Via Motors to Debut GM-Based Electric Pickup Truck

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Via Motors recently announced plans to introduce an electric-powered GM-based pickup truck at this month’s North American International Auto Show, being held in Detroit. Boasting potential fuel economy of 100mpg, the truck is what is being called an extended-range electric vehicle, or eREV, for short.

Via Motors Electric Pickup Truck

Via Motors will debut an electric pickup truck at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.

A 402-horsepowered motor runs by way of lithium-ion batteries that provide driving distances of up to 40 miles. After that distance, a basically standard GM 4.3L V6 gasoline engine acts as a generator by “kicking in” to recharge the batteries and extend travelling up to 400 more miles.

According to press release, Alan Perriton, Via Motors’ Chief Operations Officer, reassures this new vehicle “can deliver the power and performance of a V8, with better fuel economy than many smaller cars,” and ownership and operation will cost less than a traditional gas vehicle. This is a fact consumers will have to judge for themselves, with a current price tag of $79,000.

Of course, at $79k, this truck isn’t really meant for consumers, is it? More likely than not, this will be a vehicle sold to corporations looking to bolster their “green” credibility. The ROI (return on investment) of a $79,000 electric pickup is, in a word, TERRIBLE.

  • First, we’ll assume that the truck always gets 100mpg…even though that’s highly unlikely. We’ll also assume a gas alternative could be purchased for $29k to make the math easy (this figure is probably a bit high)
  • Next, using a worst case scenario and assuming that the average cost of one gallon of fuel is $5 over the life of this truck, and assuming that the gas-powered alternative to this truck could only average 15mpg, someone would have to drive the electric Via truck at least 150k miles to break even
  • If we use a more realist $4 per gallon as our average gas cost figure and assume a 20mpg 5.3L V8 is a reasonable alternative to this thing, we’re talking about 250k miles of use to break even
  • Neither of these calculations accounts for the time value of money – soaking $79k into an electric truck costs a lot more money than buying a $29k gas truck
  • Perhaps – just perhaps – there are some government incentives or tax credits that make this math look a bit better (California, we’re looking at you)

In any case, it’s hard to imagine this GM electric truck making any sense beyond a publicity stunt.

One of the people behind the Via electric truck is Mr. Bob Lutz, former Vice Chairman of General Motors and proponent of the GM Volt. Lutz left his job at GM and is now serving on the Via Motors board of directors. This would also explain why Via’s electric powertrain technology is currently only available on GM-based platforms. In addition to this electric pickup, Via Motors also plans on releasing an extended-range SUV and Van at the same Detroit auto show.

What do you think – A smart idea, or a publicity stunt destined to fail?

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  1. mk says:

    Lutz is a Putz no question about that. Who in their right mind would spend 50K more on a pickup? What a waste of time and energy. If the truck was 5K more, than I would consider it at 35K, no more though, not worth it. Just like the prius vs. corolla argument. 16K for new corolla vs. 23K for prius, making that 7K price difference taking 10 years plus of driving to make up the cost increase 35 mpg for corolla vs. 45 mpg for prius. Now, 4 cylinder cars like the hyundai elantra at 17.5k new and a few other 4 cylinder cards are nearing 40 mpg and the prius is at most 50 mpg. Stupid if you ask me. There is a chevy volt on our local small town dealers lot just sitting outside in the cold snowy weather. I looked at it once. Who in their right mind would spend that kind of money, especially in WI snowy winters with less than 4″ of ground clearance with the black plastic panels underneath the car all over especially in the front. It would bottom out in 6-7″ of snow and get stuck for sure. Mfgs. have the capability to make V8 trucks return 25 mpg hwy. easily nowadays it is just that the govt. will not make mfgs. do this yet, and they should. Trucks have only gained since I have been driving them in the late 1980’s 2-3 mpg tops is all. My former early 1990’s 5.7L chevy silverados returned 16 mpg and yet they now only get 19 mpg avg. fuel economy at best with more hp/torque, but that is part of the problem. I’m sorry, but the tundra does not need 401lbs. of torque and 381 hp. I would be much happier with say what the chevy silverado gets which is about 320 hp and 345lbs. of torque is all most people need and hopefully should be able to get 25 mph hwy. fuel economy no problems.

  2. Mickey says:

    Ridiculous price. BTW mk the wife’s prius mpg’s run the middle 50’s and when she does 55mph it’s in the lower 60’s. Just like my brake pads her Prius is still on original pads at 93k.

  3. Jason (Admin) says:

    mk – I’m not sure why this truck exists, to tell you the truth, but it certainly seemed interesting to discuss it.

    As for Prius vs. Corolla, I’m with you. I wrote up a quick comparison (going live next week) and found that it will take about 7.5 years to break even, and that assumes a gallon of gas costs an average of $4.

    Of course, there are a lot of intangibles that come with owning a Prius, and you *can* save money buying a Prius if you keep it and drive it until the battery pack fails. 🙂

    Mickey – Ridiculous is right. The plugin Prius (coming very soon to your market) isn’t going to be much more expensive than the current model. Nothing like a $70k premium!!

  4. Mickey says:

    Jason if you buy into the aftermarket warranties that would cover the battery replacement. You would still be ahead.

  5. Jason (Admin) says:

    Mickey – Good point.

  6. Tomika says:

    Hell if I know.

  7. Mike T says:

    Well Via motor is continually upgrading their vehicle’s quality to latest treands.The E-REV powertrain by VIA Motors enables larger 4WD vehicles, including SUVs and light trucks, to drive the first 40 miles in all-electric mode with near zero emissions, and a full range of 400 miles on a single fill-up. For most drivers, this means over 100 mpg in typical local daily driving.

  8. Will says:

    The vehicle only uses gas when you drive beyond the capacity of the batteries. VIA’s new Extended-Range Electric Vehicle drives up to 40 miles on batteries then continues up to 300 miles. It generates its own electricity using a small fuel-efficient gas-powered generator or “range extender” when needed.

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  10. JC says:

    I like the idea of an electric truck or SUV but the price is far too high for it. What I want to know though is how well does this vehicle preform on and off road and in rain and snow? Also would like to know how much it can pull [before any major drops in performance] and its durability?

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