Via Motors Chairman Bob Lutz: 50,000 Plug-In Hybrid Trucks A Year By 2018

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VIA Motors is aiming to sell 50,000 hybrid trucks and vans a year by 2018, according to its Chairman, Bob Lutz, as stated in a recent interview.

Considering that the company recently started delivering its first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vans to customers, it’s rather an open question how close these goals are to reality. Not a surprise, though — Bob Lutz isn’t one known to hold his tongue, after all.


That said, the company does already have some decent commercial contracts — including orders from Fed Ex, Verizon, Pacific Gas & Electric, Duke Energy, and Sun Country Highway, amongst others. So the figure isn’t necessarily a wild one.

These comments, made during an interview with Bloomberg, are particularly interesting considering that first deliveries of the company’s hybrid pickup trucks aren’t even beginning until February. Are the comments intended to spike sales? Or just honest thoughts out of the head of Lutz?

Gas2 provides some thoughts on the comments:

Prices for the hybridized trucks are $65,000 for the pickup and $79,000 for the van. Since they are essentially the same vehicle under the sheetmetal, there is no explanation given for why the van costs a whopping $14,000 more.

The vehicles VIA offers are based on the standard Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup truck and the Express cargo van. VIA adds its own proprietary hybrid powertrain that allows both vehicles to have a combined fuel economy rating of 100 MPGe. Electric-only range for the pickup truck is 40 miles; for the van, it is 35 miles.

That’s assuming drivers actually remember to plug in once in a while. Fleet experience with the Chevy Volt has been dismal, since most fleet drivers can’t be bothered to recharge their vehicles and just continue to drive as long as there is gas in the tank. There is no word if Chairman Lutz is planning to ride along to make sure proper recharging procedures are followed. Unless the vehicles are plugged in, their real world fuel economy will be no different than the donor vehicles, which cost half as much to buy.

Excellent points. And, actually, with the greater weight from the batteries, the fuel economy on gas is worse for these vehicles than the standard gas versions of them. Will Lutz actually be forced to ride around in the cab of every driver reminding them to recharge their 40-miles-per-charge PHEV truck?

The recent dip in gas prices is perhaps an issue for Via Motors as well (though, certainly a temporary one), as how can you convince a fleet manager to shell out so much money for a PHEV when gas is so cheap?

Image Credit: VIA Motors

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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20 thoughts on “Via Motors Chairman Bob Lutz: 50,000 Plug-In Hybrid Trucks A Year By 2018

  • I like the effort, but it’s already too late kind of. The economics of all electric trucks are not far off. (The powertrain of the Model X would be virtually identical to a truck.)

  • You intentionally forgot to tell us the reason why the fleet Volt was not plugged James Ayre!

    THE EMPLOYEES DID NOT PLUG IT IN their gatage because it will consume their electricity at home whereas the gasoline is free!

    • At the Sacramento Municipal Utility District program, the fleet Volt are always plugged in at the office building when not in use. When loaned overnighter to employees, they don’t plug the Volts at home for obvious reasons, not because they did not remember to plug it in.

      • easy enough, start making eemployees who take a EREV
        home to buy gas but reimburse them for imputed electrical use.

        • i am sure it would not be a bureaucratic red tape at the accounting department and so well worth the trouble of divulging your kWh usage for a paltry amount of reimbursement. The directors would be thrilled with the idea of the accounting department designing the needed forms and the employee filling out such unique forms, encoding them into the computer, then computing the reimbursement or deducting from credits. And after spending about $300 of added processing labor for each form, voila, you get $30 worth of credits!

    • Easy solution. Give fleet drivers energy ‘credits’ that assume the vehicle is plugged in at home. If the drivers use credits to purchase gasoline, it will be at a loss as gas is more expensive.

      • So why is the easy solution not being done by Volt fleet owners?

        • Stuck in old thinking, not adapting to new realities.

  • The thing that kills average miles per gallon is city driving. (Actually pickup trucks essentially have a sail in the back when the gates closed and no bed cover.) Four door pickup trucks do a lot of stop/start style driving, and are extremely popular in the US. Not all of these pickup trucks are hauling stuff for construction and farming so the utility argument is kind of silly. Do anything to capture deceleration energy loss, please. Electric plug-in. Electric hybrid. Volvo’s KERS flywheel. I don’t care. Ford and Chevy’s are getting bigger. Yes they’re getting lighter. But jeez, we’re going the wrong way, efficiency wise.

        • The aerodynamics of trucks is poor. A lot of drag from back-eddy formed behind cab. That vertical drop at the back is not good. Fronts aren’t very aero-dynamic either.

        • If you look carefully you’ll see that gallons consumed slowed prior to the recession. Exactly the opposite of what one would expect in a booming (bubble) economy. I stuck the numbers into a spreadsheet, calculated a percentage increase by year and starting in 2005 there is a clear slowing.

          I’l add on a graph I did a few years back when I was trying to get people to attend to apparent US CO2 peaking in 2005. I spent some time trying to discover the reason and on this graph plotted miles driven and flown. Miles driven were not rising prior to the start of the recession in late 2008.

          I suspect consumption will be up some in 2014 but we seem to have left the stead annual growth that’s gone on for decades. We may see miles driven move upwards in the future, but they should be offset by higher efficiency.

          • I plotted the percent increase/decrease from the previous year. You can see that there was a change in consumption rates that started well before the 2008 recession.

  • Persistent mentioning of Lutz monitoring charging is absurd and irrelevant. The companies buy the trucks to save on fuel costs, it is up to the company to make sure they are charged.

  • Gas2: “Fleet experience with the Chevy Volt has been dismal, since most fleet drivers can’t be bothered to recharge their vehicles …”
    Two solutions. One is to go all-electric, already the best solution for urban fleet small vans. The other is city ordinances favouring electric running (use of bus and taxi lanes, parking, exemption from congestion charges). Eventually cities will mandate it, and ban ICEs from widening urban areas.

  • fta”with the greater weight from the batteries, the fuel economy on gas is worse for these vehicles than the standard gas versions of them.” wow, i can’t believe you actually think that is what happens

  • Bob has a reputation of over promising and under delivering. Once saying the Saab SUV would “blow the doors off a BMW X5”. That also had a GM SUV underpinnings and died a quick death. I believe Via Motors will go the way of Fisker. When the oil price drops because of supply it usually stays low for 5-10 years until demand catches up. Fleet buyers will not risk their jobs on a low emissions alternative if they can run the vehicle cheaper on just gasoline. It is hard to justify to your boss that you want to pay double for a vehicle when the price of fuel is so low.

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