Bright Automotive, a spin-out from the Rocky Mountain Institute, provided a little more detail on its plans to bring a light, aerodynamic plug-in hybrid car to market. High volume production of the Idea will begin by the end of and by 2013 it wants to be at a run rate of 50,000 cars a year (see Green Light post).
The car will initially be aimed at fleet owners, who can more effectively capitalize on the savings that plug-ins can bring, and later be pitched to consumers. Fleet owners generally also worry less about having quick acceleration and a long driving range. Bright CEO John Waters was, in fact, flanked by execs from Duke Energy and Frito-Lay in his Washington appearance.
Like San Diego's Aptera, Bright is paying particular attention to weight, wind resistance and materials in the design of its car (see Aptera 2e Hits the Streets of San Francisco). Bright's car will weigh 3,200 pounds, or 1,500 pounds less than average competitors. By reducing wind resistance and weight, the company's engineers effectively are reducing the amount of work an electric engine will have to perform to get the car up to driving speeds, which in turn conserves battery power. Aptera will make all-electrics, plug-in hybrids and gas cars, while Bright will make plug-in hybrids.
Weight and poor design result in a disproportionate amount of fuel consumption in vehicles, Waters told us back in January when the company came out of stealth mode. The U.S. Post Office operates 162,000 delivery trucks that get around 10 miles per gallon, he said, and these trucks drive around 18 miles a day. If those trucks are put to use 300 working days a year, that's 87.5 million gallons of gas consumed by those white little trucks trolling your neighborhood. Boosting mileage to 100 miles per gallon conceivably could save nearly 80 million gallons of gas.
A one cent increase in the price of fuel raises the federal budget by $8 million. A company or organization with a car fleet of 1,000 vehicles (there are about 100 of those) could save over $3 million.
A lighter car also means a smaller battery pack, which in turn reduces the cost. Batteries are one of the most expensive components of electric cars and one of the primary reasons electrics and plug-in hybrids haven't gone mainstream yet.
Bright's car is a parallel plug-in hybrid, which should revive the serial versus parallel debate. In a parallel hybrid, the gas engine and the electric motor both propel the car down the road. In a plug-in parallel, the electric motor does most of the work, but the gas engine still kicks in for that function. Other plug-in parallel fans include Andy Frank, the so-called father of the plug-in from UC Davis, and Toyota.
In a series hybrid, the gas engine only exists to charge the battery. The electric motor is the sole source for direct propulsion. The Chevy Volt is a series hybrid, for example.
Bright, though, did not provide many technical details.