While the horsepower buzz at the North American International Auto Show was the absolutely stunning Corvette and the Cadillac ELR all-electric coup was standing room only for the press, I thought the most important vehicle was hidden in the far corner. It was Via Motors’ cargo van built for Verizon Wireless. What made this van unique was that it is an electric plug-in with extended range achieved through a gasoline motor that is a generator to the van’s battery system. Think Chevy Volt for a business van that is primarily driven in a lot of stop and go urban traffic.
Business van solution to higher (and higher) diesel and gasoline prices
At every business coaching session I have facilitated over the last two years, at least one business owner has asked me for a sustainable solution to higher pump prices. There are two ways this van can save a business owner money:
Lower fuel cost. It is estimated that this van technology will deliver up to $600 to $700 per month fuel savings. Now here are the typical caveats: fuel savings depend upon how you drive the van, the price you pay at the pump and the price you pay your local utility for recharging the van. It does this by running the vehicle on grid-supplied electricity or electricity produced through the vehicle’s regenerative braking system or from running the onboard gasoline engine to recharge the batteries. How much you save is now in your hands (and that of your fleet drivers).
Lower maintenance cost. This van is estimated to go 300,000 miles without maintenance on its major components. That saves money both in terms of reduced cost of maintenance plus increased van availability. For example, the regenerative braking system is supposed to go four times longer than conventional brakes between maintenance. Because the van uses electricity for much of its energy, the need for oil changes on the onboard gasoline engine is four times fewer than a typical van.
Cost more, but saves more over vehicle’s useful life
The bad news is that the purchase price of this van is twice as much as a typical van. But the projected good news is that this van will cost HALF AS MUCH over its useful life. On a “total cost of ownership” metric, an average van user is estimated to save $500 per month after the added cost of converting the van into a plug-in hybrid.
Financial hedge against higher pump prices and increased environmental regulations
The price at the pump is not going down. The U.S. is producing more oil than anytime in its history. It still is not enough to keep pump prices from rising. As an economist, I suggest business owners look at the higher upfront cost for plug-in electric technology as a financial hedge against higher pump prices. And it is a hedge against the considerable potential of increased tailpipe emission regulations now that three-fourths of U.S. citizens view climate change as being real.
Exclusive interview: Via Motors Plug-in Extend Range Business Van
This 2-minute video interview with Via Motor’s Jeffrey Esteld conducted at the 2013 North American International Auto Show profiles more information on the van’s technology, where to buy them and how to achieve recharging times of approximately three and one-half hours.
Travel and accommodations to NAIAS in Detroit were covered by Ford. Opinions are my own.
Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017.