with that purpose (and I admit - no clue on government loans/tax breaks/etc.). And (this will be about the strangest sentence typed in history) - just because George Bush did it, doesn't make it right! :D (I say that with a huge smile)
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcopolo
          EZEE: There are currently very substantial loans and tax breaks on electric commercial vehicles: http://nlpc.org/stories/2011/12/07/frito-laypepsico-cashes-electric-truck-subsidies
          Letstakeawalk
          • 3 Years Ago
          @marcopolo
          EZEE "...or nearly all of us (there are the Fuel Cell/Hydrogen people out there) support electrics, and are optimistic..." We FCV advocates have optimism in spades... :) We'd also point out that FCVs *are* electric vehicles, using all the same parts as BEVs, with the inclusion of hydrogen storage and a fuel cell stack. FCVs and BEVs both use electrons for propulsion, they just carry those electrons in different ways.
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 3 Years Ago
        of course we should support EVs but not any project at any cost. just because it is titled EV doesn't mean it's good for EVs. it's entirely possible to throw away half a billion in the name of EVs. indeed it seems most are very good at that and the number of successful ideas so far is worryingly small. Think died. many times. Enerdel just died. A123 might soon follow. I don't expect Fisker to survive and Tesla is in serious jeopardy, not that they have had terrible products but their accounting hasn't been the best. and you can count Solyndra as well.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Dan Frederiksen
          based on these responses I googled about the Bright van and found out some interesting stuff that contradict what has been said. bright has been around for a while. for the person that said "GM Toyota Hyndai" should do it, it looks like GM actually invested in this van and is using their engine. to me this is interestng, why would GM do this and not themselves? The loan program as well looks to have funded not just telsa but Ford and Nissan, and was started by Bush. It also seems to require private money too to go with the loan. tesla for instance has raised now almost a billion of private money versus their loan of a half billion. my point is that its become politically 'hip' to bash EVs and I'd think Autoblog green is a place where people appreciate the technology and where it is headed. i expect ev bashing on Drudge but not here. i just saw that gas may get above $5 a gallon this year and i don't want to be buying evs from the chinese. we need to invest here in America.
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yeah . . . I'd love to see this succeed but I doubt they would succeed so I'd rather not give them the money. We threw a massive pile of money at Fisker and that has not been working so well . . . why would these guys do better selling a lower priced vehicle? Why not just throw a boxfish shaped van body onto the GM Volt Chassis? (And why isn't GM already doing this?!?!)
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        I want a volt caddy. Would go a long way to justify the cost ( in people's minds)
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      what's the amount? a googling suggests it's a little under 400 million. not exactly pocket change. why risk that much money when they can just convert existing model vans... I'd say no. and AM general builds super heavy junk. hardly inspirational to choose such a dull witted partner.
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Mentioning a loan amount MIGHT not be a bad thing to have in a story. Be thankful they actually made passing reference to range...(they usually skip unimportant stuff like that when talking about electrics and hybrids...
      EVnerdGene
      • 3 Years Ago
      $15,000,000,000,000.00 or $15,000,400,000,000.00 in debt. What the heck; a little more money down the toilet. if they have a good idea (business model and plan, viable product, and good people) private markets will invest all the money they'd need.
        marcopolo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        @EVnerdGene Well, gene you know my passion for light commercial EV vans! But I must agree with you on this one. A pointless waste of tax-payer funds.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yeah its another loan but why is re-tooling the AM General plant to build plug ins a bad thing? We need more plugins available. Im excited to see plugin trucks as well, given most of the stuff coming along are small cars (Volt, Leaf, Coda, Focus EV, etc. We need more supply of EVs of all flavors. This is Autoblg Green shouldnt we be in favor of more EVs?
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm guessing that much of the spare 50,000 battery pack capacity that Nissan will have at its US plant will end up n NV200 vans. What on earth makes anyone believe that Bright will be remotely capable of competing with the price that they will be able to sell them at?
      EZEE
      • 3 Years Ago
      Thankfully, the cost, range, and charging time were included in the article. Oh wait...
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      There is an infatuation with bunging money at start-ups. Getting into the motor industry is difficult, and the rate of fatalities of these ventures near 100%, with Tesla the only recent exception that springs to mind, but even they still have not actually generated any profit. This sort of sponsorship seems mainly to happen in the US, with the Japanese and Koreans funnelling things through their giant corporations. If there is money in this sort of plug in hybrid van, then GM, Toyota, Hyundai etc already have systems that they can drop into a van body. How the heck can it make sense to re-invent the wheel, and start up another company to try to develop such a system? This is surely another Think, to name the latest in a long sequence of hopeless cases.
        Nick
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Remember this was started years before Leaf & Volts, they couldn't possibly know that by now so many companies put efforts toward EVs. I give them credit for what they're doing, but I too think its chances are slim.
          marcopolo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Nick
          Good point Nick! Once the majors entered the business, the little latecomer start-ups with a single product, totally lack the ability to compete.
        marcopolo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        @ Dave Mart I agree, your analysis pretty well sums it up!
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X