2005 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid
Chevrolet’s Silverado hybrid is strong enough for towing duty and seamless enough for daily driving.
Against all conventional wisdom, rising fuel prices have not killed Americans’ affinity for full-size pickups and SUVs. So it stands to reason that people prefer utility, prestige and comfort to frugality, global responsibility and economy.
There are only so many people willing to wait in line and pay extra to fold themselves into a Toyota Prius or a Honda Insight to save gas, despite the ongoing efforts of has-been actor Ed Begley Jr.
But what if you didn’t have to? What if you could get hybrid technology in a full-size pickup that still provided all the benefits with no drawbacks to utility or comfort? Well, you can with Chevrolet’s Silverado hybrid. It won’t win you any points with any serious environmentalists, but they probably don’t do much towing. On the other hand, you probably do.
So in the interest of easing any concerns about towing with the hybrid, the answer is yes, the Silverado hybrid pulls a boat and trailer just as well as a conventional pickup. As long as the tow/haul mode is engaged, the truck acts like a conventional Silverado with the 5.3-liter Vortec V-8, and the hybrid system never kicks in. If you didn’t know it was a hybrid, you couldn’t tell by the way it acts while towing.
It pulls strongly. We lugged an 8,000-pound sport boat uphill at 3,600 rpm and maintained 55 mph no problem. It also has the brakes to halt the big loads. Hydraulically assisted, the brakes offered ample power and decent feel. Antilock mode chattered the tires on the pavement a bit more than we would have liked, but it allowed for steering changes while engaged.
When not towing, the truck’s hybrid system is largely seamless, especially considering that the engine is stopping and starting at traffic lights. With the tow/haul button switched off, the truck’s engine actually quits at lights. As soon as you release the brakes, the engine refires and you’re on your way. An auxiliary oil pump in the transmission assists the automatic start feature by maintaining sufficient line pressure to allow the torque to transfer immediately upon driver command. In this case, the hybrid system doesn’t actually propel the truck on electrical power alone.
During our tests, we did notice that the truck had a tendency to roll backward on hills just as you released the brakes. The sensation was similar to vehicles equipped with a manual transmission, which tend to drift backward before the clutch engages.
The Silverado is what’s known as a parallel hybrid, which means that the engine and its 14,000-watt generator can turn the transmission at the same time. An onboard computer under the hood monitors and controls the system.
The other type is what’s called a series hybrid, which is used in the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. The series hybrid uses a small internal combustion engine to turn a generator, which either charges the batteries or powers an electric motor that drives the transmission. Unlike the parallel hybrid, a series engine hybrid never powers the transmission directly.
The Silverado’s hybrid system is fairly simple.
According to GM literature, “The starter generator includes a rotor and stator, housed inside the transmission bell housing. The stator is attached to the engine block and incorporates high-efficiency/smaller package-size coils formed by laser-welding copper bars together, instead of winding with copper wire. The rotor bolts directly to the engine crankshaft and spins inside the stator. Current flowing through the stator’s electric windings generates magnetic forces in the rotor, which cause the rotor to turn, starting the engine. The starter generator is in series with the engine, connected directly to it, so that anytime the engine is turning, the starter generator is turning and vice versa.”
So, the motor doesn’t really quit, it keeps reciprocating, but the fuel and spark are cut off. We tried to open the hood to see if the pulleys were still spinning, but when we opened the hood, it refired. It’s neat when it starts. You don’t hear the metal-to-metal contact of the starter drive meshing with the flexplate.
Other cool items include an electric power-steering pump, which reduces parasitic drag on the engine because it doesn’t need a belt. Also, as you might expect, the truck has no belt-driven alternator, either. All charging duties are handled through the rotor and stator inside the bellhousing.
GM figures indicate fuel savings of up to 13 percent. Again, that kind of economy won’t win any points with serious tree-huggers, but at least it shows you’re making an effort.
Chevrolet offers it with a 3.42:1 gear ratio, which adds to fuel savings. During our tests, the truck ran along at less than 2,000 rpm at 55 mph. Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel mileage at 17 city, 19 highway for the four-wheel-drive model we tested. Two-wheel-drive models are estimated at 18 and 21 mph.
The bad news? Well, for 2005, the truck is only available in California, Oregon and Washington.
The hybrid Silverado also offers other benefits, such as four 120-volt outlets that will provide juice for power tools. Two outlets are mounted inside the right rear wall of the cargo area and two more are tucked beneath the rear seat on the energy storage module.
When you consider everything going on under the hood, it is pretty impressive how refined the system is, especially considering that 2005 is the first model out of the blocks. Turn the stereo up and you’d never know it was a hybrid.
For a “green” truck, it presents no sacrifice in terms of towing ability, interior space or creature comforts.
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates
City... 17 mpg
Highway... 19 mpg
0-60 towing... 23 seconds
40-60 towing... 13.8 seconds
0-60 non-towing... 8.8 seconds
40-60 non-towing... 5.9 seconds
Engine... 5.3-liter Vortec V-8
Horsepower... 295 at 5,200 rpm
Torque... 335 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm
Compression ratio... 9.5:1
Transmission... four-speed automatic with overdrive
Axle ratio... 3.42:1
Fuel capacity... 26 gallons
Tire size... P245/75R16
Brakes... Hydraulically boosted four-wheel disc with antilock.
Suspension... Front: independent with dual A-arms and torsion bars; Rear: live axle with multileaf springs.
Curb weight... 5,008 pounds
Tow rating... 7,500 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating... 6,400 pounds
Gross combined weight rating... 13,900 pounds
Overall length... 227.7"
Maximum width... 78.5"
Base price... $30,655
Price as tested... $37,040
2003 Formula 271 FAS3Tech
Customer service... 800-222-1020
Web site... www.chevrolet.com