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Earth Day Special: Of Solar Trees & PHEVs

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Parking and charging - plug-in vehicles are coming of age Parking lots occupy a lot of land, pave over a lot of potentially green space, and soak up and radiate a lot of heat in cities and towns across America. Looking to improve the situation, Bright Automotive and Envision Solar International are out to turn parking lots into solar-powered electric vehicle recharging stations.

The developer of solar integrated building systems technology and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles teamed up to introduce the IDEA 100-MPG plug-in hybrid electric multi-use vehicle and the CleanCharge/Solar Tree Charging Station in a special Earth Day event on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Bright Automotive and Envision executives explained and demonstrated the benefits and actual workings a combination of PHEV vehicles and recharging infrastructure could have in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the environment and reducing dependence on imported oil to members of Congress, White House officials and representatives of potential suppliers and customers.

“We created the IDEA by starting with a clean sheet of paper, listening to customer needs, and using breakthrough technologies and materials,” John E. Waters, President and CEO of Bright Automotive, stated in a media release. “The IDEA leverages Bright’s highly experienced team and delivers a lower cost of ownership than competing vehicles. At the same time, the IDEA demonstrates technological leadership for the American auto industry and will create thousands of new ‘green collar’ jobs here at home.”

Bright IDEA

Indiana-based Bright Automotive plans to have as many as 50,000 PHEVs rolling off production lines annually by 2013 with initial high-volume manufacturing slated to commence by the end of 2012. Categorized as a “light truck,” the company is initially targeting sales to commercial and government fleets.

The IDEA would yield more than $3 million in cost savings per year if they were used by the 100 largest fleets in the U.S., according to Bright. In terms of reducing emissions, each IDEA reduces emissions and C02 output by up to 16 tons each year over competing vehicles.

On a full charge, the IDEA uses battery power for the first 30 miles, consuming little or no gasoline and less than $1 worth of electricity. For commuters with a 50-mile a day commute, it uses about 1/2-gallon of gasoline.

Solar Trees

Rolling out recharging stations and other infrastructure is integral to widespread adoption of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Envision’s Clean Charge/Solar Tree Charging Stations “transform heat-absorbing parking areas into beautiful, efficient solar power plants,” according to the company.

Initially designed for Bright Automotive’s new fleet of PHEVs, Coulomb Technologies and Axion Power International, partners in Envision’s CleanCharge Initiative, will be engineering and rolling out the charging stations nationwide.

The form and function of real trees provided the inspiration for Envision’s Solar Tree charging stations. The company’s architects, engineers and builders employed the principles of “biomimicry” in its design.

Envision began developing its CleanCharge Solar-to-Smart Grid Integrated Vehicle Charging System earlier this year. The system is being pilot-tested in San Jose, California.

“The future of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles has arrived, and we are thrilled to be Bright’s solar partner of choice,” said Envision Solar’s CEO and Founder, Robert Noble.

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