We get up close and personal with Chevy's electric truck.
It has been a long time coming, but all-electric trucks are now a reality. Rivian pickups are now out in the wild, Ford is starting deliveries of the F-150 Lightning, and Chevrolet is taking reservations for the all-electric Silverado EV. Initially, it looked like Chevy's announcement of an electric pickup was a response to Ford making its truck a reality. However, this has been coming for some time. The Silverado EV rides on the new Ultium Platform that integrates the batteries with the chassis for added strength and has some interesting functional features that take advantage of the "skateboard" chassis design.
Speaking with Chevrolet while looking at the RST model in person, it became clear that the brand understands how important the execution of its mainstream electric truck will be, starting with fleets. Once people see the Silverado EV being used for work and people drive them for work, there's a confidence that acceptance and adoption will grow. We agree, and we're as fascinated by the Silverado EV as the people lining up to order it.
Here's how the Silverado EV is going to challenge the F-150 Lightning and make a success of doing so.
The reason it has taken so long for trucks to go all-electric is that range equals weight when it comes to batteries, and truck owners will demand a lot of range. GM estimates the Chevrolet Silverado EV will go up to 400 miles with a full charge using its Ultium battery tech and will make over 660 horsepower "with Wide Open Watts." Horsepower isn't the critical figure for a truck, though; it's torque that matters, and the Silverado EV will arrive with a promised 780 lb-ft of twist.
Out of the gate, the Silverado has a payload capacity of 1,300 and a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. If you need more, then you'll have to wait for a future model with a 20,000-pound payload. As with gas-powered trucks now, the issue when it comes to towing is cooling, but we're now entering a whole new world.
By using the skateboard-style chassis, it has allowed Chevy to maximize how the bed is used. That sounds like marketing-speak, but by being able to open the back of the cab (Chevy calls it the Multi-Flex Midgate) and fold the seats, you can extend the bed from five-foot-eleven to ten feet. You can also keep one side of the split rear seat up and carry long items as well as a third passenger. Then, as there's no engine under the hood, that space creates a feature no Chevy truck has had before in its 100-year evolution - a frunk.
We were under a watchful eye that wouldn't let us climb inside the cab when we checked out the Silverado EV, but Chevy assures us that the modular console has a capacity of 7 gallons - which is plenty of space for a lunch cooler.
Chevy's e4WD system uses motors at the front and back and opens a door for independent suspension on all four corners. That suspension is Chevy's Automatic Adaptive Air Suspension which can lift or lower the truck by two inches from its standard ride height, giving it plenty of comfort on the road and adding to the truck's ability off-road. It'll also benefit its ability to tow, as additional weight won't upset the balance of the chassis as easily. Speaking of towing, the RST will come with a Tow/Haul mode, trailer hitch provisions, an integrated trailer brake controller, Hitch Guidance technology, and Chevy's Advanced Trailering System. It sounds complicated, but they all work together to take the pain out of towing.
Another trick the Silverado EV has up its sleeve is four-wheel steering to reduce the turning radius at lower speeds and aid stability at higher speeds. Add that all together, and we expect the Chevrolet Silverado EV will have a lot of the traits truck owners will be happy to learn to live with.
It might be a Silverado in name, but it's all-new compared to the current combustion-powered truck. That means it comes with a whole lot of new tech. The list is long, and the screens are big - inside the Chevy Silverado EV is a 17-inch LCD freeform infotainment screen and, for the driver, an 11-inch instrument display and a big head-up display. It also features touchless start if you use your phone as a key. Using the latter, the exterior lighting showcases a specific signature as you walk towards and away from the truck.
The truck is run on Chevy's all-new Ultifi operating system. The software is developed by GM in-house and based on the open-source Linux operating system. The basic concept is that it separates the truck's software from the hardware so rapid and frequent software updates can be applied over the air. It means software-based features can be added as well as cloud-based services. At the heart of the infotainment system is Google and its natural-voice system and apps. GM's Super Cruise is also baked into the RST, and it's trailering-capable, which we can't wait to try.
The Chevrolet Silverado EV is due to arrive in the fall of 2023 as a 2024 model. The RST First Edition model with all the bells and whistles will come first and with a $105,000 price tag. This puts it nearly $15,000 above the F-150 Lightning but at this level you're bridging the gap between the Lightning and the GMC Hummer for tech and capability.
Once production ramps up, the full range will be launched, including a $39,900 WT model with the full 400-mile range. Crucially, this is priced right at the heart of the F-150 Lightning's entry-spec model. Chevy also mentioned a Trail Boss version. Given how good Chevrolet's off-road trucks have been lately, that's an intriguing proposal with the electric drivetrain and independent suspension - assuming the range is right.