Bright Automotive Delivers ‘IDEA’ to Military

Anderson-based Bright Automotive is making inroads with the military. The developer of a plug-in hybrid vehicle called the IDEA has delivered a prototype to the U.S. Army for review and testing. The company also says the U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a contract to refine the vehicle systems to "near production-intent."

Bright Automotive announced today that it has delivered a prototype electrified vehicle, based on the Bright IDEA’s plug-in hybrid architecture, to the U.S. Army for review and testing. The company also announced that based on its performance in developing the vehicle, the Department of Defense has awarded a new contract to refine the hybrid and vehicle systems to near production-intent.

Bright Automotive, under contract, is working with the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research Development & Engineering Center’s (TARDEC) National Automotive Center (NAC) to develop a vehicle for non-tactical, transport applications. The vehicle is a commercial utility vehicle retrofitted with plug-in hybrid powertrain based on the Bright IDEA. It features a number of technologies developed by Bright — including a custom battery pack, 50+ mpg efficiency, and integrated vehicle to grid (V2G) capabilities — that could improve base transportation efficiency and, in the event of an emergency, provide temporary power to the base electrical grid.

The delivery and the new contract mark another significant step forward for Bright Automotive. On August 3, Bright and General Motors announced that they had agreed to pursue a strategic relationship and that GM has provided funding to the Indiana automaker. The relationship will accelerate the production of the Bright IDEA, a highly efficient plug-in hybrid commercial vehicle designed for government and business fleets.

“This vehicle demonstrates that the Bright IDEA architecture can serve as the core of a custom, highly efficient solution for a demanding customer such as the U.S. Army,” said Nigel Francis, Bright Automotive Executive Vice President. “As with everything we do, Bright listened to the customer to develop a vehicle that exceeds their specific efficiency and utility demands. The U.S. Army fleet consists of over 80,000 non-tactical vehicles that rely on hydrocarbon-based fuel sources, so plug-in vehicles are a huge opportunity to cut fuel costs.”

Bright’s whole system engineering approach, combined with close attention to the voice of the customer, led to a number of areas where the IDEA-based conversion exceeds U.S. Army requirements. These include:

-Custom Battery Solution. Bright Automotive developed a custom 10 kWh battery pack and battery management system (BMS) for the U.S. Army vehicle. By developing custom solutions, Bright was able to deliver a battery pack and BMS combination exactly suited to U.S. Army requirements. It achieves the range and performance the U.S. Army needs with optimal battery weight.

-Advanced IDEA Powertrain. The Bright Automotive vehicle uses a Parallel Road-Coupled Architecture based on the powertrain in the Bright IDEA. An electric motor powers the rear wheels, while a combustion engine powers the front axle. This provides efficiency and all-wheel-drive capability.

-Efficiency. The vehicle achieves exceptional fuel economy based on the Army’s average daily usage requirements. The vehicle can operate in all-electric mode for the first 20 to 30 miles, before switching to a blended hybrid mode.

-Vehicle to Grid (V2G) Technology. The Bright vehicle is capable of exporting power to the base microgrid to provide temporary power to the base in the event of an emergency. Stringing together a number of these vehicles would enable the Army to temporarily operate a base independent of the electrical grid in the event of a grid failure.

-Flexible Charging and Exporting Capabilities. The vehicle is able to export up to 3.3 kW of power continuously and has both 110v and 220v charging capabilities.

The vehicle delivery took place at the U.S. Army’s Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Michigan, where TARDEC officials drove the vehicle and tested its vehicle-to-grid power export capabilities. The delivery marks the culmination of an October 2009 contract from the Department of Defense to develop an electrified retrofit of a commercial utility vehicle for non-tactical, inter-base troop transport applications.

Under the new contract, Bright Automotive will work with the U.S. Army to bring the prototype plug-in hybrid vehicle to near-production readiness. Bright Automotive is using holistic system thinking and unwavering attention to the voice of the customer to develop a plug-in hybrid conversion vehicle for the U.S. Army that minimizes costs and maximizes efficiency and utility.

Specific areas for vehicle refinement include:

· Refining ability of vehicle to export power to grid

· Testing and improving the vehicle’s snow/rain performance

· Developing a robust active stability system

· Validating vehicle performance at extreme temperatures

· Conducting emissions testing and optimization

· Optimizing regenerative braking

In addition to developing plug-in hybrid vehicles for the Department of Defense, Bright Automotive is producing the IDEA, a purpose-built, lightweight, aerodynamic, aluminum light commercial fleet vehicle. Since its launch, Bright Automotive has worked directly with fleet customers including the USPS to design vehicles that improve their bottom line while cutting emissions and fuel use.

Bright Automotive launched in 2008 with a highly experienced electric vehicles and PHEV team and a focus on developing advanced vehicles that reduce costs and increase utility for fleet customers. Since then, Bright has developed the IDEA, the world’s first multi-purpose, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle aimed at commercial and government fleets. It has also launched Bright eSolutions, which delivers expertise to automotive customers worldwide to accelerate vehicle electrification, lightweighting, and overall platform efficiency.