General Motors’ new venture capital unit is investing $5 million to help a struggling Indiana start-up bring its high-mileage plug-in hybrid commercial vehicle to market.
Bright Automotive originally had hoped to launch sales of its IDEA truck by 2012 but got sidelined by the global economic crisis. Now, with GM’s cash – and technology – the start-up company believes it can put the project back on track by 2013 or 2014, targeting a lucrative fleet vehicle market that accounts for nearly 1 million sales annually in the U.S. – and even more abroad, Bright officials say.
“Our program has been put on hold for some time, but our partnership will reinvigorate the IDEA,” said Bright Automotive Chairman and CEO Reuben Munger, during a joint teleconference with John Lauckner, the president of newly-formed GM Ventures.
As originally envisioned, IDEA is a lightweight, highly aerodynamic plug-in hybrid that will yield nearly 40 miles on battery power alone and then get as much as 36 mile per gallon in gas-electric mode. The new partners said they have not resolved some specific technical details of the updated commercial vehicle but Bright is now likely to turn to GM to provide one of its inline-four-cylinder engines for the project.