Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Is there a market for plug-in hybrid trucks?

If Bob Lutz, chairman of VIA Motors is to be believed, his company is aiming to sell 50,000 hybrid trucks and vans a year by 2018.

VIA Motors, Inc. of Orem, Utah, recently announced that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued emissions certification for its full-sized Plug-In Extended Range Electric (eREV) pick-up truck, clearing the way for the company to deliver the vehicles to its many fleet customers.

This would seem to pave the way for ramping up production.

Last October, VIA previously received similar certification from CARB (Executive Order) and EPA for its eREV Van.

“This is an important milestone for our company and a recognition of the considerable effort put forth by the members of our team to bring this game changing technology to the market place” stated Peter Guile, chief executive officer of VIA Motors.

Guile further noted “We are especially pleased with recent test results showing significant improvements in fuel economy and emissions reductions in comparison to the base gasoline powered truck and van.”

VIA Motors claims to be the only manufacturer to have complied with both CARB and EPA requirements and receive certification for Class 1 and 2 eREV trucks and vans.

Alan Perriton, VIA Motors president, told this newsletter today: "Thus far we have delivered 200 plus. We fully expect significant growth in 2016."

The company has been developing its current generation proprietary VDRIVE power train over the past three to four years, and achieving certification is seen as a major step forward for eREV technology designed specifically to meet the demands of fleet applications.

VIA Motors is a privately held electric vehicle development and manufacturing company. VIA employs a streamlined up-fitting manufacturing process to integrate its proprietary VDRIVE power train into new OEM vehicles, then sells directly to fleets under the VTRUX brand name.

VIA claims its VTRUX delivers over 40 mile battery range on a single charge and “unlimited extended range”, averaging upwards of 100 mile/gal in typical daily driving.

The drive train comprises 23kW lithium Ion battery pack on the receiving end of power from a 115kW generator linked to the 4.3-litre V6 engine. Output to the wheels is through 190kW, 415Nm electric drive unit coupled through a 350V architecture.

The battery pack is able to deliver a 40 mile range for a 4x4 pick-up truck it is claimed followed by a full range of 350 miles on a single fill-up. For most drivers, this means over 100 mile/gal in typical local daily driving.

Considering the company started delivering its first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vans to customers in February, it is an open question as to just how close Lutz’s goals are to reality.

The company already has some commercial contracts — including orders from Fed Ex, Verizon, Pacific Gas & Electric, Duke Energy, and Sun Country Highway. It will need many more.

The vehicles VIA offers are based on the standard Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck and the Express cargo van.

VIA adds its proprietary hybrid powertrain that allows both vehicles to have a combined fuel rating of 100 mile/gal. Electric-only range for the pickup truck is 40 miles; for the van, it is 35 miles.

The real test will be the experience of the initial batch of customers. They may notice the additional weight of the battery pack and drivers will be required to remember to monitor battery charge. Replacing the battery could be a long-term cost issue, not to mention the premium first cost.

On the other hand, industry veteran Bob Lutz has never been a man to hold back on his views. Meanwhile, Tesler's Condor electric truck (below) is probably one of the best sellers on the North American market.

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