US: former GM exec pushes for commercial EV’s image

Robert Lutz, former GM vice chairman and a leading advocate for extended range electric vehicles, told reporters at Via press conference at the North American International Auto Show that electrification of vehicles, such as vans and pickup trucks, makes more sense than making small electric vehicles.

Via Motors, a start-up company planning to offer plug-in electric vehicles to commercial customers said it has received an $80 million contract as part of a transcontinental electrification project.

“We’ve got it backwards,” said Lutz, who brought the Chevrolet Volt to life while he was at GM and describes himself has a fan of electric vehicles. “I’ve always liked electric vehicles. I just don’t like their range.”

However, they do work when vehicles travel relatively short distances and can be recharged at regular intervals. On the other hand, electrified commercial vehicles make sense because they can deliver a substantial savings on fuel costs, and provide an economic payback to owners and operators.

Lutz is a member of the Via board of directors and the privately held company plans to integrate its proprietary powertrain into new vehicles, and sell directly to fleets under the VTRUX brand name. Via VTRUX deliver up to 40-mile battery range and unlimited extended range, averaging more than 100 mpg in typical daily driving. It also has a partner who plans to install the electric power train in vehicles purchased from General Motors. The bankruptcy of what was formerly A123, however, forced VIA to find an alternative battery supplier.