DETROIT – PG&E and VIA Motors showcased the first extended-range electric sport-utility vehicles and cargo vans for utilities today (Jan. 14) at the North American International Auto Show.
Greg Pruett, a PG&E senior vice president, was joined by Bob Lutz, a VIA Motors board member, Alan Perriton, VIA Motors chief operating officer, and Thomas Edison.
Yes, that Thomas Edison.
The Detroit show, considered the top auto show in the world, has a long history of dramatic reveals of new vehicles. Infiniti presented a mini Cirque de Soleil show during its introduction of the new Q50 sedan today, for instance.
In that spirit, VIA Motors presented a conversation between Lutz, the former vice chairman of General Motors, and Edison, the noted inventor of many things, including electric vehicles.
Well, at least a conversation between Lutz and a hologram of Edison.
“We are on the verge of a grand era,” Edison told Lutz. “I envision electric cars in every home.”
Lutz agreed, saying, “I am convinced that electric vehicles will someday dominate the roads.”
Full line of extended-range electrics
He’s something of an expert on the subject, as Lutz is considered the father of the Chevy Volt, the innovative range-extended electric sedan produced by GM.
Besides its eREV (extended-range electric vehicle) lineup of full-size pickup trucks, cargo vans and SUVs, VIA also unveiled a concept vehicle on Monday – the XTruck with two 402-horsepower electric motors.
Besides PG&E’s Pruett, Verizon Wireless Vice President Ken Jack took part in the news conference.
Combined, according to VIA’s Perriton, PG&E and Verizon have more than 30,000 vehicles in their fleets.
“Given the size of their fleets,” he said, “Verizon and PG&E could kick start the electric vehicle revolution all by themselves.”
PG&E had joined VIA at the 2012 Detroit show to show off its eREV full-size pickups. Last year, the utility tested two eREV trucks as part of its overall fleet. Based on the positive results of that test, PG&E will be adding more eREV trucks, SUVs and cargo vans from VIA Motors to its fleet.
Exportable power to utility crews, customers
VIA Motors’ eREV vehicles not only have the potential to transform transportation, but also the way electric utilities like PG&E provide service to customers. These eREVs can provide exportable power to shorten unplanned outages, provide backup power for scheduled outages and boost the electric grid when needed.
The first generation trucks have 15-kilowatt capacity, which is the equivalent of a generator for a small or medium house. A utility-grade output module, now in development, will provide 50 kW of mobile emergency power to keep critical facilities online.
Pruett noted that the response to Hurricane Sandy, when millions of customers on the Eastern Seaboard lost power in late October and early November, would have been much different had utilities been able to provide power using VIA Motors vehicles.
All three eREV models feature extraordinary fuel efficiency, up to 100 mpg under typical driving conditions.
“We at PG&E are always looking for benefits in three key areas — customer service, the environment and California’s electric grid,” said Pruett. “VIA’s electric vehicle technology has the potential to benefit all three. I’m talking about fuel cost savings, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and increased energy independence.”
In 2008, PG&E partnered with VIA Motors to develop the first eREV pickup truck.
“VIA’s partnership with PG&E, and the introduction of the world’s first extended-range electric work trucks, SUVs and cargo vans in their fleet, marks a turning point in the electrification of the industry’s fleets,” said Lutz. “As the world becomes more aware of the economic advantages of this ultra-clean technology, I am convinced that this type of electric vehicle will become very popular with consumers as well, and will help end our dependence on oil.”
Double the fuel economy
The eREV models run the first 40 miles on batteries, and then continue to drive on electricity generated from an onboard gas-electric generator for 400 miles or more. By driving primarily on electricity, the vehicles can more than double gas fuel economy and achieve zero emissions on 50 percent of the miles driven on typical fleet routes. For electric utilities, the electrified vehicles can provide on-site power to help shorten small outages, eliminate some planned outages for maintenance, and boost the electric grid when needed.
PG&E is committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by greening its fleet. Since 1995, PG&E’s alternative-fuel vehicles have helped prevent more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The utility has more than 1,200 alternative-fuel vehicles in its fleet, ranging from natural-gas, hybrid and electric passenger cars to large trucks that burn natural gas or have the ability to provide needed power from battery packs instead of idling engines. PG&E is testing and validating other promising transportation technologies, including liquid and compressed natural gas and diesel-electric hybrids.
Other highlights of this year’s Detroit auto show include the introduction of the 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray, a diesel version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the naming of the Cadillac ATS as North American Car of the Year.
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