Remy-Powered, Range Extended Electric Trucks
Introduced by Bob Lutz with PG&E in Detroit
“There are powerful clean electric vehicles, without range limits, that you can take anywhere you need to go,” says ex General Motors vice chair Bob Lutz.
Lutz, widely credited as the father of the GM Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle also promoted as a range-extended electric, made automotive news again last week on behalf of Utah-based Via Motors.
No Rare Earths?
Via, which grew out of Utah’s Raser Technologies, launched its line of full-size range-extended light trucks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week. The General Motors- chassis vehicles are being promoted as Vtrux, with Via’s eREV – for extended range electric vehicle – drivelines.
Key suppliers include A123 Systems (NASDAQ:AONE) of Massachusetts for Nanophosphate brand lithium ion batteries, and Valence Technology (NASDAQ:VLNC) of Austin, Texas for lithium iron phosphate batteries.
Valence backer Carl Berg is Via chairman.
Via is using power-dense motors from Remy Inter-national, and according to Via co-founder Kent Williams plans to employ a new line of Remy motors that eliminate costly rare earth metals.
The 108-lb motors yield 300 kilowatts of power – 402 horsepower. Initial trucks are using factory 4.3-liter V-6 engines. Via would like eventually to buy gliders and use even smaller engines for the series hybrid vehicles, Williams says. He also told F&F that Via will branch to other base vehicles beyond GM’s, and that there are plans for manufacturing in Mexico.
Via says it’s taking orders for the pickup “from many of America’s largest fleets.” Production is scheduled to begin this year, with plans to ramp up to 20,000 units per year over the next few years, including Via vans and SUVs to augment the initial pickups. All will have 30 to 40 miles of range on battery power, “then up to 400 miles using the onboard generator, averaging up to 100 mpg.”
Full Advantages Have Yet to be Calculated
For now, however, “There’s only two Vias that are in play and we have both of them,” says Pacific Gas & Electric fleet chief Dave Meisel. Both are alpha vehicles. Beta models are expected as soon as next month. No decisions have been made on purchases yet, Meisel says.
The sale price will reportedly be just under $80,000.
“This new breed of full size utility vehicles can deliver the power and performance of a V-8, with better fuel economy than many smaller cars, by driving on electricity for about $2 a day,” Via Motors COO Alan Perriton said in the firm’s pre-NAIAS announcement. “It actually costs less to own and operate a clean Via electrified truck or SUV than a gas truck,” Perriton said.
If all of PG&E’s fleet of some 3,500 trucks in Via’s class were Via trucks, “We would save, in fuel costs alone, $9.5 million annually,” PG&E senior VP Greg Pruett said at Via’s NAIAS unveiling. An additional $4,300 per truck per year in maintenance could be saved, he said – making for a total annual savings of nearly $25 million.
Those figures, says Meisel, don’t count the operational savings to be gleaned from the trucks’ power takeoff option – crews won’t have to haul generators, and planned power outages can be eliminated.
The range-extended electric, or PHEV, provides the best of both worlds, he says: alternative fuel (electricity) operation most of the time, with no infrastructure restrictions because the fall-back is gasoline.
“The industry,” Lutz said at NAIAS, “is about to be transformed.”
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