1 American Truck Manufacturer Made a Full-Size Hybrid Pickup 15 Years Before the Ford F-150 PowerBoost
When Ford released its “PowerBoost” F-150 engine option, many applauded hybrid technology finally making it to the full-size pickup truck segment. But did you know that General Motors offered a hybrid version of its Silverado 1500/Sierra 1500 in 2005? Here is the surprising true story behind the rise and fall of the first hybrid full-size pickup truck.
GM offered a mild-hybrid full-size pickup truck from 2005-2007
Our story begins with a 2004 General Motors project called the “Two-Mode Hybrid.” GM joined forces with Daimler-Chrysler and BMW to build a hybrid transmission which all these automakers could pair with their largest gasoline engines. But this project took many years to engineer, so GM decided to forge ahead with its own hybrid pickup truck.
In 2005, GM launched a version of its Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 with an electric motor/generator connected to a traditional 5.3-liter V8 via a serpentine belt. When you tapped the truck’s brakes, this unit helped slow the vehicle and charged its oversized batteries. Then when you tapped the gas, it helped the truck accelerate.
The 2005-07 GM hybrid pickup truck was a mild hybrid, similar to Ram’s present-day eTorque system. But unlike Ram’s eTorque system, the GM’s electric motor generator was not powerful enough to launch the truck from a standstill.
The 2005-07 Silverado/Sierra hybrid did have 12-volt power outlets in the truck’s bed. This feature attracted some fleet vehicle operators to the drivetrain.
The Silverado/Sierra upgraded to a full hybrid from 2009-2013
Once Daimler and Chrysler split, the Two-Mode Hybrid project was technically a collaboration between four different automakers. By the 2009 model year, they had perfected their first transmission.
The Two-Mode Hybrid transmission had four traditional gears and two 87-horsepower electric motors. It worked much like a modern CVT to help gasoline engines stay in a narrow power band for maximum efficiency.
General Motors offered the Two-Mode Hybrid transmission in both the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500. In 2009 it also debuted in the Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen. In 2010, it would appear in the Mercedes-Benz ML450 Hybrid and the BMW ActiveHybrid X6.
In both the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, this hybrid transmission came with the 6.0-liter gasoline V8. Even though this was a bigger engine than in GM’s previous hybrid truck, the powertrain was tuned for efficiency. Reviewers found acceleration lacking, and most of the buyers were fleet owners looking to save fuel.
There is currently no hybrid Chevy Silverado or GMC Sierra available
After the 2008 recession, automakers slashed their budgets by reducing their lineup and cutting special projects. The Two-Mode Hybrid project was one of many casualties of these budget cuts. Some say a second-generation hybrid transmission could have offered performance similar to the modern F-150 PowerBoost, a decade earlier–according to GM Authority. But sadly, we’ll never know.
Today, most pickup truck manufacturers offer some form of hybrid powertrain. Options include the fully hybrid Ford F-150 PowerBoost and the Toyota Tundra i-FORCE MAX. The Ram 1500 eTorque is a mild hybrid, similar to the first generation of full-size GM hybrid pickup trucks. But General Motors currently offers no full-size hybrid pickup truck option.
Instead of pursuing another hybrid truck, General Motors is fine-tuning the Ultium technology at the heart of its Hummer EV as it readies to launch the first fully-electric Silverado.
Next, read about what might be the first plug-in hybrid pickup truck or watch MotorWeek test the 2009 Silverado hybrid in the video below: