While eco-friendly vehicles are no longer equipped with engines reminiscent of sewing machines, things like torque and power don't exactly immediately come to mind when we think of them. This is about to change, and in a big, big way.
Can you imagine an 400 HP truck that gets 100 MPG? Well this idea is no longer in the company of unicorns, it's real, and it's here.
First, a little background. Former GM executive Bob Lutz teamed up with a little known company called Via Motors, who modifies trucks, SUVs and vans, to produce a line of extended range electric vehicles. Lutz is known as the father of the Chevy Volt. Via Motors has been beta testing it's eREVs with fleet customers, and is expected to start accepting orders from the public this year.
Partnered with GM, VTRUX begin with a base-model Silverado, in a choice of standard, extended or crew cabs. The Silverado's 4.3L V6 is paired to an electric generator, and is only used to recharge the batteries. Due to it's infrequent use, the combustion engine should last three times as long as in a traditional truck. The Li-ion battery pack offers a 65km range with nearly zero emissions. Hitting a top speed of 85 MPH / 136 KM/H, the truck can handle 1/2 ton payloads. With all of it's torque readily available, towing should be easy too.
When the VTRUX truck isn't near a recharging spot, the on board 150 kW electric generator powers the battery quickly while driving. The power from this generator can also be used to power an entire worksite, or house, eliminating the need to haul a generator or trailer around behind the truck. It's a power plant on wheels. Since most trucks only travel an average of 65km per day, most drivers won't even make a dent in their gas tank. The VTRUX's batteries are optimized to carry only what is needed, reducing weight. On longer trips it's onboard range extender generates any extra energy needed, thus reducing range anxiety. On very long trips where gas is used, the overall fuel economy is significantly improved over that of the gas-only model. Ideal for fleets, the eRev powertrain can slash gas expenses by 75% and reduce emissions correspondingly. It's said that with a daily charge, an average driver may only need to fill up 10 times per year. The trucks can charge off of a standard outlet, or a 240 volt connection to cut charging time in half. An optional power export module provides 15 kW at 30 amps of onboard power- exportable power for the worksite. Enough to power an entire worksite, one's camping site or home during an emergency.
In an exclusive interview with a company representative, we were told that VTRUX are single-handedly creating an entirely new business model. For example, the company's 6 passenger van model could be paired with portable charging systems to create a low cost public transit system in under serviced areas. The trucks can tow and power an entire portable office, or power a temporary hospital. Now one has the power to do almost anything, anywhere, and the system is mobile.
In Canada, VTRUX are sold under an exclusive agreement with Sun Country Highway, a Saskatchewan based company best known for creating the world's longest green highway project. While the trucks are expensive, in the $79,000 range, the low operational costs and far reaching additional capabilities will more than make up for the initial outlay.
By Linda Aylesworth - autoExpert.ca