Chevrolet opened a new front in the Truck Wars on Wednesday, vowing its electric Silverado EV pickup will beat the Ford F-150 Lightning on a host of key performance metrics, including driving range, towing capacity, power and passenger space.
It’s the first salvo as the battle for pickup supremacy shifts to a critical new theatre: Electric vehicles.
GM CEO Mary Barra unveiled the Silverado EV — scheduled to go on sale in the second quarter of 2023 — in her keynote address Wednesday to the CES electronics show in Las Vegas. GM plans to stream Barra’s address on its Exhibit Zero website: gmexhibitzero.com/en-us.
The Silverado EV will debut as a 2024 model with prices starting at $39,900, Chevrolet vice president of marketing Steve Majoros said.
Full-size pickups like the Silverado, F-150 and Ram 1500 are U.S. automakers’ top selling vehicles, generating billions of dollars in profits annually. They also are among the most technically challenging vehicles to electrify. Pickup owners expect to be able to tow heavy trailers and haul cargo long distances, frequently including muddy worksites and fields. Towing is expected to reduce EV pickups range significantly, and the trucks’ heavy batteries may limit their usefulness off paved surfaces.
Automakers that crack the code to combine the performance pickup owners demand with environmental benefits and expected low operating costs expected from EVs will be sitting pretty as U.S. vehicles evolve away from internal combustion engines.
GM will build the Silverado EV and other electric vehicles including the GMC Hummer EV "super truck" and Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV at its $2.2 billion Factory Zero assembly plant, which straddles Detroit and Hamtramck.
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The Silverado EV is a five-passenger crew cab, measuring 233 inches long, 80 inches wide and 76 inches high — about the same as a current short-box Silverado crew cab.
Chevrolet claims a long list of "firsts" and "bests" — 24-inch tires, 10,000-pound towing capacity, 1,300-pound payload, 400-mile range and a glass roof, for a start — will vault the Silverado EV to leadership among electric pickups, despite going on sale more than a year after the Rivian R1T, which is available now, and many months after Ford’s F-150 Lightning, expected to go on sale this spring.
Silverado EV sales should begin in the second quarter of 2023.
Unlike other high-profile electric vehicles — Ford Mustang Mach-E, Lucid Air, R1T, every Tesla — which began sales with opulent top-of-the-line models, the first Silverado EVs off the assembly line will be work trucks with prices starting at $39,900.
It’s unclear what, if any, federal tax credits the Silverado EV will qualify for, due to legislative gridlock in Washington, D.C.
The Silverado EV will have a 5-foot, 11-inch bed, independent suspension and either two or four motors.
Key features of the $39,900 electric work truck:
The $105,000 RST first edition personal-use Silverado EV will heap on more power and features, including:
The Silverado EV’s DC fast charging ability — up to 350 kW or 800 volts — will allow drivers to add 100 miles range in 10 minutes.
Chevrolet won’t say how long it will take to DC-charge to 80%, or for a full charge at 240v, the most commonly cited competitive figures for other EVs.
The Silverado EV’s exterior styling is more adventurous than the evolutionary F-150 Lighting. Both pickups share a full width LED lightbar more or less across where the front edge of the hood would be on a conventional pickup. The similarities end there.
While Ford took pains to make the F-150 Lighting look like conventional F-150s — same cab size and profile, identical beds — Chevy created a whole new pickup look for the Silverado EV.
Pickups, even expensive, luxurious ones, work for a living, so the new form follows function in ways that take advantage of an EV’s unique engineering. The cab is bigger than conventional Silverados, creating more passenger room and storage. The A-pillars slant sharply back for a sloping windshield and aerodynamic benefits.
“Our electric vehicle architecture let us rethink the whole usage of space,” designer Chip Thole said. “We’ve got a very short front overhang and better rear legroom than any crew cab pickup.”
The EV architecture is so stiff — thanks to the fact that the Silverado’s big battery pack is a structural part, linking the frame rails and filling the space between the axles — that engineers made the body a single piece, eliminating the open space between cab and bed that allows current pickups to flex in response to heavy loads. That continuous profile contributes to excellent aerodynamics, reduced wind noise and the Silverado EV’s unique appearance.
The Silverado EV’s interior features a pair of big LCD screens, one for instruments, the other a touch screen that controls many features. However, designers studiously retained buttons and dials for frequently used functions like volume, audio tuning, temperature and fan speed.
“We firmly believe knobs and buttons are necessary for some functions,” chief engineer Nichole Kraatz said. Other popular features like heated seats can be programmed so they’re always available at a single touch.
There’s no start button or key. The Silverado EV will unlock when its key fob, or a phone or card programmed to start it, approaches. Step inside and the pickup is ready to drive away. It shuts off when you walk away and lock it.
The work truck’s range is TBA, but will be shorter than the expensive RST’s 400 miles. That’s not surprising. Business fleets often have more predictable service areas and hours than personal use vehicles.
Chevy will begin sales with the work truck for fleet or individual customers in the second quarter of 2023. The RST first edition should go on sale that fall.
Other models will follow, include lower priced personal use vehicles and a work truck capable of towing 20,000 pounds, well into the range of current heavy-duty pickups like the Silverado 2500 and Ford F-250.