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GM Ventures’ First Investment: Electric Vehicle Startup Bright Automotive

IDEA plug-in hybrid

GM may be banking heavily on the Chevy Volt for success in the electric vehicle world, but the automaker is still hedging its bets through a a $5 million investment in Bright Automotive, the startup behind the upcoming IDEA plug-in hybrid for commercial fleets. The Bright Automotive deal marks the first investment for General Motors Ventures, the venture capital arm of GM.

In a statement, GM Ventures president Jon Lauckner explained,
“Funding early-stage start-up companies is a new way of doing business
at
GM to accelerate the introduction of innovative technology to support
our core automotive business and give us a competitive advantage…In
this case, our funding of
Bright Automotive will accelerate the introduction of advanced
propulsion and light-weight technologies in the commercial vehicle
market.”

The deal makes sense for both parties. GM gains access to Bright’s hybrid technology, and Bright gets the keys to GM transmissions and engines. GM could certainly benefit from Bright’s hybrid knowledge–the company scored a deal recently with the U.S. Postal Service to test out an electric drivetrain on a USPS delivery vehicle. If the test goes well, Bright could get a big order for electric USPS vans. And thanks to the GM partnership, Bright can ramp up production development of its flagship IDEA plug-in hybrid van later this year.

So if the heavily hyped Volt underperforms, GM can always fall back the comparatively unsexy world of commercial fleets.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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