DETROIT – VIA Motors unveils an addition to its range of electric-powered trucks, and its first SUV, at the North American International Auto Show here.
Named the Presidential, the SUV, like others in the VIA lineup, promises 40 miles (64 km) in all-electric mode with zero emissions and 400 miles (644 km) on a single fill-up of its 4.3L V-6 gasoline engine.
Bob Lutz, a VIA board member, likens the trucks to the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle he pushed into production while head of product development at.
“It’s the cleanest, most beneficial truck in the world,” Lutz, who retired as vice chairman of GM in 2009, says of the new SUV.
All of VIA’s base trucks are supplied by GM and include a pickup and cargo van, the latter now undergoing extensive testing in Verizon and Pacific Gas & Electric fleets, among others.
The EV maker tweaks the design of the GM trucks and outfits them with a 300-kW (402-hp) electric motor built by Remy. The 11-in.-by-11-in. (27.9 cm-by-27.9-cm) motor weighs 108 lbs. (49 kg). A123 Systems supplies the lithium-ion battery pack.
VIA President Alan Perriton, a former GM executive who retired in 2006, says the Presidential exceeds 2020 federal emissions standards.
VIA buys the trucks from GM, strips the factory-installed powertrains and replaces them with its electric systems. Perriton says his company is working with GM to supply it with “gliders” that eliminate the need to remove portions of the standard truck.
The EV maker builds the trucks in low volume at a U.S. plant and one in Mexico, but plans to increase output. That will depend on how many orders it books, coming mainly from large commercial and government fleets and utilities seeking lower fuel costs and reduced emissions.
Ken Jack, Verizon vice president-fleet operations, oversees 35,000 trucks and 330 maintenance centers. The wireless-communications provider has been testing VIA electric trucks for the past year.
“We’re looking at how to balance all of our alternatives,” he says, speculating that VIA electrics eventually could comprise one-third of Verizon’s fleet.” Despite the initial cost of making that shift, “I think we’ll be able to recover those costs over nine or 10 years,” he says.