Pulling Double Duty: Via Motors Hybrid Trucks (w/ Video)

Double Duty with Via Motors

Double Duty Trucks from Via Motors

Via Motors has been around for several years now and is not unfamiliar with the idea of series hybrid electric vehicle.  But rather than making a Chevy Volt, they’re making a Chevy Volt-like Truck.

Using the Chevy Silverado, Suburban, and Express Van models, they’ve swapped out the drive train with two electric motors and a slightly smaller gas engine.  But even though it may look like a Chevy truck, underneath, it’s a whole other story.

On-Board Generator

Via Motors trucks have about 20 kWh of batteries and an power interface that is the electric equivalent of toting a gas station around.  On the side of each vehicle are several power ports.  There’s a level 2, 240 volt 30 amp plug, a 120 volt, 15 amp plug, and a few switches for control.  Plus, if the battery runs out, the gas engine can be turned on for additional power.

Double Duty

These trucks pull double duty by offering both electric and gas modes.  Where the gas engine is never connected to the drive train, it can be used to generate power, which in turn can used to drive the wheels.  But if you are looking to drive electric most of the time, the 20 kWh pack should be fine for up to 40 miles.  After that the gas generator comes on to provide roughly 30 MPG.  The gas tank is the same as you would find any of the regular gas models.

You may think that you need a Nissan Leaf for your electric and then a Suburban or Silverado for longer trips, but with Via Motors VTrux, you get both in one.  Plus the mileage after the battery has run out, is roughly double that of the gas-only models.

Price

The current price of the Via Motors VTrux is not practical for comparison to the normal use of a truck by most consumers.  And I am pretty sure that Via Motors people know this.  Even if you were to buy the most expensive hybrid Silverado and drive it 15,000 miles per year, the cost savings of a VTrux would be negative $10,000.

However, when your average annual mileage crosses over 25,000, then you start to see why the VTrux is a good idea. Hopefully, after some of the early adopters have made their purchases, we will see the price come down to something more reasonable.

Video

Mark Burdge of Via Motors gives the whole idea in one simple explanation in the video below.  Thanks to The Fast Lane Car for the video.

The Biggest Plug-in vehicle on the block: X-Truck

Biggest Plug-in vehicle

This is no Prius, but the concept is nearly identical.  Via has been cooperating with GM for many years now offering the Suburban, Tahoe, Silverado, and Hummer H3 vehicles as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.  No doubt the price is steep, but no more so than you might expect from emerging technologies.  If these vehicles were in normal production like their predecessors, they too would be comparably priced.

There is a stark advantage to purchasing one of these monster trucks, presuming of course that you have a need for a large vehicle.  Many people use SUVs and Trucks daily for work and play, but the majority of that daily travel does not exceed 35 miles.  In such cases the truck will never use gasoline.  But in the situations where longer distance is required, the on-board V8 generator will take over.

Diesel locomotives have a very similar format, a large Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) generates electricity which is transferred to an electric motor at the wheels.  The ICE is most efficient at the optimum Revolutions Per Minute (RPM).  Electric motors are efficient at all speeds, from zero up. If it can work for trains, why not for cars and trucks?

Large trucks like locomotives use and need massive amounts of low-speed torque.  Electric motors have just that, massive amounts of torque at all speeds (this is also why electric vehicles often beat ICE vehicles off the line in races).

Over a long haul, the owner of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) will see many advantages over the traditional ICE. Examples include…

  • Reduced wear on brakes … due to recharging while braking.
  • Less frequent oil changes … (for the generator) due to very efficient use.
  • Gross reduction in fuel consumption … due to infrequent use of the gasoline generator.
  • Added torque … for accelerating onto freeways and passing at speed.
  • Quiet operation … while driving in electric-only mode.
  • Peace of mind … in knowing that it is possible to reduce dependency on petroleum products, while simultaneously not incurring range-anxiety

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