GM invests in Bright Automotive to make plug-in vans

We all know General Motors as a car manufacturer, but GM’s also a venture capitalist. Two months ago, it created General Motors Ventures, LLC, a subsidiary designed “to help the company identify and develop innovative technologies in the automotive/transportation sector”. This new company first funding action is to invest in Bright Automotive, a start-up, based in Indiana, which completes the development of a totally new, and very efficient plug-in hybrid commercial van.

Bright Automotive was launched from Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in January, 2008 with a team of very experienced EV/PHEV engineers. It has developed the prototype of a plug-in hybrid minivan that it calls the IDEA, and is currently working on turning it into a production model. The IDEA minivan has been seen several times, but no automotive journalist has test-driven one yet.


Reuben Munger, Bright Automotive Chairman and CEO, explains the partnership this way: “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 initial funding amount was not disclosed, but Bright Automotive will gain access to GM technologies, advanced engine, motors and transmission systems, for its vehicle.

A date has yet to be given for the IDEA’s availability, Bright Automotive hasn’t started to take orders.