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Bright Automotive to Cease Plans to Create Green Vehicle, Adds Jobs in Rochester Hills

The company had been awaiting a government loan to build the Bright IDEA hybrid vehicle and bring more than 200 jobs to the city.

Bright Automotive, a startup hybrid electric vehicle company that had planned to invest $12 million and create more than 200 jobs in Rochester Hills, says the government has forced the company to cry "uncle" and shut down operations.

The Indiana-based company, which in 2010 received tax credits from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority and a matching tax exemption from the city of Rochester Hills, was awaiting a loan from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, a $25 billion program created by Congress in 2008 to advanced President Obama's goal to create green auto jobs.

In total, more than 100 companies applied for $42.7 billion in loans. But just $8 billion has been awarded, and the loan program has received criticism from members of Congress and CEOs.

in the former Chrysler tech center off Hamlin Road in Rochester Hills. The plan was to design and test its Bright IDEA, a 100-mpg plug-in hybrid electric vehicle commercial fleet van.

After several persuasive letters to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and his department urging the awarding of the loan, Bright executives wrote a final letter to Chu dated Tuesday, announcing its plans to withdraw the loan application and close up.

"Bright has not been explicitly rejected by the DOE; rather, we have been forced to say 'uncle.' As a result, we are winding down our operations," CEO Reuben Munger and COO Mike Donoughe wrote.

The letter (attached as a PDF file) went on to say the company has received a series of "conditional commitment" letters from the energy department, each one including more "onerous terms than the last."

"The first three were workable for us, but the last was so outlandish that most rational and objective persons would likely conclude that your team was negotiating in bad faith," the letter stated.

"The actions – or better said 'lack of action' – by your team means hundreds of great manufacturing and technical jobs, union and non-union alike, and thousands of indirect jobs in Indiana and Michigan will not see the light of day.

"For us, this is a particularly sad day for our employees and their families, as well as the employees and families of our partners."

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said he personally spoke with Chu while in Washington, DC, last year, urging him to approve the Bright loan.

The project was estimated to generate new taxes in the city from a planned $12 million investment in personal property — computers, software and other equipment.

Marty Rosalik March 02, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Thanks Daryl. I have a few ideas but all of them require a relatively inexpensive supply of used electric and hybrid vehicle batteries. One is remanufactured HV batteries. There are companies out there but I have some very specific ideas on how to do this better and I'm not sharing that. Honda is having all sorts of trouble with their IMA battery. Even class action law suits. There are re-man outfits but they aren't doing a very good job. The other idea of what I call distributed storage is in the works by several big companies. The Volt Afterlife link above is one of the big ones. They too are looking for these used batteries. So there are already competitors circling these waters. Since I'm too much of a technical geek I will need to "hire my own boss" when I go to start up. I know the technology not the buisness. Thanks again for the offer.
Daryl Patrishkoff March 02, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Marty, I am a member of the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility Alliance (MAGMA) because of my work with technical training and my project developing Compress Natural Gas passenger vehicles. We had a meeting all morning and we were discussing the various programs they have for electric vehicles and I thought of you. The colleges involved are looking for adjunct professors with electric storage and systems technical knowledge with vehicles. If this is something you are interested in doing I can put you in touch with the right people to see if there is a fit. Guess what, I brought up the reuse and recycling opportunities and they are interested in building a curriculum to have people ready for that wave of batteries. We also have GM, Ford, Chrysler, A123 and many other companies represented in the committee. Right now MAGMA is focused on only electric vehicles, I am trying them to expand into Compressed Natural Gas vehicles, we have over 10 Million of them in the world, but only 100,000 fleet vehicles in the US. What does the world see that we do not in the US?
Marty Rosalik March 05, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Daryl, I just saw this press release. I only know of one public CNG filling in Ann Arbor. "2013 GMC and Chevrolet Bi-Fuel Pickups Unveiled Chevrolet and GMC today announced details of GM's bi-fuel 2013 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended cab pickup trucks. Fleet and retail consumers can place orders beginning this April. The vehicles include a compressed natural gas (CNG) capable Vortec 6.0L V8 engine that seamlessly transitions between CNG and gasoline fuel systems. Combined, the trucks offer a range of more than 650 miles. The Silverado and Sierra will be available in standard and long box, with either two- or four-wheel drive."
Daryl Patrishkoff March 05, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Marty, Thanks, I just got the news release this morning. I also hear Chrysler will announce a Ram Truck bi-fuel vehicle tomorrow. This is getting exciting. Our approach is very different than these but glad to see the momentum.
Marty Rosalik March 06, 2012 at 02:01 AM
I'm hopefull that more CNG filling stations will be installed. Not many anywhere near here. Right now CNG is nowhere near the volitility of liquid dino fuel. Or price. The truck including heavy duty 3/4 ton is a great product. Towing, hauling, plowing, landscape... all possible. Some Larry The Cable Guy wannabe will probably lift one up to the moon. The Bi-fuel capacity even more versitile. And if Larry jacks it up... it won't smoke like the Badger.

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