Back in 2008, Bright Automotive of Anderson, Indiana had a good idea. They would be the first to build a plug-in hybrid electric truck for commercial use, thereby saving commercial fleet owners thousands of dollars every year in fuel costs. General Motors thought enough of the concept to provide some initial financing. But the plan ran into trouble when the company could not get a loan from the US Department of Energy to help build an assembly line. When Bright went out of business, Echo Automotive of Scottsdale, AZ purchased its assets and intellectual property.
Echo decided to reconfigure the hybrid power train that Bright was going to use so it could be bolted into a standard production vehicle like a Ford E-Series or Chevy Express van. One feature of the system was the power train could be removed and installed in another van when the first one reached the end of its useful life. Echo said its system would save 50% in fuel bills, putting as much as $30,000 back into the owner’s pocket over 10 years.
One of the hard lessons of capitalism is that not every good idea is commercially viable. While the Echo plan made sense, in the end it succumbed to economic reality. Unable to pay its creditors, Echo has closed its doors and gone out of business according to Green Car Reports.
America could certainly use commercial vehicles that consume significantly less gasoline and diesel fuel. The only company still trying to crack this potentially lucrative market is VIA Motors, which specializes in replacing the conventional power trains of General Motors trucks, vans and SUV’s with its proprietary extended range electric systems. But high initial cost has hampered VIA sales so far.
It is likely that success in the marketplace will have to wait until the cost of batteries for plug in and electric vehicles comes down considerably.