Electric vehicle start up Via Motors, looking to take advantage of a free trade zone in Mexico that’s located near several major automakers and suppliers such as General Motors, inaugurated its first high volume electric vehicle assembly line this week at its new facility in San Luis Potosi. The company develops fleet electric vehicles which integrate its proprietary electric drivetrain directly into new OEM vehicles such as GM pick up trucks.
How the facility and its location works exactly goes something like this – new vehicles are transported from the General Motors production facility in Silao, to VIA’s assembly plant in nearby San Luis Potosi, where they are transformed into electric vehicles by integrating VIA’s extended range electric power train. The facility employs what’s termed “a unique conveyor-scissor lift system” that moves conventional vehicles through eight assembly stations, where technicians raise or lower the vehicle at each station to install electric and other components.
The new plant is adjacent to the NAFTA highway and Kansas City Southern Rail line (KCS) for easy transport to the U.S. and Canada. Though it has a capacity of 20,000 electric vehicles a year, company officials said that it initially will be able to output two electric trucks per hour, or up to 10,000 units per year.
Via Motors is perhaps best known for getting Bob Lutz, the GM man behind the extended range Chevy Volt, to serve as an advisor. The company unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show this year three offerings that all “drive the first 40 miles in all-electric mode with near zero emissions, and a full range of 400 miles on a single fill-up. For most drivers, this means over 100 mpg in typical local daily driving.” They make use of a similar set up to the Volt, which is to say they combine electric vehicle tech with a self-contained gasoline generator that kicks in to recharge the batteries that power the electric motor.
The company is mainly courting large U.S. corporations, such as California utility PG&E and communications giant Verizon, though it recently won a $20 million contract from the American government “to build and deliver electric pick up trucks and vans to over 50 participating fleets.”