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.