50,000 Plug-In Pickups Annually by 2018?

VIA pickup side II

Bob Lutz, chairman of VIA Motors' board, says that in the next several years more personal-use pickup truck customers will see the benefits of a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

According to Bloomberg.com, Lutz thinks that VIA Motors — a privately held company that takes GM full-size vans and pickups and installs a range-extending powertrain that uses a gas small engine to charge a battery pack when needed — is likely to sell as many as 50,000 of the half-ton VTRUX models. The VIA Motors pickup plant is located near GM's plant in Saltillo, Mexico, where it receives the GM pickups for modification. Once the new powertrains are installed, the pickups are shipped to the U.S. for sale and delivery.

VIA's numbers may fluctuate depending on issues like government instability in Mexico, the price of gasoline and global instability, but for now VIA's trajectory is on the rise as huge fleet customers like PG&E, Verizon and FedEx have already ordered large numbers of its vans and pickups. Individuals will be able to buy a VIA pickup by the end of the year and VIA is saying they've signed up almost 250 dealerships to sell pickups so far. 

Current pricing for a modestly appointed crew-cab 4x4 VIA pickup can start around $65,000, so selling to private customers is difficult without a clear understanding of the long-term — meaning eight to 10 years — costs of ownership. To further complicate the decision, gasoline prices are at a 10-year low; however, unlike the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, which has a premium entry cost as well as a premium price to pay at the pump, all the VIA Motors costs are upfront. VIA pickups use a downsized 16-gallon fuel tank, which saves weight, and are offered with an optional hardcover tonneau that has a pair of solar cells that can continually charge the batteries in the sun, while driving or parked. One interesting feature VIA pickups can offer is that, with two electric motors on board, they can be setup to act as a mobile power station, brining plug-in electricity wherever they go.

Right now the VIA Motors plant can produce about 10,000 pickups with its V-Drive extended-range, twin-electric-motor powertrain but we're told that number could rise.

Manufacturer images

Via console II

Via Pickup plugs II

VIA Pickup 1 II

 

Comments

No thanks GM!

A modestly equipped Silverado cost about $43,00, so a $22,000 option? Not sure when the payback would be, probably more the the 8-10 years mentioned, if the truck last that long...oh yea, plus battery replacement....

So, if it's me at 180 lbs and another 200 lbs of tools and supplies on the back seat, how much payload is left?

@Dave I'm sure our government subsidizes the purchase of these vehicles though. Either way, I would never buy one!

I too would like to see the specs for this version in the new model trucks. Did they really do much of anything with the battery packs and motors? With the price I am sure the market will be limited but hopefully GM is using VIA as a test-bed for their own future product development.

On a side note that center console is ugly! GM's wasn't the prettiest to begin with but that looks like the design came from the mid 2000's (although the chrome trim rings make it looks less blah). The only GM trucks I have been in for the current body style have all been LT2 or higher, is this what the console looks like on the more pedestrian LS? If so EWW!

I love the engineering and design here but the usefulness of these vehicles during a time when gas is cheap is hard to fathom.

The one use for this type of vehicle that I would really utilize regards the fact that my own Silverado hardly ever gets properly warmed up on all of the short trips that I do. A cold (gas or diesel) engine is an inefficient one.

Electric motored vehicles used by guys who rarely drive more than 20 miles at a time are a very efficient option, but the price of the technology would have to come down a lot to make it a viable competitor with gas engines.

Useless in my part of the world or any place where extended range is needed.

howam00 - that's the center stack from the GMT-900 (07-13) Silverado and Sierras that were LT/SLE and down. AKA the "work truck" interior.

@Lou_BC
Why is it useless? These are extended range electric vehicles. That means once the battery is dead, they are driven by a gas engine. Did you neglect to read that part?

Although the price is still high at $65k, Just 2 years ago, the MSRP was $80k. Imagine what they can do with a little more economies of scale, and increases in battery and electric motor technology.

Would've been more interested if it ran completely on electricity.

What about the weight of the batteries?
Wouldn't that bring the payload down to 16 lbs ?

@Voltage - Heavy industry such as logging, mining, and even ranching are the economic engine in my part of Northern BC. You need the capacity to carry a load out to your operation and the fuel range to get there and back as well as driving on the job site. One of these trucks would spend most of the time running on its gasoline engine.
The point of the system is to spend most of your time on batteries. That is useless when you need to drive over a 100 miles or more just to get to the work site.
Case in point, I went on a trip into the back country and it was 140 km before spitting out onto another paved road then another 40km to a small village.

These vehicles work well in high population density urban centres.

@Lou

You didn't mention the poor performance of batteries in the polar conditions found in the northwest during the long winters there. A factor that is a challenge for all motoring platforms but surely for electric driven types.

@Lou_BC
That's fair. And that is not really the market for these trucks. As you said, they are more suited to urban and suburban areas.
I would love one because the majority of my driving is short commutes or trips to the hardware store. But I also take the boat or ice fishing equipment to the lake 60 miles away several times a year.

@papa jim
With proper design (liquid heating and cooling for the batteries) Lithium batteries work quite well in the cold. It's not advised that you leave them unplugged for multiple days in -40F temps, but most cars would have trouble at that point as well.
As you can see here: http://www.voltstats.net/Stats/OwnerMap
there are a number of Volt owners in Canada and Alaska that have no trouble with their batteries.

@Voltage - the place where these trucks will see a return on investment are dense urban centres with short trip distances, lots of "idling", and light loads. Any use on rough roads or tough environments would shorten the truck's lifespan too much to see a ROI.
Fleets in my world tend to be gassers for that very same reason. The lifespans of trucks are too short to buy anything with a long ROI.
My brother for example is a "capital projects manager" for a large forest resource company. He gets a new 3/4 ton crew every 2- 3 years at around 100,000 miles because his trucks are falling apart by then.

these hybrid electric drive systems with the gas motor only devoted to charging the battery is a great system for a truck.

The torque at low speeds is solid, it takes a little getting used to--like driving a 3 ton golf cart!

The battery technology isn't there yet. You'd better live in a nice temperate climate too like 70 degrees at all times, if you expect numbers like the ones presented by these cats. Only the local companies will be able to make use of these, if they can afford to, which they shouldn't be able to...

So, am I the only one thinking that one reason GM killed the Hybrid Silverado was because everyone on the board owed Maximum Bob a favor? Because I think even that model cost less than this, and it had a GM warranty behind it with a larger dealer network. I would be hard pressed to buy a VIA pickup, but I could see fleets wanting them. But still, the Silverado Hybrid would've been a better bet.

Until they can get these vehicles to a cheaper alternative than gasoline, they remain a no buy. The reason being is they are costly now and there is a supposed savings because I don't have to pay for gas.

However, electric costs just went up 30% on top of that solar arrays cost just as much if not more to buy outright as the vehicles or cost more per month to lease than electric.

I would love to buy one of these vehicles but it is just too expensive for a vehicle with a battery that acts as a gas tank that gets smaller over time.



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