Bright Automotive Chief Operating Officer Mike Donoughe invoked President Barack Obama's recent call for U.S. companies to create American jobs while developing alternative energy sources for transportation by requesting that Congress speed up the company's federal loan process.

The company, which is developing the Bright IDEA plug-in hybrid-electric cargo van, is "ready, willing and able" to create as many as 2,500 direct and indirect U.S. job once production is up and running. The hold up? Its loan request from the U.S. Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Program hasn't yet been processed, something that Donoughe said in a statement this week should be done "swiftly."

Bright Automotive said last November that it reached an agreement to make the IDEA at the AM General Corp factory in Mishawaka, IN, where the Hummer H2 was previously built. At the time, the company estimated that about 300 people would be employed there. The IDEA is expected to deliver about 40 miles on electricity, then switch over to gasoline power, giving the delivery van a range similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt.

The company, which was founded in 2008 by the battery specialist who helped develop General Motors' EV1 electric vehicle and spun off from the Rocky Mountain Institute, said late last year that the IDEA may be available for government and fleet purchases as early as 2014. The company had initially planned on having its plug-in truck ready by this year, but development was put on hold during the recent recession and financial crisis.
Show full PR text
Midwest Hybrid Electric Vehicle Manufacturer Says It's Ready to Fulfill President Obama's State of the Union Blueprint for U.S. Jobs and Alternative Energy Technology Leadership

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich., Jan. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A Midwest-based plug-in hybrid electric vehicle manufacturer is calling on Congressional and media critics to put their partisanship aside and heed President Obama's call to create American jobs and spur the development of alternative energy technology by swiftly processing its loan application under the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) Program – which Congress authorized in 2007.

"These loans enable automotive companies (established and start-ups alike) to lead America forward – towards energy independence, better national security and an improved environment; creating thousands of American jobs in the process," said Mike Donoughe, Bright Automotive COO. "This is exactly what the President is calling for tonight and Bright Automotive is ready, willing and able to answer that challenge for our country."

Bright Automotive is an Indiana and Michigan-based company developing the Bright IDEA vehicle. The vehicle is a plug-in hybrid electric commercial van that delivers unprecedented fuel economy and utility while significantly lowering the total cost of ownership. Bright's technology is on the road and is being tested by the Department of Defense and other fleets. The company reports it has anxious customers ready to buy its vehicles, with half of its customer base small businesses – the growth engine of jobs in America – which will save thousands of dollars per vehicle every year.

Many experts believe plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are the best opportunity going forward to thwart expensive and volatile oil prices that likely will exceed $100 a barrel for the foreseeable future, meaning $4 a gallon gas at the pump nationwide sooner rather than later.

"Yes, we are about cleaner energy," said Donoughe. "But our belief is that 'you have to be green to be green' – meaning it is not enough to be green environmentally, if you are not green economically. That is why it is crucially important that we are a smart play for businesses operating fleets of vehicles; from service professionals like Comcast and FedEx to your local plumber or florist."

A typical business fleet currently spends about $5,000 to $7,000 annually on gasoline per vehicle. The Bright Idea PHEV saves $4,000 to $5,000 in fuel costs annually. For a small business that has 15 trucks in its fleet, this is significant operational savings. For larger businesses with 100 vehicles or more, the savings can reach a million dollars or more per year. For Federal and state government and public service fleets, totaling more than 400,000 vehicles with a target to be alternatively-fueled in the next few years, it represents literally billions of dollars in fuel costs saved for taxpayers.

The Bright IDEA vehicle will be developed in Rochester Hills, Michigan, while its hybrid electric powertrain will be engineered in Anderson, Indiana. When production begins, it will be assembled in Indiana at a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. These new operations will conservatively create more than 2,500 direct and indirect jobs and will be 100 percent U.S.-based.

"Our business plan has been thoroughly vetted by the government since submission in December 2008 and we have received tremendous bipartisan support from legislators in Indiana, Michigan and across the country," said Donoughe. "That support has helped us get the ball into the red zone, but not yet into the end zone. Michigan Congressman John Dingell told the Detroit News there is an attempt being made by certain members of Congress to kill this program. That prospect could end our plan to build our vehicle and create great jobs in the heart of America."

Consistent with President Obama's call for action in his pre-State of the Union video, Donoughe argues these loans are exactly the type of investments our government should be making - supporting companies like Bright Automotive in advancing proven technologies and creating good jobs to help small business owners improve their operations.

"They are doing it in Germany and China and elsewhere – and we must do it in the United States to regain and retain our manufacturing base and competitive edge," said Donoughe.

President Obama said in a January 11th speech heralding companies that were "insourcing" work back to the United States: "I don't want the next generation of manufacturing jobs taking root in countries like China or Germany. I want them taking root in places like Michigan and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina."

Donoughe noted that if the ATVM Loan Program is scuttled, U.S.-based private financing will likely not commit and companies like Bright will be forced to look at foreign sources; most likely China. Typically, the jobs follow the investment.

"If jobs aren't important enough, let's talk about our national and energy security," said Donoughe. "Dealing with our nation's security vulnerabilities requires sustained commitment and targeted involvement by the federal government, including leveraging programs already in place like the ATVM loan program. We mustn't let volatility- in Washington or by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz -undermine our commitment to investments in modernizing our transportation technologies. One member of the Saudi royal family recently noted, OPEC doesn't 'want the West to find alternatives.'"

"We stand ready to deliver American advanced technology developed and built by Americans," added Donoughe.