2010 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid
Base price: $39,015 – $48,300
As tested: $49,275
MPG: 21 city/20 highway
- Excellent fuel mileage for a full-sized truck
- You think you’re doing something good for the environment
- Payback for extra-cost hybrid might take forever
- Work-truck looking interior
By Jim Prueter
Big improvement, but at a price
Earlier this year, amid General Motors’ bid to stay afloat, the company launched a new set of hybrid pickup trucks for the 2009 model year. I’m not sure if it was because GM was making so much noise about its trio of hybrid SUVs — Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade — but both the Chevy Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid seem to have gone unnoticed.
Even less known is the fact that this pair of pickup trucks isn’t GM’s first hybrid offering. Both brands had a hybrid available from 2004 to 2006, but they weren’t considered “real” hybrids since the lead-acid batteries didn’t provide operation under battery power alone like the two-mode system used today. The battery power only kicked in to operate all the electrical operations (i.e. air conditioner, power steering, lights, audio system, etc.) when the truck came to a complete stop and the gas engine shut off to save fuel. Take your foot off the brake and the gas engine shuddered to a start.
The diminutive 42-volt battery recharged itself with energy generated when braking. Braking felt odd as the system reclaimed energy for the batteries. Fortunately braking performance wasn’t affected. GM claimed a 10 to 15 percent increase in fuel efficiency over its traditionally powered truck offerings. Given expected fuel economy of 15 miles per gallon only improved to 16.5 mpg, these hybrids weren’t about to prevent global warming or increase retirement savings for the owner who shelled out an additional $6900.
The 2010 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid tested here is a half-ton truck that gets 40 percent better city (21 mpg) and 25 percent better overall fuel economy over the gasoline-only powered Silverado, according to the manufacturer.
Like the Tahoe Hybrid, the Silverado Hybrid is powered by GM’s two-mode hybrid system, which is identical to the hybrid system that powers the Toyota Prius. Where Prius uses a four-cylinder gasoline engine, Silverado couples a powerful 6.0-liter, 332-horsepower V-8 gasoline engine with a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride “Energy Storage System” or ESS. The Silverado is able to run on electric power alone (up to 30 mph, even with a heavy cargo load), gasoline power alone or a combination of the two. It has a 500-mile driving range. Additionally the truck has a cylinder deactivation system (Active Fuel Management), which turns off half the V-8’s cylinders to save fuel when it’s running under light engine loads primarily at highway speeds. A stop mode shuts down all eight cylinders when the Silverado comes to a complete stop.
As part of the vehicle’s emission control system, the ESS is warranted for eight years/100,000 miles. The powertrain is covered by GM’s five-year/100,000-mile limited warranty and is transferable to the next owner.
A sizeable number of pickup trucks are sold to the “never-never” buyer (never haul, never tow). But the Silverado Hybrid works like a truck, with a towing capacity of up to 6100 pounds in rear-drive models and 5900 pounds in four-wheel drive models. That compares to more than 10,000 pounds in regular crew cab models.
Hybrid aside, the Silverado 1500 half-ton pickup truck drives like any other Chevrolet 1500. The Hybrid 1500 is equipped with “quiet tuned” low rolling-resistance tires, specifically tuned shocks and a hydraulic body mount to help with the fuel economy and reduce road noise when operating in electric-only mode.
Outside, the five-foot-long “HYBRID” decals that adorned the Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade Hybrids we tested earlier this year are (thankfully) optional on the Silverado Hybrid. Guess GM heard our complaint. The Silverado Hybrid also comes standard with a vinyl tonneau cover for the mandatory 5.8-foot short bed cargo box. We found it difficult to snap the cover in place and left it rolled up against the back of the truck’s cab.
Inside, the interior unfortunately isn’t any different from non-hybrid “work truck” Silverado’s with the exception of the power-assist gauge at the top left of the instrument panel and the vehicle’s battery pack and cooling fan located under the back seat of the crew-cab-only hybrid. For some odd reason, Chevrolet does not equip the hybrid with the more stylish high-end dashboard design used in the Tahoe Hybrid, despite the elevated starting price of $39,015.
Safety gear includes StabiliTrak electronic stability control, traction control, dual-stage frontal air bags, seat-mounted side air bags and head curtain side air bags. It earned a five-star side-impact rating in federal crash tests.
In our opinion, the only real reason you’d buy the hybrid Silverado instead of upscale Silverado LTZ for about the same price is the seven-mpg advantage in city fuel economy, or if you think you are doing something beneficial for the environment. You’ll need to do a lot of urban driving to get the payback for the eye-popping premium hybrid price, even when factoring in the $2200 federal tax credit.