Via, Verizon Developing a Series Hybrid Van for Installers' Use

March 2012, - Feature

by Tom Berg, Senior Editor, Senior Contributing Editor - Also by this author

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Verizon Communications and Via Motors are developing a gasoline-electric series hybrid van for possible large-scale integration into Verizon's fleet. Based on a General Motors G-2500 cargo van, the hybrid system will be capable of generating on-site power as well as propelling the truck.

The plug-in system can run a truck for 40 miles, after which a gasoline engine starts to run a generator that charges batteries to feed power to an electric motor. The extended range then is about 400 miles.

However, the average landline installer's truck runs only 33 miles a day, so an eRev van's gasoline generator would seldom start up unless electric power were needed to run tools or energize a portion of a downed grid, said Ken McKenney, Verizon's sustainable fleet program manager.

A typical installer's van runs about 9,200 miles a year and averages 11 miles per gallon, he said. Fuel savings from the eRev system would be substantial because the fleet has about 12,000 cargo vans that are used as work trucks.

Verizon will initially buy two, and if they are successful they would gradually replace older vans.

Via's eRev powertrain in a van and a pickup truck, two of the most widely used vehicle types in Verizon's massive fleet, was displayed at the NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis this week.

The van has a 4.3-liter V-6 mated to a generator that, in production form, would produce 15 kilowatts for on site use. A larger 4.8-liter V-8 might be used where terrain is hilly and more power is needed to propel a heavily loaded van upgrade, a Via engineer said.

List price for an eRev van is $79,000, but fuel savings and government grants would pay for it rather soon, Via believes.

Verizon keeps a Class 2 van about 13 years, so a long return-on-investment time might not be objectionable, McKenney said. It might be acceptible also because the eRev vehicle would also be drastically cutting carbon output -- a major corporate goal.

Via calls the series hybrid VTrux, and plans to build 2,700 of them this year and 20,000 in 2013. They will use GM engines and bodies and electric components sourced from other suppliers, and will be marketed to other telecommunications and service fleets.

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