It’s been a blitz-filled couple of weeks for VIA Motors. The company, which makes plug-in hybrid trucks and vans, also called PEVs, announced a new manufacturing facility in Mexico late last month. Then this week at the LA Auto Show the company made a solar splash when it unveiled its new accessory, the SölTRUX. A photovoltaic truck bed cover, also known as tonneau top, the SölTRUX can extend the range of one of its trucks by up to 10 miles.
The company, a startup chaired by former General Motors Chairman Bob Lutz (who oversaw the introduction of the Chevy Volt) plans to start mass-production of its electrified trucks and vans. These vehicles can drive up to 40 miles on their batteries alone before they're forced to rely on traditional gas-powered engines. The trucks and vans—based on Chevrolet and GM vehicles—are retrofitted with the company’s V-DRIVE and sold to fleets under the VTRUX brand name. With their combined engine and motor, the company claims the vehicles travel about 400 miles on one fill-up and can get the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.
VIA Motors will first offer the PV-powered charger on its modified Silverado trucks as an accessory, but the company plans to offer a similar option for its passenger and cargo vans. The option will be offered for its line of 2014 trucks expected to be available in mid-2014.
"This much solar charging really wasn't available until we electrified the pick up truck, which offers enough real estate to accommodate full-size, high-capacity panels," said David West, VIA Motors chief marketing officer. "This option makes owning an electric truck even more attractive today because it can charge while parked outside almost anywhere.”
Indeed, the solar panels offered on the Toyota Prius are used to power a ventilation system that helps keep the car from being too hot in the summer. That’s all they do. Then again, the panels on the Prius are much, much smaller than a truck bed.
VIA’s trucks and vans have a 300 kilowatt electric motor capable of producing 402 horsepower and 302 ft-pounds of torque. The motor in the vehicles—a V6—is tied the vehicle’s 150 kilowatt electric generator and operates only to generate electricity and recharge the vehicle’s 24 kilowatt hour batteries. Since it’s also a plug-in hybrid, owners could feasibly recharge the batteries between uses are rarely, if ever, use the gas in the vehicle.