Bright Automotive Pilots with Postal Service, Pushes Back Production Plan

Bright Automotive, a spinoff from the not-for-profit think tank and consulting firm Rocky Mountain Institute, which is looking to build a plug-in hybrid car called the IDEA, has linked up with the U.S. Postal Service. The deal is for Bright to retrofit a standard postal service fleet vehicle with its electric drive train and test the vehicle in Washington, D.C., for a year. Yeah, it’s a tiny step, and Bright has other small deals like its partnership with the U.S. Army to test plug-in hybrid vehicle tech in non-combat situations.
But the Anderson, Ind.-based company, which is run by the former chief of General Motors’ (s gm) EV-1 project, released an interesting tidbit in its press release this morning: it now plans to start production of the IDEA in 2013 (we’re waiting to hear back on a more specific timeline). Last summer Bright Automotive had a plan to start producing fleet vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2012, which Bright CEO John Waters acknowledged was ambitious and was partly based on trying to secure a $450 million loan from the DOE.

The flood of funding from the Department of Energy’s $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program — $8 billion for Tesla Motors, Nissan (s nsany) and Ford (s f) in June, and another $1.4 billion for Nissan in January — has slowed to a trickle in recent months. We haven’t heard anything on Bright’s application.
CEO John Waters told us last year that the company had to either secure DOE loans or raise capital from private equity markets by the end of May 2010 in order to reach its target of producing fleet vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2012. We’ve asked Bright for an update on their funding and are waiting to hear back.
We wouldn’t be surprised if moving production solidly into the middle, or even the end, of 2013 was also ambitious for Bright. If the history of the alternative car startup industry is a guide, these companies (Tesla, Aptera) very commonly have to delay manufacturing and launches because of lack of financing. Many just don’t expect producing a plug-in car to be that expensive.
Related articles on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):
California Rules Show Opportunities in EV Charging
How to Build Better Apps for Electric Vehicles
Mobility on Demand Takes Aim at Transport Networks’ “Last Mile”