Via Motors Plug-In Hybrids

The big draw at the official launch of the Via Motors plug-in hybrid work vehicles – truck, SUV and van – during the Detroit Auto Show was, unsurprisingly, Bob Lutz. Sadly, Maximum Bob didn't unleash any instantly classic line about global warming but he did say that Via Motors is part of the upcoming "eREVolution" and that, "once you electrify, you will never go back."

Lutz and the rest of the Via crew are offering three converted GM models. The Extended-Range Electric VTrux – a converted Chevrolet Silverado – is going to be available first (pre-orders accepted now) and the SUV and van will be coming to fleets in the fourth quarter of 2012. Via says it's capable of making 2,700 units this year and could make around 20,000 in 2013. The cost will not be cheap. Nothing's set in stone yet, but the SUV (Suburban) may cost around $70,000 while the truck could be a bit more expensive: $79,000. The cost may come down a bit by the time private customers get a chance to buy any of these work vehicles in 2013.

And work is the main message here. Via's press conference highlighted the ability to plug in your tools at the work site (or something more fun if you're going tailgating). The power will come from a 24-kWh, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack that connects to a 300-kW electric motor to move the wheels. When the battery runs dry – which should be after a "solid" 40 miles – a 150-kW generator driven by the gasoline engine will charge it back up. There is no physical connection between the engine and the wheels.

Currently, PG&E has a test fleet of two vehicles (both alpha builds) and will be getting beta models soon. The utility has ordered "hundreds," a Via representative told AutoblogGreen. Since Via expects to sell a lot of vehicles to the government, it needs these be considered an official OEM, and therefore the start-up is making sure the vehicles get both FMVSS and CARB certification.

Via Motors grew out of Raser Technologies, which gained attention by putting a plug-in hybrid into a Hummer H3. In other words, the connection between Via and GM runs deep. See a Via promotional video after the jump.