It is still difficult to accept that hybrid technology has come as far - and as fast - as it has in the last two years. If you needed proof of that, just take a look at the new Silverado Hybrid pickup.
Weighing in at just over 5,200 pounds, and delivering a potential 6,100-lb towing capacity, the Chevy Silverado Hybrid pretty much flies in the face of the conventional hybrid stereotype of a small-ish, compact coupe or sedan. This new Silverdao Hybrid is no mini car, that's for sure, and it certainly is not lacking space or comfort on the road.
Personally, part of getting excited about hybrids in general is coming to grips with the efficiency and "green-ness" of each one relative to their class. This full-size pickup from Chevy is big, and it is definitely not the vehicle you would expect to see a green "hybrid" tag posted on the tailgate. Yet, it is a hybrid and the EPA fuel mileage numbers are impressive.
Base priced at $41,170, plus a $975 destination charge, the 2009 Silverado Hybrid crew cab pickup showcases the new 2-mode hybrid technology that makes a full-size pickup hybrid feasible.
Available in two- and four-wheel drive, the two-wheel-drive Silverado Hybrid delivers EPA estimated 21 mpg city and 22 mpg highway while 4WD models rate 20/20 mpg city/highway. This compares to the 14/20 mpg the 5.3-liter V-8 Silverado achieves. It is easy to see that lots of highway miles mean less savings than if you drive the Silverado around town more often.
My 4WD Crew Cab tester, a 5,263-pound full-size pickup, managed an astonishing 21 mpg on a long highway trip. Another plus is the range, a 26-gallon tank will deliver a cruising range of more than 500 miles on a tank of regular unleaded gas). For me, less trips give me a mental feeling I am saving money.
There is not a lot of smoke and mirrors to this hybrid pickup. While the system's basic powerplant is a version of GM's 6.0-liter V-8 (332 horsepower and 367 lbs.-ft. of torque), the 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery and two 60-kilowatt electric motors in the four-speed automatic transmission are what make the transition to a more fuel-conscious vehicle possible. The motors work with the transmission in a fashion similar to highly efficient continuous variable transmissions.
Driving around town is when you can really push the boundaries of the real hybrid fuel efficiency. I found the electric motors got the most engagement when I was shooting from short errand to short errand. It is strange driving about town in such a big vehicle on electric power alone. My test vehicle was able to maintain electric power through 25 mph.
Driving habits can really help or hinder the fuel economy of the Silverado. If you jump on the accelerator too often you will lose much of the potential savings. I found it took me several days to get the hang of gently engaging the electric motor source and feathering it just enough to speed up and stay within the "green" zone for maximum fuel efficiency. An economy gauge with a green bar in the top-center position indicates when the driver is optimizing green driving habits.
You will find that with a vehicle this big, it is necessary for the gas engine to start as soon as the key is turned. When I let it idle for about 10 seconds, the Silverado's sophisticated hybrid system moved to an Auto Stop mode, where power was temporarily shut down.