The big draw at the official launch of the Via Motors plug-in hybrid work vehicles – truck, SUV and van – during the Detroit Auto Show was, unsurprisingly, Bob Lutz. Sadly, Maximum Bob didn't unleash any instantly classic line about global warming but he did say that Via Motors is part of the upcoming "eREVolution" and that, "once you electrify, you will never go back."

Lutz and the rest of the Via crew are offering three converted GM models. The Extended-Range Electric VTrux – a converted Chevrolet Silverado – is going to be available first (pre-orders accepted now) and the SUV and van will be coming to fleets in the fourth quarter of 2012. Via says it's capable of making 2,700 units this year and could make around 20,000 in 2013. The cost will not be cheap. Nothing's set in stone yet, but the SUV (Suburban) may cost around $70,000 while the truck could be a bit more expensive: $79,000. The cost may come down a bit by the time private customers get a chance to buy any of these work vehicles in 2013.

And work is the main message here. Via's press conference highlighted the ability to plug in your tools at the work site (or something more fun if you're going tailgating). The power will come from a 24-kWh, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack that connects to a 300-kW electric motor to move the wheels. When the battery runs dry – which should be after a "solid" 40 miles – a 150-kW generator driven by the gasoline engine will charge it back up. There is no physical connection between the engine and the wheels.

Currently, PG&E has a test fleet of two vehicles (both alpha builds) and will be getting beta models soon. The utility has ordered "hundreds," a Via representative told AutoblogGreen. Since Via expects to sell a lot of vehicles to the government, it needs these be considered an official OEM, and therefore the start-up is making sure the vehicles get both FMVSS and CARB certification.

Via Motors grew out of Raser Technologies, which gained attention by putting a plug-in hybrid into a Hummer H3. In other words, the connection between Via and GM runs deep. See a Via promotional video after the jump.



I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 30 Comments
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      It should drive better then the original. The price will probably go down as they sell more, many should be interrested to buy.
      Brand X
      • 2 Years Ago
      I know a LOT of truck owners, and there's no way a REAL TRUCK GUY will ever buy one of these. 30 miles is the MAX range, under perfect conditions and scenario's. It does not address the focus of why EV's exist - to eliminate the need for petrol. GM FAIL EXTRAORDINAIRE!
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Brand X
        This is a GM vehicle that has been converted by via motors. How is this GM's fail?
      paulwesterberg
      • 2 Years Ago
      The ability to power work tools from the truck is a great feature and could help keep work trucks from idling at the work site. The power to weight ratio of their electric motor sounds excellent. I bet their claim of 100mpge is possible only for the first 40 miles when run on battery power. They don't talk much about how efficient their range extending engine is but I hope they tune it for maximum efficiency, it would be disappointing if they went to all this work and ended up get 20mpg when running on gas like the fisker karma.
        uncle_sam
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        The businesses in my neighbourhood do mostly local businesses. the lagre bakery, the ligthning company, the electric motor guy. 40 miles with a lagre pickup would be sufficient for them. even for longer trips it is useful. just save some juice for your destination. I wonder if they feature a mixed mode as hybrid should add some mpg
      uncle_sam
      • 2 Years Ago
      I like the 400hp electric motor. Even with a "heavy" pickup it should be really fun to drive. 400 hp at 0 rpm should be also nice for drag racing. this baby should go as heck :D I'd like to fit the bed with a layer of batteries, you could easily go for 100 miles. Interesting to see Lutz. Once you drive a full performance electric truck youll never go back. 40 miles will be sufficient for lots of businesses. it poweres tools. that is great. for tunig it could run a 5000 watt base machine easily.
      Dallas May
      • 2 Years Ago
      I work in the Civil Engineering/Construction industry and this is very exciting to me, and where electric vehicles should absolutely be. Many of these vehicle get less than 15 miles per gallon and companies can spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on gas. Consider this: 20,000 miles/year * (13 miles/gallon)^(-1) * $4/gallon * 8 years = $49,000 Now let's say that the company wildly overstated the fuel economy of their trucks and could only reasonablly expect to get an average MPGe up to around 35 mpg. (I think that's reasonably conservative.) 20000 miles/year * (35 miles/gallon equivalent)^(-1) * $4/gallon * 8 years = $18000 A construction company could save $31,000 PER TRUCK on Gas. That matches the premium cost of the electric truck. But here is the kicker, how many of us think that gas prices will average $4/gallon over the next 8 years? What if the average price of gas over the next 8 years is $6/gallon? 20000 miles/year * ((13 miles/gallon)^(-1) - (35 miles/gallon)^(-1)) * $6/gallon * 8 years = $46,000 At $6 the company will save $46,000 per truck. That's a real money at even a very conservative MPGe. Now, lets say they could actually get 100 mpge (unlikely): 20000 miles/year * ((13 miles/gallon)^(-1) - (100 miles/gallon)^(-1)) * $6/gallon * 8 years = $64000 You just paid for the truck.
        Marco Polo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dallas May
        @Dallas May You are quite correct, the vehicle can be calculated to pay for itself. Dave is correct, the higher the capital cost of the vehicle, the costs will increase exponentially. However all of that can be offset against some other factors. The Silverado crew cab may not be the best example, or the most suitable vehicle, but the principle still works. (Some Municipalities and Contract tenders favour 'green' technology.) Just to correct Joeviocoe, any business should be leasing, not owning capital equipment. The overwhelming majority do! Without knowing the exact location and expenses of the business, it's difficult to supply an accurate appraisal. Smith Electric Vehicles have devised a very useful economy calculator. I have supplied computer analysis illustrating the commercial benefits of PI-Hybrid conversions and EV's to client's in many countries. Very seldom have we failed to prove the commercial efficacy and economic viability of PI-Hybrid, EV- light-commercial vehicles. Of course, it makes it easier if the client is willing to accept a non-direct conversion vehicle! The Silverado is a very much a vehicle of preference. There are a lot cheaper, but less macho, vehicles which will perform exactly the same commercial functions, at a much lower price and allow for a cheaper EV-Hybrid conversion.
          Ford Future
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          Marco, why lease when you can write off the full expense in one year?
          Ford Future
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          Say a business has three trucks, with good profits, buying a new truck every three years and writing off the full expense in the first year of purchase should be cheaper. You can do your own "leasing" by selling the truck after 3 years, and buying a new one.
          Marco Polo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          @fordinsight Thank you for your question. In principle capital equipment costs are part of the capitalisation of the enterprise. Because of the nature of the security you can borrow the capital needed for the purchase at a fairly low interest rate, and a portion of the capital borrowing is deferred, the balance is tax deductible in a very convenient form. By leasing, you able to increase companies capital funding, the company can then expand it's earning to debt ratio more profitably. (the theory being that the return on capital investment in the enterprise should be more profitable than the lending rate of the lease company). With leasing, the convenience tax deductibility is only one aspect of leasing advantage when purchasing capital equipment. The main aspect is the conservation of capital. But you are correct, in some business models, leasing may not be the most appropriate method.
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dallas May
        From Chevrolet.com: "2012 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Short Box 2-Wheel Drive Xtra Fuel Economy -Your Price $32,645" 100% Financed for 6 years at 5% interest, total of payments +7% sales tax = $40,502 $79,000 Financed for 6 years at 5% interest, total of payments +7% sales tax = $98,016 Difference = $57,514 or 11,503 gallons of gas at $5/gallon. or 207,050 miles worth of gas at 18 mpg. Even if electricity is free and the generator never fired up, this thing doesnt pay.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Impressive to chose unrealistic "worst case" scenarios. 1) People who buy $80,000 cars don't "finance" at 5% interest. They tend to pay cash. So don't even bother adding 2) 15 cents / kwh is WAY too expensive. That is maybe the most expensive residential rate available during peak rates. The US average is 11 cents (during the day). 8 cents or less for night time... when EVs are gonna be charged.... So that's half of what you say. 3) What proof do you have of such a low efficiency? 1.5 miles per kwh? I would estimate more like 2.5. -------------- And of course "this thing doesn't pay".... no EV has yet ever been truly paid back the owner. The Leaf comes close depending on which vehicle you compare it to... but this 1st generation of EVs is meant to get things started for subsequent generations.. not to provide a revolution overnight.
          Ford Future
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Dave, you forgot the utility of on site power. No noisy generator, no yelling at the guy who forgot to pack the gas. The ability to communicate with your coworkers. Get the job done with less noise, faster: Priceless.
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          And, if you live in a state that charges excise tax on vehicles, it gets worse. And if you are insuring a $79,000 vehicle instead of a $32,000 vehicle, you will pay more for insurance.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          @Joe: Trucks are usually bought by businesses, so even expensive ones are usually, at least in the UK, financed rather than cash. The Renault Kangoo ZE should be cheaper than the petrol version in Europe in areas where the 5,000 Euro incentive is available and in London due to the congestion charge even though it is not eligible for the subsidy.
          Dallas May
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Dave, Yes, my comparison was a bit simplistic, but the accounting is even harder than you show. If your business is in Dallas or Houston you get unlimited charging on EVgo's network for $90/month. That includes the electrons out of the chargers at the headquarters. So, your $20,000 drops to about $8000. Meanwhile, if you happen to be lucky in 2012 and had a particularly good year financially, you can choose to depreciate the entire cost of the truck THIS YEAR, which could cut $10,000 or more off of your business taxes. Or, if you didn't have a good year, you still get to depreciate the milage at $0.56 per mile when it only cost you a few cents per mile, meaning that over the 200,000 miles you get to deduct $100,000 from your profits while paying a tiny fraction of that. The accounting is much more complicated than you think.
          Dallas May
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Dave, What do you mean. If I sign my company up with EVgo and pay $8000 over 8 years and get to deduct $100,000 off of my taxes, even at GWB-rich-guy corporate tax rates, I'm still saving my company $36,000. $36,000 off your taxes alone. That's true regardless of the tax rate. How does that not change anything?
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          Maybe someday. But not today.
          Dallas May
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          *regardless of the price of gas.*
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          200,000 miles of electricity at 1.5 miles per kwh (from the plug) at 15 cents per kwh = $20,000 further into the hole.
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave
          "The accounting is much more complicated than you think." For a business, ALL of the costs are tax deductible as business expenses. Your points about depreciation do not change anything whatsoever.
      Louis Choquette
      • 2 Years Ago
      What's not to like? Oh yeah, the $79,000.00 price tag.
      Ryan
      • 2 Years Ago
      Finally, they have made an electric pick-up truck again. It does look nice, and I'm sure they will sell quite a few. Too bad it's not the $15,000-$20k lightweight, 30 mile range, simple electric version that I would like. Looks like I will still have to do it myself.
        Marco Polo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        @Ryan, That would be great! When you build your prototype, be sure and keep a comprehensive log (including video) to document your achievement for posting. Your problem is that right a the moment, no matter how lightweight you make the pick-up truck, the 1000 kg cargo carrying capacity will cost you at least $12,000 in batteries alone! Since you are not building a conversion, but a completely original vehicle you will need about $850 million for tooling dyes, ESC, Air-bags, testing electronics, and other costs.Now some of these you can buy from suppliers, but not all. Most will have to be modified. Oh, you will also need about $800 million to cover your capital holding costs, legals, bonds, manufactures licence, overheads, warranties, spare parts stock inventory, staff wages etc for about 3 years. So for about $ 1.6 billion you only have to sell in the vicinity of $1.600,000 in the first year to break even! I'm being very conservative. This is about the standard cost of an OEM introducing a new mass production model. Small production is very expensive, so the per unit cost must rise accordingly.
      Ford Future
      • 2 Years Ago
      300kW electric motor! That's Big!
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 2 Years Ago
      look at all that stuff they were hauling. good thing they have a pick up truck huh. I hope they enjoy the 80k$ price tag. the base silverado costs 22k. quite a markup. their future will be as brilliant as Th!nk's. only a few tens of millions of dollars of loss before bankruptcy and they will wonder how that could have happened... who knew oh that's right, I did.
        paulwesterberg
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        It is expensive, but they might be able to sell some to fleets. I could see electric utilities sign up for a few trucks because they would cut their fuel costs to zero and they could use the truck power to run tools at work sites. If the cost of batteries is cut in half in the next 10 years then these would cost closer to 40k which would be a great deal for a truck that rarely uses any gas compared to one that costs $100 every time you fill it up.
        Marco Polo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        @ DF More fatuous remarks from an ubertroll who's never built even a handcart! Ever heard of Smith Electric vehicles? Navistar trucks? Hino, Toyota, Luxgen, Yulon, Mercedes, Renault/ Nissan etc, all employ EV, EREV, and Hybrid technology. None are bankrupt! Light commercial vehicles are the natural domain of EV technology. The value of the technology can be carefully, and logically calculated in the owners business plan, and makes the buying decision so much easier. Specialist light commercial vehicles have been manufactured for the last 80 years! You rant a lot, do nothing, and know even less!
    • Load More Comments