General Motors took a critical step Wednesday on its “path to an all-electric future,” the automaker revealing an all-electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup.
It’s not the first battery-powered truck in the GM line-up — that honor goes to the GMC Hummer EV that began reaching showrooms last month. But, considering the conventional Silverado is the Detroit automaker’s best-selling — and most profitable — product line, the EV could prove to be the single most important offering among the 30 all-electric vehicles General Motors plans to bring to market by mid-decade.
“Chevrolet has constantly revolutionized the Silverado franchise to make it the powerhouse it is today,” said Steve Hill, vice president of Chevrolet, ahead of the debut of the 2023 Silverado EV at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The all-electric model will be a “critical enabler,” he added, to help reach GM’s goal of becoming the U.S. sales leader in the emerging EV market.
New truck, same look
At first glance, casual viewers might not see much of a difference between the Silverado EV and conventional versions of the truck. But a closer inspection reveals that they share not a single body panel. The battery model spent plenty of time in the wind tunnel, aerodynamics critical to an EV’s range and performance.
The Silverado EV has a shorter nose and more streamlined features. The conventional grille is gone, though smaller air intakes feed air for cooling the low-mounted battery pack and motors. Seeing the EV come up in your rearview mirror you might note the distinctive headlamps connected by a lighted crossbar and backlit Chevy bowtie emblem.
Like the Hummer EV, the electric Silverado rides atop a skateboard-like “Ultium” platform placing motors, batteries and other drivetrain components below the load floor. The design lowers a vehicle’s center of gravity to make it more stable, especially at high speeds. It also means space normally taken up by an engine compartment can be repurposed for passengers and cargo.
“We had no constraints when it came to designing the Silverado EV with dramatic style and flexible utility because we didn’t need to work around a traditional propulsion system,” said Phil Zak, executive director of Chevrolet Design. “The Ultium Platform allowed us to redefine what it means to offer expansive new storage and utility possibilities.”
That includes a huge “frunk” where the traditional engine compartment would be located. It’s big enough to hold a week’s groceries for a large family — or the custom tool box that Chevy plans to offer work truck buyers.
New powertrain means new possibilities
The Silverado EV only will be offered with a Crew Cab body. The interior, meanwhile, has been stretched to offer business class seating space. And, with the RST First Edition, the luxury amenities that go along with that. There’s also a flat load floor since there’s no driveshaft linking an engine and front and rear axles. The cabin has plenty of storage space in a variety of nooks and crannies. It also gets a high-tech look, with both an 11-inch digital instrument cluster and a 17-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Of course, pickup buyers expect their trucks to do some heavy lifting. And the RST First Edition — one of two initial models — will haul up to a 10,000-pound trailer and 1,300 pounds of payload. The WT, or work truck, maxes out at 8,000 pounds of trailer and a 1,200-pound payload. Later versions, according to Chevy, will handle as much as a 20,000-pound trailer.
The cargo bed, meanwhile, stretches to be just 5’11”, but grows to a full 9 feet if the “Multi-Flex Midgate,” the passenger compartment’s back bulkhead, is opened and the rear seat’s folded down. For especially long cargo, the multifunction tailgate can extend another 22 inches.
Eventually, Chevy will offer a variety of different powertrain and battery pack configurations for the Silverado EV. For the 2023 model year, the all-electric pickup will rely on twin motors to produce up to 664 horsepower and 780 pound-feet of torque. And, with its Wide Open Watts mode, the RST First Edition will launch to 60 in less than 4.5 seconds.
To put things into perspective, the gas-powered version of the Silverado tops out with a 6.2-liter V-8 making 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.
With one motor on each axle, the system will provide an electric all-wheel-drive system. The new Silverado EV also will get four-wheel steering and, with the RST, an active air suspension system that can be raised or lowered by up to two inches.
Plenty of utility
Among the features unique to the truck, the Silverado EV can be fitted with as many as 10 power outlets, including three in the frunk. That includes both 120 and 240 volt sockets with a maximum output of 10.2 kilowatts for use at a work or campsite or even to provide backup power at home in the event of a blackout.
Initially, the RST First Edition will offer only a 200 kilowatt-hour battery pack, yielding up to 400 miles per charge — though that will slide depending upon on trailer and cargo loads, as well as under inclement weather conditions.
Using one of the latest public quick chargers, Chevy said the Silverado EV will be able to add 100 miles of range in as little as 10 minutes, though getting up to 80% — the normal max on a fast charger — will take more like an hour.
The automaker hasn’t released charging times using the Level 2 240-volt chargers found at most homes and workplaces. But expect it to take the better part of a day with a completely drained battery.
Chevy will launch production of the 2023 Silverado EV next spring with the WT model. Though the work truck starts at just under $40,000, initial buyers will get more features and pay a somewhat higher price.
The RST First Edition will be added by autumn 2023 and, all but fully loaded, it will go for $105,000. With the 2025 model year, Chevy plans to add a number of mid-range models to the Silverado EV line-up, the automaker suggesting prices of anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000.
Electric pickups on the rise
The Silverado EV will follow not only the launch of the Hummer EV but the Rivian R1T and, later this year, the Ford F-150 Lightning. It’s unclear whether it will beat the Tesla Cybertruck to market, that EV pickup having been delayed until sometime in 2023.
All told, 10 or more EV pickups could be available in the U.S. by mid-decade, including a version of the GMC Sierra, and trucks from Ram, Nissan and Toyota. Start-ups including Bollinger and Atlis also hope to carve out a niche.
“The fastest-growing segment we see for EV consideration is the full size truck segment,” Steve Majoros, Chevy’s marketing chief.
With GM determined to topple Tesla and hold off competitors like Ford, the reception the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado EV gets will be critical to its goal of becoming the number one U.S. EV manufacturer.