By Pete Brissette

Verizon Communications is adding to its vast vehicle fleet an extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV) cargo van developed and produced by VIA Motors, while Pacific Gas and Electric Company will add a VIA E-REV sport utility to its fleet.

The announcements came during the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.

VIA, a vehicle company that converts gasoline engine vehicles into E-REVs and EVs, will build the van based on Verizon's direction and fleet concepts, and expects the van to achieve 100 miles per gallon with near zero emissions. Verizon says it will now test and deploy two of the vans in New Jersey and New York.

VIA board member and former GM Vice Chairman, Bob Lutz, unveiled the Verizon vans Monday during auto show.

"By demonstrating that going green can also be good business, large fleets like Verizon's can have a significant influence on the direction of the auto industry and help accelerate the adoption of clean vehicles like Via's electric work vans," said Lutz.

In 2008, PG&E partnered with VIA Motors to develop the first E-REV pickup truck. The two companies unveiled the trucks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2012.

"VIA's partnership with PG&E, and the introduction of the world's first extended-range electric work trucks, SUVs, and cargo vans in their fleet, marks a turning point in the electrification of the industry's fleets," said Lutz.

"VIA’s new vehicles have the potential to transform the way we at PG&E manage electrical outages, and to help us provide safer, more reliable service for our customers," said PG&E Senior Vice President Greg Pruett. "We're excited about our ongoing work with Via Motors as we develop new and innovative ways to green our utility fleet."

Verizon says the average total miles per day traveled by its fleet is low, the company expects the new vans to operate entirely under electric power most days. Doing so would save the company about 750 gallons of gasoline annually.

VIA says it anticipates the Verizon electrified work vehicles should improve fleet fuel economy by up to 300 percent while cutting emissions in half or more. The vehicles lithium-ion batteries are capable of up to 40 miles of all-electric range according to the company, and offer the added capability to drive additional miles by using the onboard electric generator, or "range extender."

In addition, the vehicle’s exportable power system option can provide 15 kilowatts of continuous 120-volt or 240-volt power for emergency or job-site application.

The van’s dashboard is equipped with a removable tablet, which the company hopes will prevent distracted driving by providing voice prompts and easy-to-read route information. Verizon says it will also provide additional tech features, including fuel and route optimization, vehicle maintenance and diagnostics, emergency assistance, and voice and data service.