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VIA Motors introduces V-TRUX range of extended-range electric trucks, vans and SUVs

If you're launching a line of extended-range electric vehicles, ala the Chevy Volt, it's hard to imagine a better person to help you with the launch than Bob Lutz, the driving force behind that very car. Now he's working with VIA Motors, which today introduced a line of electric vehicles of a rather different scale. The V-TRUX line of big boy toys includes modified GMC trucks, SUVs and vans, customized to include a Volt-like powertrain that enables up to 40 miles of electricity-only driving before switching over to the onboard 4.8 liter V8. More details after the break.

The V8 charges up a 24kWh battery pack, situated between the rear frame rails. This means those driving the national average of 35 miles a day would never burn a drop of gasoline. But, these are fleet vehicles, meant to be covering a lot more ground than that. In a worst-case scenario of 36,500 miles per year, you'd still be delivering 29 MPG from these vehicles. That's far better than the 15 city, 20 highway that same engine is rated in a full-sized GMC truck.

Lutz calls this truck a "Chevy Volt on steroids" and says that it offers "the torque of a monster truck"with the help of a 402hp electric motor. Verizon has signed on to add some of the panel vans to its fleet of vehicles, and PG&E already has a few test vans in service. FedEx and UPS have also signed on and could begin buying them by the thousands when they start shipping toward the end of 2013. The cost? About double that of the base vehicle, but the PG&E rep we spoke to believes that the fuel savings alone could more than make up for that within seven years -- never mind the savings to the environment.

Richard Lawler contributed to this report.