100-mpg light truck unveiled for large fleets

The purpose-built IDEA car, designed for commercial and government fleets, gets up to 100 mpg.

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On April 21 in Washington, D.C., Bright Automotive (Anderson, Ind.) unveiled the world’s first purpose-built 100-mpg vehicle aimed at commercial and government fleets. Named the IDEA, the multi-use van falls into the light-truck classification. The company announced plans to produce 50,000 vehicles annually by 2013, creating jobs and providing businesses and government agencies with highly durable, cost-saving and eco-friendly fleets. Reportedly, the vehicle won’t be available to individuals.

At the unveiling, Bright Automotive showed a fully operational concept to a receptive crowd of government officials. The plug-in hybrid will be fabricated with aluminum and composites.

John E. Waters, CEO and president of Bright Automotive, says the IDEA will be 5 to 10 times more fuel-efficient than current commercial fleets. A typical operator is expected to save more than 1,500 gal of gasoline and thousands of dollars in fuel costs annually per vehicle. For the 100 largest fleets in the U.S., each with, on average, more 1,000 IDEA vans, the savings would average more than $3 million (USD) per year. At the same time, each IDEA reportedly will reduce emissions and CO2 output by up to 16 tons per year, compared to competing vehicles. The key parameters that contribute to this increase in efficiency are vehicle weight and aerodynamics: The curb weight target for the IDEA is 3,200 lb/1,451 kg, 1,500 lb/680 kg less than the average competitor. The van has a low 0.30 coefficient of drag (Cd), and low-rolling-resistance tires will contribute to savings. As a result, IDEA can run (fully charged) on battery power for the first 30 miles, using little or no gasoline and less than $1 of electricity. After this, it functions like other hybrids. For commercial customers with a 50-mile daily urban route, the IDEA will consume about 0.5 gal of gas, which is equivalent to getting 100 mpg. In a 70-mile day, 1 gal of gas would be used, the equivalent of 70 mpg.

Notably, Bright’s Waters developed the battery pack for GM’s first production electric vehicle, the EV1, and other Bright executives and engineers spent years working for Chrysler, Delphi, Johnson Controls and other automotive industry manufacturers and suppliers. The company was spun off about a year ago from automotive think tank Rocky Mountain Institute (Snowmass, Colo.).  

“The promise of plug-in vehicles and smart grid technology is not a dream,” says Waters. “It is achievable, today, here in America.”