Once an icon of American materialism and consumption, the Hummer died an unceremonious death when GM killed the brand. It’s military cousin, the HUMVEE, produced by AM General, was not far behind, leaving behind several empty assembly plants across the country and opening the way for a more fuel-efficient replacement. But one of those plants, in northern Indiana, could be retooled to build Bright Automotive’s IDEA plug-in hybrid vans if a deal announced Friday goes through.

From Gas Guzzlers To Fuel SippersBright Automotive is seeking a manufacturing facility to start churning out its IDEA plug-in hybrid vans, and approached AM General about its former HUMVEE manufacturing facility in northern Indiana. If a deal is reached, and Bright can secure enough venture capital and government loans, then the upstart automaker hopes to start producing its plug-in hybrid vans by 2013 or 2014. The factory could bring upwards of 300 jobs to the area.

More importantly, it would offer fleet customers a more fuel-efficient option when it comes to fleet vehicle purchases. Bright’s IDEA plug-in hybrid van is marketed as having a 30-mile all-electric range, with a range-extender kicking in to provide up to 35 mpg after the battery is drained. Talk about a big boon to fleet-owners who increasingly see their profits sunk into fueling up. Bright is even working on a version of the van for the military, providing up to 3.3 kW of power continuously at either 110 or 220 volts.

From HUMVEEs to plug-in hybrids, the greening of America is slowly taking shape, and with major OEM’s failing to provide fuel-efficient fleet solutions, it is going to fall to companies like Bright Automotive, XL Hybrids, and Smith Electric vehicles to step up. Once the OEM’s do get rolling though, will there still be a place at the table for small companies like Bright?

Source: Business Week