Bob Lutz is a busy guy these days − not only is he running Lutz Communications, but he also co-founded VL Automotive and is chairman at VIA Motors. While we’re still waiting for the VL Destino (née Fisker Karma) to hit the streets, VIA Motors has just delivered a fleet of 40 plug-in gas-electric hybrid commercial trucks.
“It’s been about five years to get to this point,” Lutz told Automotive News. “Now we need to get those Chevy dealers going so they can deliver trucks to waiting customers.”
VIA Motors converts Chevrolet Express vans and Silverado pickups into extended-range electric commercial vehicles. Both the VIA Express and Silverado hybrids function much like a Chevrolet Volt − the very same car that Lutz championed when he was at General Motors. Using lithium-ion batteries manufactured by Michigan-based A123, the hybrids run in electric mode for around 40 miles before the gasoline motor takes over to provide power to the battery driving the electric motor driving the wheels.
“It’s the ideal solution,” Lutz added. “Use the battery pack for 40 miles of pure-electric range, then the engine gives you unlimited range [using gasoline].”
Don’t think these hybrids are merely electrified fleet specials, as the VIA Silverado is also able to provide electric outlets for power tools (either two 240-volt or four 110-volt plugs), plus act as electrical generators fully capable of supplying power to a house.
The VIA Silverado is built in a plant not far from General Motors’ Silao, Mexico factory and should be in production by spring, but for now VIA has 200 more Express vans in transit in addition to the 40 just delivered.
VIA Motors currently has about 50 American Chevrolet dealers signed up.