Last week’s North American International Show featured several hybrid, electric and plug-in (PHEV) vehicles on the floor of COBO Hall. Among them was Via Motors, which unveiled the concept E-REV VTRUX, a retrofitted General Motors (GM) pickup truck–the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado, to be exact. Among Via’s backers is Bob Lutz, a former vice chairman of GM. With a lineup that includes three trucks, an SUV and a commercial van that can drive up to 40 miles in all-electric mode, can Via sway a group of drivers who are generally more concerned about performance and getting the job done, not fuel efficiency?
Once dubious (to put it tactfully) about any hybrids and electric vehicles, Lutz eventually became influential in GM’s decision to launch the Chevy Volt, though he is still dismissive of electrified small cars. To that end, Lutz and the executive team at Via Motors are betting that the future of hybrid technologies lies in large vehicles, in which drivers can find far more bang, and of course torque, for their buck.
One longstanding issue with electric, hybrid and plug-in vehicles is the weight of the battery pack. Via’s E-REV line tackles that challenge by optimizing its trucks’ battery packs so that their weight is minimized. Since 75 percent of drivers average less than 40 miles on the road daily, Via claims that owners of its trucks can drive up to 400 miles on one single fill-up–and score an average about 100 MPG on the roads. A 24 kWh liquid cooled lithium ion battery pack is behind that 40 mile electric-only range; tucked under the vehicle’s bed, the truck also offers a low center of gravity for what Via says is a smooth and safe ride. The 402 horsepower electric motor, which only weighs 108 pounds, offers an impressive 300 pound-feet of torque while the extended cab can deliver 5,500 pounds of payload capacity.
Finally, Via’s VR150 electric generator generates plenty of power, allowing the battery to recharge quickly if a charging station is unavailable–and also holds enough reserve tower to not only recharge one’s power tools, but even power an entire house in case there is an emergency. Current truck drivers may scoff at the 40 miles of range, but even if the E-REV’s owner drives over 200 miles a day, Via claims its fuel economy far surpasses the conventional ICE-powered cars currently on the market: and the company offers a calculator to prove it.
Via’s lineup, which is currently available for order and delivery during 2013, could be the product line that turns truck owners on to the idea of a plug-in truck. Currently, the company is focused on government fleets though companies such as Verizon are interested in collaborating with Via. Watch for more companies with fleets to pay attention: fossil fuel prices will continue to rise in price, and the stubborn fact remains that many truck drivers own the truck out of necessity–they are small business owners vulnerable to fuel price volatility. Between current financial incentives and the fact that the average driver needs to fuel up only 10 times a year, not weekly . . . and the business case for a Via truck or a similar option will only make more sense in the coming years.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost). He will explore children’s health issues in India next month with the International Reporting Project.
[Image Credit: Via Motors Facebook page]