I’ve test driven a handful of electric cars, and the VIA is by far the most powerful I’ve ever been in. It has to be, to carry 5,500 lbs plus however many tons of stuff you plan to haul to the jobsite. Tomorrow I’ll be test driving the Fisker Karma, but today the 402hp VIA truck blew my mind. At Charged, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s EV Symposium, this bad boy was available for the ride and drive, as well as a few other EV’s. Day One’s report is here. Sadly, I wasn’t able to feel that power beneath my own lead foot, as the truck VIA was able to bring to the Silicon Valley EV Symposium was PG&E’s truck. And you know how men are about letting someone else drive their truck, especially their work truck. So VIA’s Regional Sales Director Gabriel Hern took me for a spin on the same test route I’d just been on behind the wheel of a BMW Active E and a Toyota Fuel Cell Highlander. The big guy (Bob Lutz) even wants one. Or at least is interested enough in the company to let them dive deep into Chevy’s parts bin.
The VIA made the BMW feel like a toy, and made the Highlander utterly forgettable. The day before, I’d had my first sighting of one of those freaky Lamborghini “trucks” cruising up Page Mill Road. I can only imagine this feels kinda like driving that. The 300 ft-lbs of torque was more monstrous than any other EV I’ve been in. Gabriel explained they’d had to work closely with Remy, their powertrain developer, to map the engine for a slower power delivery, as they kept burning through tires. It still felt amazingly fast. Even better, the truck will be equipped with a 4.3L V6 Chevy to recharge the batteries.
Yes, it’s gas-assist like the Chevy Volt, but this is a vehicle most likely to see well over 40 miles before she gets to sleep for the night. They say the 14 gallon gas tank can keep her charged up enough to go 400 miles on a tank. No Sleep Till Infineon! I’m excited because it’s the perfect vehicle (well, the van, really) for transporting electric race bikes to the track. For now. Yes, it’s also got a gas-powered generator, and only 40 miles of range from the 24kwh A123 battery pack. More about the specs here. Unfortunately Gabriel couldn’t tell me how many gallons of gas it would take to fully recharge those batteries, only that it would take 37 minutes to fully recharge the batteries from the point where they’re low enough to kick in the generator. It helps to think of it as a gas-powered generator, not a motor, because it’s not linked to the driveshaft, just the batteries.
Here is the ultimate TTXGP racer van. As an avid motorcyclist, my only interest in cars is- Will it get my bike to the track? Period. This truck, or the van they also plan to produce, will totally do that. The Toyota FCEV Highlander? Not so much. In fact, as far as I was able to find out, none of the major EV’s even recommend installing a tow package. The VIA doesn’t even need one. Just load the bikes in the back, zoom off to your favorite racetrack, and when you’re there and need a generator for those tire warmers, just plug in here:
Where on the car is that handy outlet, you ask? Here:
The website has a handy life cycle savings calculator, key for any EV manufacturer even though Ray Lane told us at the conference that he thinks consumers can’t be taught to think about full ownership cost. Please prove him wrong and go play with it, then go play with Tesla’s and whatever other cost estimate tools you can find for EV’s. Then tell your friends to try them out too! I like this one because it gives you a side-by-side comparison of the vehicle it’s meant to replace, and a nice bold graphic bar chart showing your total savings. This is for a leased vehicle, but they do say they intend to sell these trucks at $79,000.