Don’t come knockin’ when this van is rocking! In Washington, D.C., this morning, Anderson, Indiana-based Bright Automotive announced to an audience of Congresspeople and White House officials a rather different plug-in hybrid, in this case a “fully enclosed utility vehicle.” I would tend to call it a van, but the company doesn’t like that word.

Here's what the Bright Idea looks like on the road:

The Bright Idea is designed to offer 30 miles of all-electric range from a 10 kilowatt-hour battery pack, plus 370 more from its four-cylinder Detroit-sourced gas engine. It achieves the equivalent of 100 mpg, the company says. Bright claims it will be five to 10 times more efficient than current commercial trucks, saving a typical customer 1,500 gallons of fuel annually.

Bright is a spinoff from the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute think tank, and benefits from the “hypercar” thinking of guru Amory Lovins. Among the partners taking part in the launch were Alcoa,, Johnson Controls, Duke Energy and the Turner Foundation. The chassis and underbody are aluminum, which explains the Alcoa connection and its light weight: 3,200 pounds.

The concept here is a work truck for big fleets operated by corporations such as Coca-Cola, Duke Energy, PG&E, Johnson Controls and Cox Communications, all of whom are potential customers and were among the 50 fleet managers given advance looks at the Idea. Duke Energy and Frito-Lay were represented at the Washington press event, with Duke’s Keith Trent announcing that the company “is proud to be a major utility partner with Bright Automotive.”

“We had planned to have the international reveal for the Idea in Norway, at the forthcoming electric vehicle show [EVS 24, May 13-15] in May,” says John Waters, the Bright CEO and also the designer of the battery pack for General Motors’ EV-1 battery car. “But in light of what has been happening in our country over the last six months, with economic challenges and oil dependency, we realized we had to show it to the American people first.”

The Bright Idea was so named “because of the role it will play in helping revolutionize American transportation and moving the country toward a more secure and sustainable energy future,” said Waters.

Bright has asked for $450 million from the Department of Energy’s so-far-unassigned $25 billion fund for U.S.-based EV and battery plants. So far, the company has raised $20 million, which is not enough to get the car to market by the end of 2012, when the company hopes to be on a path to produce 50,000 vehicles a year.

For more on Alcoa, see this article: Alcoa and the environment

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

So Bright! A rockin' 100-mpg van
The incredibly fuel-efficient Bright Idea isn't aimed at jam band fans who follow Phish: It's targeting fleet customers like Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay and Cox Commun