If I were to come up and merely explain exactly what I saw at the Via Motors press conference, chances are you'd take a few cautious steps back and suggest that I seek out my clergyperson. Here, I'll show you! Here's a hypothetical exchange between you and I, sweet, sweet reader:
YOU: Hey, Jason! It's me, all of your readers from Jalopnik!
ME: You're my readers! You're taller than I imagined.
(We hug like lifelong friends)
YOU: So, how did you spend the past 30 minutes?
ME: Great question. I stood with a group of people and watched two suicide-girl-type women with lithe, muscular bodies wearing lingerie climb up some ribbons and then toss and grapple one another in a eerily but humidly erotic manner, and then I watched an orange-faced man lie to a ghost. Oh, and then a clumsily customized truck drove up!
YOU: (look of disgust and dismay, slowly fading into genuine concern)
I hope you get the help you need.
The thing is, it's all true. What I just described up there was what actually happened. I'll clarify a bit:
The first part with the lithe women you can, and probably will, imagine in detail I can't hope to replicate here. Plus, I got to see a German journalist laboriously hit on both of them as soon as their four feet touched ground again, so you can picture that, too.
The part with the ghost is more complicated. See, they used a hologram to have Thomas Edison — or, more accurately, a dinner-theater actor playing Thomas Edison — engage in a conversation with Corporate Board Enthusiast Bob Lutz. But since it was an actor, they didn't need to have "Edison" as a hologram at all. They could have just had the guy come out and talk to Bob Lutz as Edison. But nobody cares about some old actor guy talking to Bob Lutz — that'd be stupid. A hologram (which was really just a projection on nylon) of some old actor guy talking to Bob Lutz, though? GENIUS.
Speaking of genius, here's how Lutz lied to (or at least misled) fake Edison's fake ghost. You can see it in the short clip there, but here's the gist:
Edison asks how they solved the "battery problem." Lutz gleefully responds that they "solved" it by adding a gasoline motor! Boom! Problem ignored!
Fake Edison seems pretty excited about this, but Dead Real Edison would have lunged at Lutz in zombie rage and eaten most of that delicious face jerky. Because adding a gas motor isn't solving any battery problems. Hell, Edison could have added a gas motor to his failed electric cars anytime he wanted. But he didn't. Because he was making an electric car.
What VIA's doing isn't necessarily bad at all. Essentially, VIA is buying entire trucks from GM, adding battery packs and one or more electric motors, replacing the transmission with an electrical generator, and adding other hardware needed to convert the vehicle to purely electric drive.
The gas motor is retained, but is only used to generate electricity for the electric motors. So it's more like a Fisker than a Volt. The huge engines that they're using are likely overkill for the job of running a generator at a set RPM, but it does keep the engines very understressed. Many engineers think this range-extender method is inherently wasteful, as if you're running an engine to make electricity to drive a motor to power some wheels, you have less losses just using the gas engine to drive wheels more directly.
Still, the use cases of these sorts of vehicles means that most of the driving could be done in the 45 mile range of the electric motors, which put out a respectable 402 HP. Not bad at all.
They say they're shipping vans and trucks already, and good for them. In city-fleet work I'm sure these things will prove more efficient than gas-powered vans, and their ability to provide 110V AC is a very useful option for a large number of contexts.
Their rebadging of the trucks is pretty clumsy, though, with a lot of clunky plastic bits stuck over the GM family logos and over grille bars. Their show car seemed sort of a half-assed effort, with lots of plastic stuck on and some charming but not terribly professional-looking hand-painted striping and lettering.
So there's three takeaways here:
- VIA is selling electric fleet work vehicles that could be a good fit for their markets, even if not everyone's sold on their overall efficiency.
- Bob Lutz's dreams are filled with Suicide Girl acrobats and dead inventors.
- Bob Lutz now represents a company that electrifies V8 GM products, and a company that de-electrifies Danish cars and puts GM V8s into them. At the same time.