Electric vehicles and various hybrid systems are taking over the front pages of the automotive world as of late. One of the areas where hybrids and EVs haven’t completely infiltrated is the world of pickup trucks. Well, that’s until former GM executive, Bob Lutz, joined forces with the little-known Via Motors.
Via Motors has quite literally taken the electric truck, SUV, and van ball and run with it, and has started carving itself a nice little niche in the automotive world. One of its entrants is the Vtrux, which is a range-extended electric truck. The information on this new green pickup is not 100 percent available yet, but Via has posted a good amount of information on this pickup’s upcoming release.
The question on the mind of the automotive world is can an electric truck actually do well in this world of powerful diesel- and gasoline-powered pickups? The answer to this question is very simple, but to get to that answer, we have to tear into the Vtrux and find out what makes it tick.
Click past the jump to read all about the Vtrux and find out the answer to that all-important question.
Bob Lutz obviously used his former ties with GM to pull a few strings, as the Vtrux is based on the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado, and it does not try to hide it. Essentially, all VTRUX did was take a base-level Silverado, strip the Chevy emblem off of it, and add a “VIA” logo to the front grille.
In order to keep production costs reasonable, the Vtrux only offers three body colors: white, black, and red. The one area that Via did not skimp on is the body style offering, as it is available in standard cab, extended cab, and even crew cab, so it has plenty of space for almost any buyer.
Sans the color and body style, it looks as if there are no other options available for the exterior of the truck. A little trick you can do to style it up a bit is to hit up Chevy’s factory accessory catalog and order up whatever you would like, since it’s exterior is the same as the Silverado. Just don’t go adding in anything that runs off of electricity or you will put excessive strain on the batteries.
Just as Via’s website alludes to, the Vtrux is really tuned toward fleet companies that really don’t care about vehicle options. They simply want a truck that is inexpensive, low maintenance, and gets good fuel economy.
Unfortunately, Via does not offer any information about the interior of the Vtrux. Since it is based on the bottom-level Silverado, it’s safe to assume that you get the base-level rubberized floor treatment, 40/20/40 split vinyl seat, and maybe an AM/FM stereo.
We do know that this truck includes a 650-volt air-conditioning system to keep the cabin cool and it uses the electric motor’s heat to warm up coolant for the heater. The Vtrux is also fully equipped with WiFi for up to four users with the option to add more users.
Once more details of this pickup are released, we’ll update the interior.
Engine/Motor and Drivetrain
Under the hood of the Vtrux is GM’s old and outdated 4.3-liter V-6 Vortec. Fortunately, this engine is doing just about the only work it is qualified to do; act as a generator to charge up the 24.4 kWh batteries near the center of the truck via a 150 kW generator strapped to the rear of the Vortec V-6. The engine is computer-controlled and only turns on when it is needed. Plus, the computer keeps the engine speed at its optimal rpm for efficiency and power output.
What actually moves the truck is a 300 kW electric motor, which cranks out a stellar 402 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. For an electric motor, this drive unit is very compact, measuring in at only 11 x 11 inches and weighing just 108 lbs. This motor also regenerates some power when coasting and braking to help keep the batteries charged up.
The power is transmitted to the wheels via a 1-speed step-down transmission, and the Vtrux is available in either 2- or 4-wheel drive. This transmission combines with the electric motor to give this truck a respectable 9.7-second 0 to 60 time and a top speed of 85 mph.
What good is a pickup truck without being able to haul and tow? Well, this EV is no slouch in either category. This pickup can haul up to 1,000 lbs in payload, roughly 940 lbs less than the standard 2011 Silverado 1500 WT. The decrease is likely due to the 1,040 extra pounds added by the batteries.
Though Via does not list a towing capacity, we can safely assume that the capacity should match the 2011 Silverado WT’s, since there are no structural changes. This would place the Via Vtrux at a standard towing capacity of 4,800 lbs and a maximum capacity of 9,100 lbs. Because we are dealing with an electric motor that does not have a torque band and all of the torque is immediately available, towing with this truck should be a breeze.
An absolute awesome feature on this pickup is the export power feature, which allows you to use the truck’s on-board generator to power up to an entire home. This export power port includes four 120-volt ports and one 240-volt port. These ports run off of batteries until the state of charge drops, then the engine kicks on to provide power.
Charging Time, Range, and Fuel Economy
The Vtrux has two different charging options. The standard charging system uses a 120-volt household plug and takes 15 hours to reach full charge. The fast-charge option uses a 240-volt system that takes just four hours to charge the batteries to 100 percent.
On electric only, this pickup can go 30 to 45 miles, depending on how you drive. After you deplete the batteries, the 4.3-liter engine powers up and provides electricity to keep the truck moving for up to a cumulative 300 miles.
This combination of gas and electric gives the Via Vtrux an estimated fuel economy of over 100 mpg.
Currently, Via is only focusing on fleets that order 50 or more trucks from them. In this volume, Via is selling the Vtrux for $79,000. Yeah, that’s a little steep, but think of all of the gas you save, plus your company can get up to $20,000 in tax rebates per truck.
When Can I Get One?
Via is planning to start delivering the Vtrux in 2013, but you can order one now for a refundable $1,000 deposit.
Given there are no true range-extended EV pickups on the market today, or in the future, there is no true competition for the Vtrux. The closest we can come up with is the 2012 Chevy Silverado Hybrid. This V-8 hybrid comes in at a much lower price – $39,640 – but it also only gets a fraction of the Vtrux’s fuel economy at 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. That’s really no competition...
Until the official details are all released, we really have to stay on the fence with this one. On paper and according to Via’s claims, the Vtrux looks like a sure bet for high-end fleets. The only issue we have is the fact that Via is a new company with absolutely no track record to speak of.
Powerful electric motor
Found a good use for the 4.3-liter V-6
On-board generator with external power outlets
Identical to a 2011 Silverado
No track record
Very expensive for a pickup