General Motors is getting into the extremely fuel-efficient delivery van business with an investment in the startup Bright Automotive, it announced today. It’s buying a minority stake in the start-up, which is developing a plug-in hybrid van aimed at fleet customers. The van can travel 38 miles on battery power alone, or it can act as a hybrid, combining gas and electric power to get 36 miles per gallon.
The vehicle seems to be a challenge to Ford’s successful Transit Connect, a conventional gas or diesel powered delivery van that will be offered as an electric vehicle later this year. GM says that the Bright van has the advantage of having a longer range than the Ford electric vehicle, which can only go 80 miles on a charge. The Bright van has a range of about 400 miles when using both electric and gas power.
The Bright van also has an unusual hybrid arrangement. The front wheels will be powered by a gas engine (the engine and transmission will come from GM) and the rear wheels will be powered by an electric motor. Bright has developed control systems that coordinated between them.