Via Motors
Bob Lutz is a member on the board of Via Motors, which introduced a line of extended-range pickup trucks, vans and SUVs at the Detroit Auto Show on Tuesday. Via Motors

Via Motors is offering a bold comparison for its latest line of extended-range electric vehicles by likening its new pickup truck to the iconic Apple. Inc. iPhone.

It's like the iPhone of cars, spokesman David West said in a phone interview with the International Business Times on Wednesday.

It's the right mix, West added. It's the right package with everything.

Via Motors will roll out the company's world-premiere line of extended-range electric pickup trucks, SUVs and vans next month at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

All three vehicles will have a range of 30 to 40 miles running on advanced, non-flammable, lithium ion batteries. Each vehicle will also contain a generator, which kicks in after 40 miles and is able to power the car for up to 400 miles. The vehicles average 100 miles per gallon and, depending on the voltage of the socket where they charge, will take between four and eight hours to recharge.

The truck is currently the only vehicle in the line that is in operation, in a pilot program with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. PG&E's director of transportation and aviation services Dave Meisel said the company is very pleased with the program because it delivers on its promise of cost efficiency.

You can drive this pickup truck for about a dollar a day, as opposed to $150 a week for the average that most people drive with gas-powered pickup trucks now, West told IBTimes.

The vehicles will be marketed to fleets and companies, and Via Motors has already been in discussions with multiple telecom, cable TV and wireless service companies, as well as some of the largest beverage companies in the industry. The company expects to be able to market them to consumers within two years.

Bob Lutz, an auto industry titan and former vice chairman of General Motors who joined Via Motors board of directors in September, said Via Motors has developed the first extended range electric powertrain capable of replacing the V8 engine.

It was my great privilege to introduce the Chevy Volt, and it will be a great honor to introduce the world's first line of eREV trucks, vans and SUVs by Via Motors, said Lutz in a statement.

Now, as part of the board at Via Motors, he's turning his attention to mass production of more electric vehicles -- first for fleets, then consumers.

PG&E, which is already operating Via Motor's electric truck in the pilot program, exemplifies the natural fit for fleets. In southern California, it operates a fleet of about 13,000 vehicles, of which a small percentage currently uses Via Motor's electric pickup pilot vehicle.

Meisel told IBTimes that his company had discussions with Via Motors as far back as 2008. The pilot program began last January.

Meisel said that for PG&E, the pilot program presented a chance to reduce both cost and the company's carbon footprint. PG&E hopes to expand the program to as many as 3,500 vehicles in its fleet within the next couple of years.

To be green and be cost effective, that's my job to make sure we meet both criteria, Meisel said.

Via Motor's lineup is seen as a perfect fit for an electric company like PG&E and its fleet. There are the routine maintenance operations, which the electric pickups can help service. West said on average, fleets travel less than 40 miles per day.

Then there are the emergency response situations, which is where the generator and its extended-range capabilities would be put to use.

Think about the cost of emission savings, Meisel said. And you still have full capabilities. That's the difference this technology offers. I can go anywhere I want, which is important, especially in emergency. All-electric [vehicles] doesn't do that. I have to buy equipment for that small percentage. This allows for the best of both worlds.

In the coming years, Via Motors will start expanding their marketing to consumers, and likening the pickup's range to the iconic Apple smartphone may be a clever start.

Consumers will need to figure this out as the story gets told, but it's a great package, West said.