DETROIT -- Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) joined VIA Motors at the North American International Auto Show to unveil an extended-range electric pickup truck designed for utilities and other businesses whose field employees need acces to a power source.

For example, the plug-in hybrid truck - a converted Chevrolet Silverado - can provide mobile, on-site power to help manage electrical outages.

Production of VIA’s eREV Pickup Truck is scheduled to begin in 2012.

Production of VIA’s eREV Pickup Truck is scheduled to begin in 2012.

The California electric and gas utility partnered with VIA Motors in 2008 to develop the trucks. PG&E already owns two of them.

"This truck has the potential to significantly transform the way we manage electrical outages for our customers," said Greg Pruett, PG&E’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. He was joined at the Jan. 10 news conference by Bob Lutz, a VIA Motors Board of Directors member, and Kraig Higginson, VIA Motors CEO. 

VIA has developed VIA V-Drive, a 650-volt eREV drive system designed for full-size trucks and SUVs. VIA employs a second-stage manufacturing process – VTRUX -- to integrate the company’s eREV powertrain technology into new OEM vehicles. VIA VTRUX delivers up to 40-mile EV range and up to 400-mile extended range, averaging over 100 mpg in typical daily driving, the automaker said. 

The eREV trucks run the first 40 miles solely on electricity before switching to gasoline. For electric utilities, the trucks can provide on-site power to help shorten small outages, eliminate some planned outages for maintenance, and boost the electric grid when needed. The first-generation trucks have a 15-kilowatt capacity, equivalent to a generator for a small- or medium-sized house, and that amount could increase in future models.

PG&E has more than 1,200 alternative-fuel vehicles in its fleet. The company is testing and validating other promising transportation technologies as well, including liquid and compressed natural gas and diesel-electric hybrids.