Via Motors, the small Utah company fronted by former GM executive Bob Lutz, has announced that it has received official certification from the U.S. EPA to enable it to start delivering its eREV Van to customers across the U.S.
Unlike most plug-in vehicles on the market today, the Via range of plug-in commercial vehicles are factory conversions of the Chevrolet Silvarado pickup truck and Chevrolet Express van, turning them from standard gas-guzzling V8 vehicles into range-extended plug-ins.
Based on the Chevrolet Express line of panel vans and minibuses, the Via eREV vans are available in three different guises: a twelve-seat minivan, a full-size panel van, or a utility vehicle with flip-up side doors for quick access to equipment while out and about. Build on a 3/4 Ton chassis, the Via eREV features a 23 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack located between the main chassis rails and a 190 kilowatt electric motor connected to the rear wheels via a shortened prop shaft.
In everyday driving, Via claims the eREV Van will give a range of 35 miles per charge, and can then use its on-board 4.8 litre V8 and attached 100 kilowatt electric generator to provide additional power when the on-board battery pack has been fully depleted.
With no physical connection to the wheels, the V8 engine can be run at its most efficient speed, which Via Motors says will provide up to another 350 miles of range on a full tank of gasoline. It’s worth noting however, that these figures are Via’s own in-house calculations, not official EPA ratings. What’s more, the Via eREV Van’s official certification from the EPA isn’t the same as an EPA gas mileage rating: it’s an approval that certifies that the eREV Van meets appropriate regulations pertaining to emissions rather than detail specific gas mileage figures.
Unlike the Via eREV VTrux, which is available as a four-wheel drive vehicle, the Via eREV Van is only available as a two-wheel drive vehicle. Like the VTrux however, the Via eREV Van is available with a built-in 14.4 kilowatt on-board inverter, making it possible to provide backup power in an emergency or power 110-volt or 240-volt tools in the field.
At a maximum payload capacity of 2,800 pounds (1,270 kilograms) for the panel van and 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) for the 12-seat minivan, the Via eREV Van is the first commercial plug-in van to go on sale that can combine the benefits of a plug-in vehicle with the practicality of a medium-duty commercial truck.
At the moment, Via isn’t quoting an official price for its eREV Van on its website, but it’s fair to say that since this product is deigned for fleet rather than private use, anyone interested in buying one would likely be looking to be a fleet manager considering a multiple-vehicle order.
For those customers — be they airport shuttle service providers, utility companies or municipality maintenance fleets — the costs associated with owning and operating the vehicles are more important in many ways than the purchase price. And that’s a figure that Via is keen to promote, with a claimed reduction in fuel costs of up to 80 percent over the traditional gasoline version of the Chevrolet vehicles it converts and an average daily fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon in a typical daily fleet-use cycle.
What’s more, Via says it already has plenty of vehicles already on order, with a number of vehicles heading to the Electric Power Institute (ERPI) and South Coast Air Quality Management District as part of a nationwide demonstration project supported by the U.S. DoE. So far, Via says 23 eREV Vans have been delivered to customers and three more are in transit. Back in January, Via Motors announced an $80 million commitment from Canadian-based Sun Country and Best Western to offer electric shuttle busses to Best Western hotels across Canada, equivalent to an order of 100 eREV Vans in the coming months.
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