Thursday, April 21, 2011
Interview with Ray Hoogenrad, Bremach
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Southern California has a long history and relationship with the automobile industry, and has been seeing a resurgence in interest with the rise of electric cars. Among the high visibility companies here are such companies as Coda Automotive and Fisker Automotive, both of which have raised a huge amount of venture funding. Among the lesser known companies hoping to capitalize on the trend is Bremach USA (www.bremachusa.com), based in Chino, which is creating an electric-powered, utility vehicle called the T-REX. We spoke briefly with Ray Hoogenrad, CEO of the company to learn more about what the firm is doing.
First, for those not familiar with Bremach, talk about what your vehicles are all about?
Ray Hoogenrad: Basically what we've done, is we take a vehicle cap and chassis produced in Italy, and assemble those in the USA with an electric propulsion system we've developed. Our electric propulsion systems is very unique. It's a low voltage system which runs on 115 volts and creates a peak power of 200kW. We do that by using three motors on a single shaft, with each motor in peak operation pulling 600 amps of power at 115V, creating 1800 amps. That makes our system relatively inexpensive, compared to the very expensive, high voltage systems. The second thing is safety. At 300 volts, if someone gets zapped they're done and finished. At 115V, that's survivable. As electric vehicles become much more mainstream, and the first rescue worker, police officer, or fire fighter is killed in an accident rescuing someone else in an electric car, there will be a storm of people rallying against high voltage. What we've created is a low voltage, low cost, and well performing electrical vehicle system.
Who are the buyers of your vehicle?
Ray Hoogenrad: On the electric side, primarily municipal and commercial buyers. There are very few private individuals who would buy our T-REX to use as their daily drive. We also have a combustion diesel side, which is targeted at the audience which used to drive the H1 Hummer before it disappeared. It's technically a replacement for the H1 Hummer.
What's the story behind the company and how is it related to Bremach Italy?
Ray Hoogenrad: We've always been involved in the automotive world, basically doing R&D for about five years. As part of that, we developed the electric drive train and our series hybrid drive train, where we were selling those drive systems back to Italy, where they are running a special program funded by the Italian government, as part of a drive in Europe to shift to more efficient electric vehicles. So, we are providing that R&D for Italy, and Italy provides us the cap and chassis.
How did that Italy deal come about?
Ray Hoogenrad: I was originally born and raised in Europe, and somebody brought the vehicle to my attention. I really liked the vehicle and its look, so I flew out to Italy, met with the president of Bremach there, and by day two we had a deal. They wanted an electric drivetrain and hybrid system, which we were already working on, and we needed a cap and chassis. The agreement is that Bremach USA has the intellectual rights in terms of the design, name, and trademarks here in the US.
Where is the company nowadays?
Ray Hoogenrad: We're in the middle of fundraising. We've spend around $5M, and built something which is much, much better than what is available right now in the U.S. We're stepping out of stealth mode and trying to show different groups what we've got. With what we have, we can go in about 15 different directions.