Jay Leno, Bob Lutz, Talk Plug-ins, Drive Via Plug-in Hybrid Truck

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Jay Leno Drives Via Vtrux

Jay Leno Drives Via Vtrux

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Americans love the utility and functionality of the mighty pickup truck, but not its gas mileage. 

So its no surprise that talk show host Jay Leno thinks that Americans will love the Via Vtrux, a range-extended, full-size, electric pickup truck that combines the practicality of a Chevy Silverado with the gas mileage of a Chevy Volt. 

Leno came to his conclusions on the latest episode his ongoing web-based car series Jay Leno’s Garage, in which he interviewed automotive legend Bob Lutz and drove the plug-in pickup truck. 

With 18,000 miles on the clock of his 2011 Chevrolet Volt and only 12 gallons of gasoline used, Leno praised plug-in technology. 

“He [Lutz] and I both have chevrolet Volts,” Leno explained “It’s a revolutionary product. And I personally believe that the [plug-in] hybrid is the way to go...with the [plug-in] hybrid it’s electricity when you want it and gas when you need it.”

Credited as the father of the Chevrolet Volt, Lutz was Vice Chairman of General Motors until May 2010, when he retired. He later returned to the company for a short while, before retiring a second time in 2011. 

Now an advisor to GM, Lutz sits on the board of Via Motors, which converts Chevy-brand vehicles to plug-in hybrids.

Powered by a 300 kilowatt mid-mounted electric motor and a 24 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack, the VTrux -- along with Via’s SUV and Van variants -- can travel up to 40 miles on a single charge. 

When the battery pack is fully discharged, a 4.3-liter V6 engine connected to a 150 kilowatt generator can provide additional power for up to 400 miles. 

Since it is not physically connected to the wheels, the V-6 engine is run at its most efficient speed, improving gas mileage. 

Designed as working vehicles rather than trophy trucks, every Via vehicle comes with external 120- and 240-volt electrical outlets that can be powered by the vehicle’s V-6 engine.

That means Via Trucks can not only provide electrical power at remote work sites, also provide backup domestic power in the event of a power outage. 

On the road, Leno was thoroughly impressed with the pickup. 

“It’s got plenty of acceleration and plenty of power. I wouldn’t know I was in a [plug-in] hybrid car if you didn’t tell me,” he enthused.

“This is what the future is. It’s pretty amazing,” he continued. “It combines everything you know about a truck already...except it gets great gas mileage.”

The only drawback? The $79,000 projected price tag, and the fact that  it isn’t due to launch until next year. 

Admittedly, Via’s primary market is large fleets rather than private individuals and small businesses. 

Nevertheless, we feel obliged to ask the same question we did in Jaunary: What would you pay for a 100 MPG Via full-size pickup truck?

Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below. 


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Comments (10)
  1. Feel obliged to give my normal complaint. This is NOT a 100 MPG truck. It probably will not even achieve 100 MPGe.

    But it is very interesting technology.

  2. Well, I wouldn't pay $78,000 for any vehicle, except possibly a classic as an investment. Obviously, realized MPG for a vehicle like this is a function of driving habits more than anything else, although Lutz did point out that under 40 miles per day fleet owners would find the truck most useful. We also see the usual avoidance of the cost of the batteries as an operating expense, or the effect battery capacity losses will have on range, and thus MPG. The Volt's big brother.

  3. I think making a full size truck into a PHEV makes a lot of sense. It gets these big gas guzzlers very close to going full electric and the people driving them will become familiar with driving electric vehicles. Then in a few years when batteries take their next evolutionary step forward we'll see pure electric versions.

  4. The cost is easily justifiable for fleet managers (spreadsheet jockeys). Just look at the Via Motors savings calculator:
    As well the Jay's Garage video indicated that most/many fleet trucks are driving less than 50 miles per day. Perfect fit.

  5. i think 70-80,000 is reasonable. it could potentially save a ton on fuel costs. a F series Super Duty cost $60,000 so this is not that much more. whats its hauling capacity?

  6. any truck/SUV should have AWD, if not full-time, at least an option to switch to it during inclement weather (especially in a Chicago winter). consumers would understand if AWD, and towing will decrease the efficiency.

    hopefully by the time it comes out, they ought to be able to bring down the price. i can never see myself paying $78k for any vehicle and would opt to keep my current, rarely driven SUV (keeping it would be more sustainable than buying a new one). i think it would be more reasonable if it were closer to $35k.

  7. If it came down mid 60's for the SUV I would get it... even at half the estimate mpg it would be worth it.

  8. What is the towing capacity of these converted trucks? Will they match their ICE siblings?

  9. I'd buy a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle for about the same price I'd pay for the gasoline model of the same vehicle with the same refueling range, not more than a couple of thousand more net, taking inaccount anylarger price difference being justified by environmental rebates or immeadiate offset in fuel cost within the first year. I'd like to see larger electric only ranges before gas kicks in.

  10. Also I do NOT feel that price gauging by setting higher price points for these vehicles for profit based solely on the estimated fuel savings is justifyable or appropriate even if the market will alow it. Sure, early adopters may expect to pay more based on development costs of the new vehicle designs and initially samll production numbers but that's it. A four door pickup is a four door pickup, etc. I'd buy a Tesla (if I could afford one) becasue I'd find it comparable to a good BMW or Mercedes wioth the advantage of being electric. But a LEAF shouldn't cost more than a like Focus, for example.

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