VIA Motors introduced three new vehicles that use the company's E-REV powertrain: a pickup called the X-Truck (based on the Silverado), an SUV called the Presidential (based on the Suburban), and an Express-based van. The Presidential is the most luxury-biased of the trio.
Bob Lutz, a member of the board for VIA, introduced the vehicles at a press conference at the Detroit auto show. His knowledge and background -- and his experience with the Volt -- will help VIA Motors take the idea of electric vehicles and put them on bigger platforms that are built for work. All three vehicles use a combination of a 4.3-liter gas V-6 engine, VIA's 150-kW electric generator (motor), and a 24-kWh, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack. The motor used is 11x11 inches and weighs only 108 pounds. The powertrain is said to put out 402 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, and at the press conference, VIA showed a concept truck that puts out 800 hp.
What's interesting about these trucks is that it looks like the company's aim is to provide the best of electric power -- namely, not having to use gas around town and a 300-percent improvement in fuel economy over the gas-powered equivalent vehicle -- with four-wheel drive, and payload and towing capacity that aren't available in a typical electric car. The range on electric power is about 35 miles, which means a vehicle such as a van used for urban deliveries or other jobs in the city can theoretically work all day without using gas. (Verizon and Pacific Gas and Electric have been testing VIA vans in their fleets.) Yet, while you can plug in this electric vehicle to charge it, there is a gas engine (as with the Volt), to extend the vehicle's range (why it's called the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle, or E-REV). Payload capacity is said to be about 1500 pounds, but that would depend on the cab layout and other variables. A cool option said to be offered with the X-Truck is an inverter that can provide emergency power.
We don't know the price, which will be higher than that of the equivalent gas-powered trucks, or when it will go on sale, but the company is taking orders for their vehicles now and anticipates they will be sold primarily to fleets.