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X-Trux: Battery bakkie with attitude

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By IOL Motoring Staff

Detroit Motor Show - Remember former GM boss Bob Lutz? Well, he's now involved with Via, an electric-vehicle company that's partnering with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company to build extended-range electric vans and bakkies that PG&E technicians use for callouts - and which can function as standby generators in an emergency.

What you see here is the Via X-Trux concept, on display at the Detroit Motor Show. It's based on the new Chevrolet Silverado - not surprising, given Lutz's history - modified by Via to run as an electric vehicle with auxiliary generator.

And that's where the resemblance to pussycat battery cars such as the Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR ends. Via vehicles use their own 650-volt electric motor, that kicks out a healthy 296kW - and the X-Trux concept has two of them.

Amperage is provided by a 24-kWh, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, and when that gets down to 20 percent of charge - after about 55km of gentle driving, according to Lutz - the generator kicks in, powered by a 5.2-litre GM petrol V8 (once again, no surprise there) giving a range of more than 640km.

TOUGH-GUY STYLING

The whole system is managed by a built-in iPad, which functions as a display screen for the driver - or calls for help if there's a problem with the drivetrain.

Via has also raised the ride height by 125mm and customised the styling to make the X-Truck look even tougher than a Silverado, with special rims, wheel-arch flares and custom running boards.

Lutz says that by driving primarily on electricity, the X-Trux can achieve zero emissions on about half the distance driven on typical fleet routes, halving the amount of petrol used by conventional vehicles. Via don't quote any exact figure but, according to Lutz, the equivalent of 2.35 litres per 100km is achievable.

STANDBY GENERATOR

Via originally planned to use a smaller, V6 GM engine but firstly, they weren't sure they could get enough of them and secondly, the V6 had to run so hard to keep up with the demands of the two electric motors that the V8 uses less petrol to do the same job.

Used as a standby generator, the X-Truxinvolverd provides 15kW of power, enough for medium-sized family home, but Via is working on an industrial-grade power module that could provide 50kW, enough to keep a small hospital going while the grid is down.

PG&E senior vice-president Greg Pruett said: “VIA's new vehicles have the potential to change the way we manage power failures, and to help us provide a safer, more reliable service.”

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