Chevy Silverado EV Reaches for Electric Truck Leadership

Chevrolet is releasing an array of EV trims and packages with varying driving range over the next 18 months.

David Kiley, Senior Editor

July 6, 2023

6 Min Read
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Silverado EV WT offers driving range up to 450 miles.

ANN ARBOR, MI – On paper, kicking off the battery-electric-vehicle era with brawny pickup trucks like the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Chevrolet Silverado seems counterintuitive. After all, these trucks are big, heavy and need to tow trailers and carry payloads. They also tend, the stereotype goes, to be bought by people who’d rather sandpaper their eyes than drive a silent, electric pickup.

But there is so much profit built into pickups for the automakers that it makes a lot of business sense to electrify trucks to cover the cost of those pricey batteries.

The Lightning stole the thunder by being the first fullsize truck to hit the market. But Chevy is a fast follower with its Silverado EV, and it has opened the sales bank with the fleet-targeted WT (Work Truck) version of the No.2 best-selling pickup.

The big news around the Silverado fleet truck is the hike in maximum range from the previously announced 400 miles (644 km) to 450 miles (724 km). That compares with a max range of 320 miles (515 km) for the Lightning with its range extender. The Rivian R1T comes in at 328 miles (528 km) of range. The ranges of the forthcoming Ram 1500 EV trucks have yet to be formally announced.

The Silverado EV WT, and indeed the whole line of electric Chevy fullsize trucks, will be priced depending on how much range the buyer wants. The batteries are built into the structural body of the truck, and cells can be added or left out depending on what the customer wants without compromising the safety or stability of the truck body.

“We wanted to make this truck as flexible and customer friendly in terms of range and pricing as we could,” says Chief Engineer Nicole Kraatz.

The $77,905 for the starting trim with 450 miles of range may become the heart of the sales volume. That’s about $30,000 more than a comparably equipped Silverado gas-powered Silverado, and $18,000 more than the Lightning Pro starting price. But the comparably equipped and featured Lightning Pro is $78,874, so the prices are comparable, while Silverado EV has greater range.

An entry Silverado EV WT, previously announced to be just under $40,000, will be a bit more when introduced, owing to higher prices of materials since the original announcement.

silveradotrailer.jpg

silveradotrailer.jpg

Three of the most popular features of this truck, as well as the Lightning, to construction fleet operators: Onboard power, which makes powering tools at a job site easy-peasy without the need for an external generator; the “frunk,” in the front of the truck where the engine would have gone, serves as a lockable secure place to carry tools without having to eat up space in the bed with a huge toolbox; and the ability to run a house or cabin for up to a week (on a full charge) during blackouts, which are becoming as common across the country as federal holidays.

The Silverado EV is on an all-new platform engineered for electric propulsion, shared with the forthcoming GMC Sierra EV and GMC Hummer EV SUV. It’s not body-on-frame, and Kraatz refers to it as “unibody-ish.” Starting from scratch has enabled the team to achieve remarkable (for fullsize pickups) visibility from the driver and passenger seat and cavernous legroom in the rear.

To maximize driving range, Chevy attacked every bit of parasitic weight and drag. The truck has a solid grille, sail panels, soft tonneau cover and more to make for the lowest drag in the segment. The sail panels on the rear side of the B-pillar give the WT a family resemblance to the Chevy Avalanche.

The Silverado EV has a 400V architecture, but General Motors engineers worked it out so the two battery pack layers can switch from parallel to series connection for fast charging, allowing it to charge at 800V and take in electrons at up 350kW.

The WT is not fancy inside, but it’s not meant to be; save that for the retail buyers with lavish ranches and horses. These trucks are going to be worked hard every day, so the aesthetics are thin and practical –rubber-covered floor and dark-grained plastic interior work. GM has opted for a column-mounted electronic shifter to free up real estate in the center console area.

Much of the operation of the truck takes place in the center screen, but a row of climate-control buttons and dials is below it, as well as a volume knob for the audio system.

A short drive of the WT reveals that the truck is responsive and smooth. It does not feel as heavy as it is. The tight turning radius and wonderful visibility make it an easy, enjoyable drive. The brakes seldom get engaged unless you are trying to sprint from intersection to intersection. It’s a true single-pedal driving experience until you actually need the brake. The driver can set the sensitivity of the regenerative braking.

Street driving pleasure is aided by independent front and rear suspension and a lower center of gravity, which is sure to make it a better snow truck than most.

Along with the WT and RST, additional Silverado EV variants will join the lineup over the next 18 months, including an offroad-oriented Trail Boss, as well shorter-range trims. The idea is to offer both fleet and retail customers trucks that start at $50,000 and increase in $10,000 increments beyond $80,000.

Silverado EV WT Nuts and Volts

  • Up to 10,000 lbs. (4,536 kg) towing, and up to 1,440 lbs. (653 kg) of payload.

  • 510 hp and 615 lb.-ft. (834 Nm) of torque.

  • The Silverado EV flagship RST First Edition, when introduced, promises 754 hp and 785 lb.-ft. (1,064 Nm) of torque in available max power, with 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of less than 4.5 seconds.

  • MPG-e efficiency numbers:  63 combined/67 city/59 highway.

  • The RST First Edition for retail will have 4-wheel steering and a mid-gate.

  • Silverado EV 4WT EPA-estimated range of 450 miles with maximum battery pack. The 3WT will have range of 350 miles (563 km). RST range will be 400 miles range.

  • One 240V and multiple 120V outlets in the bed that can draw power from the battery at a work site, campsite or tailgate party.

  • Standard seven outlets and 7.2 kW of off-board power, but you can opt for the PowerBase power bar accessory, which plugs into the truck’s charging port for a total of 10 outlets and 10.2 kW of available power.

  • Capable of charging another EV with available accessory cord.

  • 11-in. (28-cm) center infotainment screen, with an 8-in. (20-cm) instrument cluster, integrated into one continuous horizontal screen.

  • RST and WT feature public DC fast-charging capabilities, and 100 miles (161 km) of range added in 10 minutes.

  • The Silverado EV WT has rear coil springs instead of leaf springs.  The starting price of the First Edition with 450 miles of range for retail sales is $106,895.

  • Manufactured at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center, with plans to shift it to Orion Assembly later in the lifecycle.

The goal of the team, says Kraatz, is to give customers a truck that will not only make them not miss an internal-combustion-engine truck, but to find no compromises in the EV and features they like even better. In that, the Chevy team seems to have succeeded.

About the Author(s)

David Kiley

Senior Editor, WardsAuto

David Kiley is an award winning journalist. Prior to joining WardsAuto, Kiley held senior editorial posts at USA Today, Businessweek, AOL Autos/Autoblog and Adweek, as well as being a contributor to Forbes, Fortune, Popular Mechanics and more.

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