Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bright IDEA Plug-in Delivery Van

We can’t say it’s terribly slick, but Bright Automotive’s first concept vehicle — unveiled this morning at an event in Washington, D.C. — could do the job for commercial and government fleets. That’s where the startup envisions its plug-in hybrid model making inroads in less than five years. Bright, a spinoff from the not-for-profit think tank and consulting firm Rocky Mountain Institute that’s run by the former chief of General Motors’ EV-1 project, reiterated its plans today to make 50,000 “IDEA” vehicles per year by 2013.
Looks like it was based on the boxfish car design. Personally I like the design, but that might just be the boxfish appreciating scuba diver in me.
It’s a working truck, but one that the company said will have an all-electric cruising range of 30 miles and get 40 miles a gallon from a 4-cylinder engine that may be provided by one of the Detroit Three. There will be a 10 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, but Bright has not yet settled on a supplier for it. With an aluminum chassis and lightweight body panels, the Idea — larger than a minivan but smaller than a FedEx truck — weighs about 3,200 pounds. According to Bright Automotive, the IDEA is five to 10 times more efficient than current fleets thanks to the vehicle’s lightweight materials, advanced aerodynamics, and efficient tires.
While they are marketing this as a 100 mpg vehicle (calculated on a 50 mile run), I think it is better to think of it as an all electric vehicle for 30 miles and then a 40 mpg gasoline powered vehicle. The 10kWh battery pack is less than the 16kWh one in the Volt, but the IDEA uses less energy per mile (10 kWh / 30 miles = 333Wh/mile vs. 16kWh/40 miles = 400Wh/mile).
Waters gave some details about the car itself, designed specifically for public and private fleets, which buy about 500,000 vehicles per year. Waters declined to offer a base price estimate, saying it would give consumers “the wrong idea” about the relative cost of the vehicle, since fleet operators consider the overall cost (they “buy on a spreadsheet”). Bright estimates that a typical customer could save 1,500 gallons of gasoline annually by switching to the IDEA. A commercial customer with 1,000 vehicles in its fleet could save $3 million each year.
I like the idea of focusing on fleet vehicles. These "spreadsheet buyers" don't care about looks, just functionality and cost. They are also willing to pay more upfront if the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle is lower. But, I would like to know what the actual cost of the vehicle is and what that battery pack goes for.
Waters told us that the startup needs to secure $400 million in Department of Energy loans or raise capital from private equity markets ($400 million over three years) before June 1 in order to reach its targeted U.S. rollout in the fourth quarter of 2012.
If the market is spreadsheet buyers and the numbers work on fuel savings alone, I don't understand why they can't get the money in the private market. It only makes sense for the government to get involved if there are benefits to society that buyers won't take into account (such as lower CO2 or pollution emissions).

It also isn't clear to me why they didn't go for an all electric car like this all electric Chrysler Minivan designed for the US Postal Service. If these vehicles are driven less than 100 miles a day, I would think an all electric vehicle would be cheaper to maintain and get even greater fuel savings.

Overall it looks pretty cool, and I hope they are able to bring it to market.

via Earth2Tech and Wheels and Auto Blog Green and Inhabit and Wired


Rebelfish said...

I'm thrilled that the company has even mentioned the separate battery range and MPG of the gas alone. I'm so tired of hearing about these 150 MPG cars that only achieve that performance because they consume electricity too.

Fat Knowledge said...

I agree, ignoring the electricity usage bugs me too.

These guys aren't the greatest as they still market it as a 100 mpg vehicle and you really have to hunt to find/calculate the mpg when the battery is used up.

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