Startup Bright Automotive Shuts Down, Slams DoE Loan Process Page 2

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The two executives take the blame for not pursuing funding from China, saying that Bright "made it clear we were an American company."

According to the Bright insider, "we had a term sheet with a Chinese investor."

And, he said ruefully, "had we known in 2010 what we know now, we'd be a Chinese company today"--and still in business.

Plug-in delivery van

Bright was founded in January 2008 to develop and build a plug-in hybrid light commercial delivery van, a vehicle type that covers more miles than passenger cars and whose owners are willing to spend more up front for the promise of savings over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Its design, the Bright Idea van, offered a payload of up to 2,000 pounds and gas mileage in mixed use of up to 100 miles per gallon.

It was to run up to 40 miles on electricity from its 13 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that powered by a rear-wheel drive electric motor.

Then, its four-cylinder GM engine and transmission would take over, assisted by a smaller electric motor, to power the front wheels.

In essence, the Bright Idea was to be the world’s first plug-in through-the-road hybrid delivery truck. 

We drove the Idea prototype back in October 2009, when its extended-range engine was a 2.0-liter gasoline engine from a Dodge Caliber. 

We found it performed -- and behaved -- much like a conventional hybrid, with the same lag on acceleration and disconnect between engine speed and road speed you’d find on any conventional hybrid car. 

The collective employment history of Bright’s founding engineering team included engineers from teams working on the GM EV1, Ford Fusion, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and even Segway. 


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Comments (8)
  1. Thanks for the detailed reporting on the nature of this shutdown.

    This is a very innovative idea. It is very unfortunate that it didn't get traction.

  2. This is an inexcusable and tragic development. What a waste of visionary and promising technology.!Bright had customers for thousands of vehicles.

    DOE acted similarly with -- years of delays for solutions we need!

    Felix Kramer, Founder,

  3. This is sad news yet again for EVs.

  4. Frustrating bureaucracy !

  5. The DOE had the right strategy for these loans from the beginning, but you have to accept that high risk means some investments will not pay off. You can't put onerous requirements on these investments, because 1) you are clearly stating doubt that private investors can read, and 2) you aren't giving the borrower the flexibility to adapt their business plans to new opportunities for funding, partnering, acquisition, etc. This is why businesses are dubious about government loan programs, because politics can lead to the rug being pulled out from under your business venture. It's the same in poker, sometimes the cards don't fall in you favor, but it doesn't mean you had the wrong strategy, and you should change strategies mid-game.

  6. Don't blame the DOE, blame the investors who insisted they go after the government dollars. Bright basing their high-risk/niche market business on a government loan was not a good idea to begin with.

    Both Bright and Aptera could have survived as private companies with moderate sales had they not taken large investments. VCs are not happy with moderate low volume sales - they want a Billion$ home run.

    If Bright wanted "free" government money, they should have become defense contractors & start lobbying politicians. That has worked for Blackwater & Sierra-Nevada Corporation.

  7. Blame Republicans. Obama couldn't risk another Solyndra before November 2012.

  8. Wow. Such a disappointing ending to a project that began with such promise. The consortium behind Bright (before it was Bright) based the project on market, societal, economic, environmental and consumer needs that have not only remained relevant but have become even more essential to a sustainable mobility future for the US. I do agree that bureaucracy has no real function other than to be an anchor on innovation, but I'm confident the Bright leadership went where they must to chase funding and keep the project alive. At any rate, it shows just how hard it is to be an entrepreneurial enterprise at scale.

    RIP, Bright.

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