Via Motors Vtrux extended-range electric pickup.Enlarge Photo
Think a solar roof is the ultimate electric-car accessory? How about a solar tonneau cover?
The maker of plug-in utility vehicles backed by automotive luminary Bob Lutz unveiled exactly that at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show.
This eco-freindly add-on takes advantage of the considerable amount of real estate available for solar cells on a full-size pickup truck.
According to Via (via AutoBlogGreen), the tonneau cover will be available in 400-watt and 800-watt versions, which could add 6 or 10 miles of range per day respectively, to one of Via's Vtrux extended-range electric pickups.
Since the trucks also come equipped with outboard power units, the solar cover could be used to power tools at a job site.
Via Motors extended-range electric truck conversion launch, 2012 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
The solar tonneau cover will be a $2,000 option on the Via Vtrux plug-in pickup, Gizmag reports. The vehicle itself has an estimated base price of $79,000.
The Vtrux pickup is based on a Chevrolet Silverado, and has a powertrain consisting of a 4.3-liter V-6, 300-kilowatt electric motor, and a 24-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Via says it will return 100 mpg in mixed driving, but this "blended" number assumes just 60 or 70 miles driven per day. More miles driven on gasoline will lower the mpg.
Via also plans to offer a Suburban-based electric SUV with the same powertrain as the pickup, and a van based on the Chevy Express. Both vehicles are expected to return the same 100 mpg as the pickup.
However, the van uses a different powertrain than the pickup and SUV, consisting of a 4.8-liter V-8, 175-kilowatt electric drive motor, and a 22-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack.
At the same Los Angeles Auto Show press conference, Via announced that it had started production on the Vtrux pickup at its facility in Mexico; it plans to put the Vtrux van into production before the end of the year.
The company expects that the majority of buyers will be fleet operators, who will see a payback on lifetime ownership cost despite the much higher initial price of the Via pickup versus a regular gasoline version.
If that's not enough, perhaps Via can offer a solar hood next as well.