Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid - East Valley Tribune: Business

Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid

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Posted: Saturday, August 23, 2008 11:01 pm | Updated: 11:32 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It’s no secret that sales of gas-slurping fullsize pickup trucks have taken an abrupt nosedive.

  It’s no secret that sales of gas-slurping fullsize pickup trucks have taken an abrupt nosedive.

High pump prices have buyers scrambling for smaller and more efficient conveyances. But for those of you who absolutely need the size and hauling capability of a full-size pickup, there’s hope in the the form of the gasoline-electric Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid.

Hybrid models are popular within the Toyota and Honda camps and are finally beginning to attract Detroit’s attention. Both Ford and Chrysler are installing hybrid power teams in a few of their models, while General Motors is rapidly moving into full-scale hybrid mode, especially when it comes to big-and-thirsty sport utility vehicles.

For the 2009 model year, Chevrolet’s cornerstone model, the Silverado, (along with its GMC Sierra pickup counterpart) will be the first lightduty pickups to go hybrid.

Chevrolet actually tried this direction a couple of years ago, building a so-called “mild” hybrid consisting of a starter generator that allowed the engine to shut down and instantly refire in stop-and-go traffic. The savings and emissions reductions were minimal and the vehicle barely registered with shoppers.

This time out, the Silverado employs what’s called a twomode hybrid system, which means it can operate using either the two 60-kilowatt electric motors only, or with the gasoline engine combined with electric motors. The advantages of installing this “full” hybrid technology, which was jointly developed with Chrysler and BMW, is that the truck can operate at speeds up to 30 mph without the gas engine while carrying cargo and/or towing up to 6,100 pounds.

At this time the only Silverado Hybrid model is the 1500-series (half-ton) four-door crew cab short-box outfitted with a 332-horsepower 6.0- liter V8. Buyers have their choice of rear- or four-wheel drive.

The 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack located beneath the rear seat is recharged by capturing the energy generated when braking. But it’s actually only one of a trio of builtin fuel savers. The V8 powerplant also does its share by shutting down half of its eight cylinders (two from each bank of four) while coasting or during light-load conditions. GM has previously used V8s equipped with similar fuel-management tricks in its trucks and passenger cars, but the Silverado Hybrid’s electric motor enables the gas engine to operate in four-cylinder mode for much longer periods.

The third leg in the Hybrid’s stool is the unique and complex electrically variable transmission (EVT) — which also houses the twin electric motors — that provides a nearly infinite range of gear ratios. The EVT also features four fixed gear ratios that can be manually selected using steering-column-mounted controls. The latter is used during highway cruising or when hauling heavy loads.

Other Hybrid-specific components include a unique exhaust system and resonator, 18-inch low-rolling-resistance tires and electrically operated (as opposed to belt-driven) air conditioning and power steering units that help reduce drag on the engine.

Accompanying the lowrolling resistance tires, which usually have higher air pressure and don’t soak up the bumps all that well, are specially tuned shock absorbers plus an added hydraulic body mount to help smooth out the ride.

The rear-wheel-drive Hybrid produces an estimated 21 mpg in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway, numbers that dip only slightly to 20/20 city/highway mpg for 4x4 units. That, claims Chevrolet, represents up to 40-percent improvement in city fuel economy and a 25-percent improvement in overall consumption compared to non-hybrid crew cabs equipped with the smaller 5.3-liter V8. The highway-rating improvement is small (only one or two mpg higher), but note that, at 5,640 pounds (5,880 for 4x4 models), the Hybrid weighs close to 500 pounds more than regular crew cabs. Also bear in mind that the gas engine does most of the work on the highway.

Silverado Hybrid pricing has not yet been announced, but you can expect at least a $3,000-$3,500 price bulge over a similar well-equipped non-hybrid. That’s a good chunk of change, but it might not take long for this eco-rig to pay for itself, especially if gas prices remain high and if your travels involve regular urban driving. That’s where the Hybrid could really perk up your mileage and keep your money in your wallet.

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