Electricity may not be the fuel of choice for the average pickup buyer, but that isn't putting VIA Motors off. The Bob Lutz-backed company has just started production at its assembly plant in Mexico, building range-extended electric trucks that major on performance as well as saving gas.
When it's up and running--and if people buy VIA's trucks--the Mexican plant has capacity for up to 10,000 vehicles per year. That's a lofty target for a startup automaker, particularly one competing in such a cut-throat segment, but truck owners could find plenty to like about the company's vehicles.
Power and durability are key here, but VIA's specification sheets don't read like the average apologetic plug-in hybrid vehicle. Its VTrux range, based on a General Motors truck platform, maintains the use of a suitably-sized gasoline engine--a 4.3-liter V-6, in basic form. This supplies power to a 201-horsepower electric generator, which in turn keeps the battery pack topped-up. From there, power is supplied to a 402-horsepower electric motor--which also outputs 300 pound-feet of torque from zero rpm.
At the same time, the 24 kWh battery pack provides enough juice for 35-40 miles of all-electric range when charged at home. For local journeys, that means zero-emissions driving, unparalleled smoothness and quiet running. Think of it as a truck-sized Chevy Volt and you're not far off the mark--indeed, Lutz himself was involved in the Volt's conception.
For Dr. Fernando Teranzo, governor of San Luis Potozi where VIA's plant is based, it adds up to an impressive drive--"smooth, quiet and powerful" is how he described it, and a pleasure to drive. Perhaps those traditional pickup buyers will be convinced after all. If not, there's always the 800-horsepower XTrux...