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Jay Leno, Bob Lutz talk plug-ins, test drive a hybrid truck

Talk show host Jay Leno is betting that Americans will love the Via Vtrux, a full-size, electric pickup truck that combining the practicality of a Chevy Silverado with the mileage of a Chevy Volt. Leno endorsed the truck on the latest episode of his web series, "Jay Leno’s Garage."

By Nikki Gordon-BloomfieldGuest blogger / July 17, 2012

VIA Motors Board of Directors member Bob Lutz poses for a photograph inside VIA Motors' first extended range electric truck in this March 2012 file photo in San Francisco, Calif. On the latest episode his ongoing web-based car series, Jay Leno interviewed automotive legend Lutz and gave rave reviews to a similar plug-in pickup truck called the VIA Vtrux.

Alison Yin/AP Images for Pacific Gas & Electric

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Americans love the utility and functionality of the mighty pickup truck, but not its gas mileage. 

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So its no surprise that talk show host Jay Leno thinks that Americans will love the Via Vtrux, a range-extended, full-size, electric pickup truck that combines the practicality of a Chevy Silverado with the gas mileage of a Chevy Volt

Leno came to his conclusions on the latest episode his ongoing web-based car series Jay Leno’s Garage, in which he interviewed automotive legend Bob Lutz and drove the plug-in pickup truck. 

With 18,000 miles on the clock of his 2011 Chevrolet Volt and only 12 gallons of gasoline used, Leno praised plug-in technology. 

“He [Lutz] and I both have chevrolet Volts,” Leno explained “It’s a revolutionary product. And I personally believe that the [plug-in] hybrid is the way to go...with the [plug-in] hybrid it’s electricity when you want it and gas when you need it.”

Credited as the father of the Chevrolet Volt, Lutz was Vice Chairman of General Motors until May 2010, when he retired. He later returned to the company for a short while, before retiring a second time in 2011. 

Now an advisor to GM, Lutz sits on the board of Via Motors, which converts Chevy-brand vehicles to plug-in hybrids.

Powered by a 300 kilowatt mid-mounted electric motor and a 24 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack, the VTrux -- along with Via’s SUV and Van variants -- can travel up to 40 miles on a single charge. 

When the battery pack is fully discharged, a 4.3-liter V6 engine connected to a 150 kilowatt generator can provide additional power for up to 400 miles. 

Since it is not physically connected to the wheels, the V-6 engine is run at its most efficient speed, improving gas mileage. 

Designed as working vehicles rather than trophy trucks, every Via vehicle comes with external 120- and 240-volt electrical outlets that can be powered by the vehicle’s V-6 engine.

That means Via Trucks can not only provide electrical power at remote work sites, also provide backup domestic power in the event of a power outage. 

On the road, Leno was thoroughly impressed with the pickup. 

“It’s got plenty of acceleration and plenty of power. I wouldn’t know I was in a [plug-in] hybrid car if you didn’t tell me,” he enthused.

“This is what the future is. It’s pretty amazing,” he continued. “It combines everything you know about a truck already...except it gets great gas mileage.”

The only drawback? The $79,000 projected price tag, and the fact that  it isn’t due to launch until next year. 

Admittedly, Via’s primary market is large fleets rather than private individuals and small businesses. 

Nevertheless, we feel obliged to ask the same question we did in Jaunary: What would you pay for a 100 MPG Via full-size pickup truck?

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best auto bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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