Via Motors at Plug-in 2013, Plug-in America’s Annual Conference

Via is targeting trucks as the light duty pickup trucks are the best selling vehicle in America. Some of their trucks offer the ability to export electric power at 110v and 240v to power tools. Fleets can receive up to $57,000 per vehicle as an incentive.

Key Fleet Customers include: Verizon, Coca Cola, Fedex, PG&E, Aaramark and many others.

Goto Viamotors.com/payback to determine how much an electric work vehicle can save you. Eight life cycle savings can be over $70,000. This is in addition to the zero emissions benefits!

Clean air and huge savings — sounds good to me!

The Fiat 500e Recall is Complete — They are shipping now!

If you’ve been reading my blog and noticed the new header image from a few months ago it might not be any surprise to hear that we ordered our very own Fiat 500e some months ago. Like everyone else, we’ve been waiting as patiently as we can, to hear news from Fiat that they are releasing them for sale to buyers.

For those who haven’t been following this story as closely as I have, in mid-August Fiat announced a recall on all of the 274 Fiat 500e electric cars that had been delivered in California to date. The problem was due to two bolts that attached the “half-shaft” of the vehicle and which could separate rendering the power-train inoperable (translation, sudden and complete loss of power while driving). The half-shaft is the shaft that connects the two front wheels to the gearbox. The 500e doesn’t have a traditional transmission so in this case it is the connection to the gear reduction system that is involved. The problem was discovered when a Fiat 500e owner’s car lost power. According to, Green Car Congress, the problem was caused by two steps in the vehicle assembly process that had not been completed properly. It’s not clear what those steps were and if the wrong bolts were used. According to Kristean von der Heiden, Brand Manager of Berkeley’s McKevitt Fiat, who I spoke with in detail earlier today, the reason the recall process took as long as it did was that the bolts had to be delivered from Germany.

According to Kristean von der Heiden, 600 Fiat 500e’s will be arriving at California Fiat dealerships this month. A large percentage of those electric cars will be heading to the Berkeley dealership given the huge waiting list they have amassed for the vehicles. And this waiting list is full of people who are serious; each one of them put down a $1,000 deposit to hold their place in the queue.

Kristean told me about his experience driving a production 500e. This was a car that in his words “will never be sold to a customer,” so he decided to try pushing it to its limit. He and a colleague were heading to an event in San Francisco. Kristean was driving the 500e the other person a 500 Abarth (the gas engine based performance version of the 500). They raced the two vehicles and the 500e left the Abarth in the dust as its high torque electric motor took off! The car had reached a quarter-mile when the Abarth passed it at over 60mph. In short, the 500e is faster than an Abarth at all but top highway speeds.It also performs better in ways thanks to the more even weight distribution afforded by the battery pack.

Are you waiting for your 500e? Well, there may be a way to skip ahead in the line. According to Kristean von der Heiden, the most popular color is orange but most of the vehicles shipping are black or white. So if you are willing to pick the less popular colors you will get your car a lot sooner. Personally, I’m holding out for orange, or as Fiat calls it “Electric Orange.” With less than 7% of the cars the Berkeley dealership expects to receive this month coming in orange, that may be a long wait.

Trade-off Completed, Power for Range

Today I rode for the first time after reprogramming the controller in my scooter. I had lowered the maximum power from 80% to 70% and reduced the maximum speed as well. Making the change was relatively easy once I properly configured my windows xp installation running on Parallels on my Macbook Pro. The application itself was a free download.

Most important, was testing the range, the issue which has been most difficult for me. I’ve previously attempted a 16 mile round trip only to complete the last couple of miles in “limp mode” when the maximum speed is only a few miles an hour. This time I fared much better, riding 22 miles before I limped the last few feet home. Twenty miles is enough for pretty much any ride I would undertake without having the opportunity to charge in the middle. i can now easily visit friends in Alameda without a problem, though the furthest points of Richmond might be pushing my luck, especially if steep hills are involved. For those who may be reading this and who are located in a less hilly region than Northern California, note that I had some serious hill climbing in these 22 miles. The most noteworthy was the steep climb up Pleasant Valley Road from Broadway up to Piedmont Avenue. In a less hilly region, it might be possible to squeeze a few extra miles. When time allows, I may try a flatter ride to see what difference it makes. In the meantime I’m grateful to have the extra range.

But how much did I give up in terms of power? My maximum speed at 80% power was 50mph which I only hit a couple of times. 45mph was a more realistic max. Now that has been reduced by 10mph to just 35. Fast enough to maintain the legal urban speed limit, but occasionally a bit slow to keep up with traffic. It’s a compromise for sure and I can always tweak the power setting a bit to 73 or 75% if I decide its necessary.