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GM funds Indiana electric vehicle startup Bright

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GM funds Indiana electric vehicle startup Bright

David Shepardson / The Detroit News

General Motors Co.'s new venture capital arm is backing an Indiana plug-in hybrid startup.

GM said today it is providing $5 million in funding to Anderson, Ind.-based Bright Automotive -- the first investment by General Motors Ventures LLC. The move is aimed at speeding production of the IDEA, a plug-in hybrid commercial vehicle that they hope to launch in 2013 or 2014.

The Detroit automaker will get an undisclosed minority stake in the company as part of the deal and will provide engines to Bright.

Funding through GM Ventures will allow Bright to begin ramping up the development of the production program for the IDEA in the third quarter of the year.

Bright's IDEA vehicle is focused on light-weight technology, aerodynamics and a highly efficient drivetrain. The comapyn said it will operates in electric mode for 40 miles before switching to an estimated 36 mpg hybrid mode.This gives the vehicle the potential for achieving more than 100 miles per gallon based on daily driving patterns, the company said.

Bright chairman and CEO Reuben Munger said the commercial vehicles could be used by beverage haulers, cable installers or utility technicians. Munger said the company's business model calls for selling 50,000 vehicles annually starting in 2014.

The company initially wanted to launch production in 2012, but it's been delayed until 2013 or 2014 because of the weak economy, Munger said.

"Funding early-stage start-up companies is a new way of doing business at GM to accelerate the introduction of innovative technology to support our core automotive business and give us a competitive advantage," said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures. "In this case, our funding of Bright Automotive will accelerate the introduction of advanced propulsion and light-weight technologies in the commercial vehicle market."

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding in July. GM this week gave the undisclosed amount of money to Bright, and the two companies intend to complete the formal agreements later this year.

The companies haven't decided if the vehicle will be sold at GM dealerships, Lauckner said.

As part of the deal, Bright will get access to GM technologies as well as advanced engine and transmission systems for its vehicle.

"This relationship is an important step forward for Bright and a strong endorsement of our highly experienced automotive team and our incredible vehicle," Munger said. "With this deal, Bright gets financial support that puts us on the fast-track toward mass production of the IDEA. And perhaps just as importantly, we gain a strategic partner that is a world leader in electrification."

The 2-year-old Bright Automotive -- like GM -- has sought a low-cost government loan from the U.S. Energy Department's $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said the deal may make sense if it fills a niche that GM doesn't have.

"If they can learn something it makes sense," Cole said. "They aren't going to buy a company to build a Volt 2."

Lauckner said this technology of Bright's "is tailed more toward utility vehicles than passenger vehicles" and didn't expect it would show up in GM cars.5

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100803/AUTO01/8030402/1148/auto01/GM-funds-Indiana-electric-vehicle-startup-Bright#ixzz0vaGLXVAv

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GM partners with EV company Bright

BY JEWEL GOPWANI

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

General Motors announced a new agreement with Indiana-based electric vehicle company Bright Automotive, a move that gives GM a quick way to develop a commercial electric vehicle.

GM, through its GM Ventures subsidiary, will provide $5 million to Bright to help jumpstart production of the plug-in hybrid van Bright calls, the Idea.

In return, the automaker will receive a minority stake in Bright.

“With this deal, Bright gets financial support that puts us on the fast-track toward mass production of the Idea. And perhaps just as importantly, we gain a strategic partner that is a world leader in electrification,” said Bright Automotive CEO Reuben Munger.

“GM’s investment gives them legitimacy and puts them on the map,” said Mike Omotoso, an automotive analyst with J.D. Power and Associates.

The investment also could help Bright win approval for loans from the U.S. Department of Energy as well as draw interest from other investors, Omotoso said.

Bright had to put the Idea on hold when it encountered funding hurdles during the credit crisis of 2008. Its loan application with the Department of Energy has been pending for 19 months.

"Funding early-stage start-up companies is a new way of doing business at GM to accelerate the introduction of innovative technology to support our core automotive business and give us a competitive advantage," said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures.

Bright is targeting the market for commercial vehicles used by cable, telecom, utility and other companies that use fleets of trucks.

Munger estimates the total market for those vehicles amounts to sales of 900,000 vehicles per year.

Omotoso said GM’s investment gives the automaker a quick way to develop a commercial electric vehicle to match Ford’s Transit Connect. Ford launched a gasoline powered version of the Transit Connect last year and is planning to launch an electric version this year.

The Idea will use a GM engine and transmission. It will drive 40 miles on battery power and about 300 miles on an internal combustion engine.

Bright is gearing up to build 50,000 in North America.

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100803/BUSINESS0101/100803037/1210/BUSINESS01/GM-partners-with-EV-company-Bright-

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GM TO FUND HYBRID COMMERCIAL VAN BUILDER

By Andrew Ganz

General Motors announced today that its newly-formed General Motors Ventures arm will begin a strategic relationship with Anderson, Indiana-based Bright Automotive to produce a plug-in hybrid commercial van.

GM Ventures will take a minority stake in Bright and the van builder will gain access to certain GM powertrain and transmission technologies for use in its vehicles.

The IDEA van is a commercial-oriented 100 mpg plug-in hybrid electric vehicle aimed mainly at urban users. It operates in purely electric mode for 40 miles before switching over to a standard hybrid mode that achieves around 36 mpg.

Bright has applied for a loan from the United States Department of Energy, although it has not yet been approved. Neither Bright nor GM has given an estimated on-sale date for the IDEA.

link:

http://www.leftlanenews.com/gm-to-fund-hybrid-commercial-van-builder.html

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