Pickup Trucks Evolve into Hybrids

For many hybrid owners, the full-sized pickup truck represents all that is wrong with the American vehicle: big, overpowered, and thirsty for fuel. But the reality is that pickups are immensely popular. Even in the face of $3.50 gasoline, three of the top five bestselling vehicles in the U.S. are still full-sized pickups. And the auto companies are betting that pickups’ popularity will continue, particularly if their fuel economy can be boosted with hybrid powertrains.

A few years ago, General Motors took a tentative step into the hybrid pickup market, launching the segment with a mild hybrid version of its full-sized pickup twins: the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. But GM’s first hybrid truck was a dog with only two tricks—it shut off its husky V8 engine at idle (resulting in a paltry fuel economy gain of 1 mpg), and offered two standard electrical outlets for tools, toys, or anything else a driver wanted to plug-in while on the go. Sold mainly to fleets, GM’s hybrid pickups were low-volume models, and were quietly discontinued in 2007.

But at last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show, GM introduced “Version 2.0” of its hybrid pickup. Due to hit showrooms this fall as 2009 models, the Chevrolet Silverado (and GMC Sierra) hybrids will offer GM’s two-mode hybrid system, a full hybrid drivetrain that allows all-electric operation up to 30 MPH. The two-mode system increases fuel economy by 25 percent to 18 in the city and 20 highway—far from Prius territory, but respectable for a three-ton truck with a 6.0L V8 powerplant under the hood. In an effort to keep up with its cross-town rival, Dodge announced in mid-April that it too would offer a hybrid pickup. Promised for 2010, the Dodge Ram Hybrid will use the same two-mode powertrain as the GM trucks, and is expected to get roughly the same fuel economy.


  • Dick

    Pickups and SUVs should be only sold to companies that need them for business purposes and goverment and military, otherwise it is just a waste.

    Hybrid pickups are a joke unless they can get Prius-like mileage.
    GM, Dodge and Ford will be Bankrupt in a couple of years and out of business. The vehicles that make will be worth scrapmetal because gas will be $5.00-6.00 a gallon in a few years and nobody will be able to afford them.

    Hybrid Pickups only gain a couple of MPGs for a high-priced premium.

    America will be in a serious crisis in a year from now when Hillary or Obama are in office and everyone will be rioting over the price of gas and the goverment rationing fuel at about 8 gallons per week.

    We need to come up with different alternitives.

    Oil will also be around $200.00 a barrel a year from now as well, we will never see gas @3.50 again.

    Hybrid pickups are only a smokescreen to sell more product and stay in business.

  • Paul Rivers

    I can’t be the only one who thinks the iBat pickup is incredibly ugly, can I?

  • Armand

    Let’s pray and hope that your comment about GM and Ford being out of business becomes a reality. It’s time to take out the trash.

  • Peter

    ABAT w/ @ least 35 mpg combined, I’d consider one….

  • Todd C

    Hopefully A-BAT has a rear-view camera. It doesn’t look like you’d be able to see much thru that skinny rear window. The B in BAT must stand for blind spots. Oh well, at least it comes equipped with HSD.

  • JJSpawn

    Guess what guys… pick up trucks are useful vehicles. Some people actually need that extra room and power to move things around such as boats, furniture, tools, gardening supplies, etc.

    Everyone does not fit into the same program, that a prius can be their everything vehicle and the whole family can commute in that one vehicle. And of course, prius never ever break down or need to be somewhere other than the one spot it needs to be.

  • texas

    JJ is right. I’m all for saving gas, but some people need these trucks and SUVs. Do they use a lot of gas – sure they do. They’re big, heavy, and have a V8 or bigger engine. Workers in the housing, lawn/landscaping, farming, etc businesses aren’t going to use a prius (as great as it is) to haul their big heavy dirty tools. Some people need to pull around a trailer with 1 or 2 riding lawn mowers (and other lawn eqipment). Toyota said they’re going to make all of thier cars hybrid by 2010 – I’m assuming that includes trucks, SUVs, and minivans. Toyota should be applauded for their efforts – saving gas is saving gas. Hopefully, the hybrid premium won’t be so much by 2010. For the record, I don’t drive a truck. I have a subaru SVX and a honda odessey. I imagine that I’ll buy a prius or civic hybrid one of these days, but I’m really waiting for a hybrid minivan to come out – love the minivan. Great for hauling the family AND the dogs AND the luggage. Trucks and SUVs are here to stay – might as well make them hybrid, too. Note to Toyota: get that hybrid minivan out in the US market!!!

  • Dom

    Quit bashing the trucks city boys! Guess what the tow rating on a Prius is?? “Not recommended”. Many people need trucks for their practical uses. Now, the people that don’t need them would be better off to buy something else, but it is a free country, after all.
    There has only been one pickup truck in the US that I’m aware of that got Prius-like fuel economy. It was a VW Rabbit pickup with a little diesel engine and a manual transmission – it got 50mpg. Of course, that was a few decades ago. It was also a small truck, probably Ford Ranger size. Too bad nobody builds and sells something like that currently.

  • Paul Beerkens

    Regarding the Obama/Hilary commented. I am not sure what you are basing this on.

    Oil prices for a large portion are subject to the simple supply and demand rules. We all know that supply is limited and will continue to be more limited in the future. On the other hand demand has been rising with China and India ($2000 car) gearing up to take their share of oil production.

    The last 10 years we have had a huge trade deficit with China and they are now using those dollars to buy oil on the free market.

    I am not sure what Obama or Hilary can do about this short term as this is a problem that has been ignored for such a long time by our current administration. The only thing we can do now is to play catch up and try to fix the mess we are find ourselves in now.

    $8/gallon gas price is unavoidable and the only thing we can do is to prepare ourselves for it by buying hybrid and electrical cars.

  • Paul Rivers

    “I’m all for saving gas, but some people need these trucks…”

    I agree that some people need to the trucks, sure. I just think that:
    1. Those people are far more likely to buy a “real” truck like a Tundra than a half-way-to-a-real-truck like this,
    2. There are a ton of people who like to say they have a “need” for a truck that really just feel like it looks cool. Those people aren’t likely to buy this either, as it doesn’t look like a traditional pickup.

  • SZJ

    Paul Rivers said:
    “I agree that some people need to the trucks, sure. I just think that:
    1. Those people are far more likely to buy a “real” truck like a Tundra than a half-way-to-a-real-truck like this,
    2. There are a ton of people who like to say they have a “need” for a truck that really just feel like it looks cool. Those people aren’t likely to buy this either, as it doesn’t look like a traditional pickup.”

    Agreed – every time I go truck shopping I have to convince the dealer I don’t want a spiffy half ton with leather seats – as I call them, a “testoerone commuter vehicle.” I need a TRUCK which can pull the tractor on a flat bed trailer, a horse trailer loaded with horses, a flat bed full of hay and feed, etc. My truck works! If Chevy/GM comes up with a way to give me a truck which can do that and go electric when it doesn’t need to be a work truck, I’d be all for it. In the meantime I use the truck when I need it, and use the little car when I don’t, while the truck sits parked. If I go to town to run errands, I surely wouldn’t take the truck unless I was bringing a load of something back out!

    I agree with you on #2 – but if it looked like a truck, perhaps they would! If they are only buying for the “cool” factor, they just might if the looks are the same. See my comment above for my thoughts on those folks. Silly people.

  • Russell

    I only partially agree with your statement. Some people do need trucks for work purposes, and some people like SUV’s for whatever reasons. It doesn’t make it right or wrong, and we can’t change their opinion. That aside, if people are going to continue purchasing trucks and suv’s, and this seems to be the case regardless of the price of gasoline, then it makes sense to offer them options that are more fuel efficient than what is now available.

    IMHO, we need to stop looking at the fuel efficiency in absolute terms, like 50mpg or 30 mpg, and look at the efficiency increases as compared to what a vehicle gets now.

    You state that a hybrid pick-up is a joke unless it gets prius-like mileage. Look, I know there is a lot of technology out there, but the fact is that it’s a lot easier to take a car with 2 or 3 liter engine, and make it a hybrid or some such that takes the mileage from 30mpg to 40 or 45 or 50, because that is increasing the mileage by 50 or 60%. Compare that with taking a 6 or 7 liter V8 that currently gets 7-10mpg and making it get 50mpg. That is on the order of a 500%, which by standards is an enormous order. If we simply look at the increased mileage on a percentage basis that a prius has over something similar, like a non hybrid civic or such, it is probably in the 40-60% range, as I stated before. If we could implement the same sorts of gains in the truck world, with a hybrid 1/2 ton or 3/4 ton work truck, then that would be Awesome!

    Let’s look at some numbers, comparing the gasoline used by a truck that gets 10mpg vs a hybrid truck with a 50% increase in gas, and a car that gets 30mpg vs a hybrid that gets a 50% increase, both driven 15,000 miles a year at $3.50/gal, which is now low.

    Standard Truck – 15,000 at 10mpg = 1500 gallons, $3.5/gal = $5,250
    Hybrid Truck – 15,000 at 15mpg = 1000 gallons, $3.5/gal = $3,500

    Standard Car – 15,000 at 30mpg = 500 gallons, $3.5/gal = $1,750
    Hybrid Car – 15,000 at 45mpg = 333 gallons, $3.5/gal = $1,166

    If you look, hybridizing a truck, or implementing other efficiency measures that equal a 50% increase in mileage, saves the amount of gas that a standard car uses in a year, at these numbers. So, we should be happy about this savings as comparatively, making trucks and suv’s saves more oil in the long run
    I would even say its easier to make people buying trucks and suvs swallow the price increase for a hybrid because they are used to paying more money for their vehicles anyway.
    I think people should get the vehicle they need, and to a degree what they want. People need to start being more aware of what their effect is on the earth, and I think thats slowly happening. But if people are still going to buy trucks and suvs, then it makes sense to try to achieve the same gains on a percentage basis with trucks and suvs, as with cars, because if you tell GM or Ford or Toyota that they have to make cars 50% more efficient, but trucks 500% more efficient, they won’t just hem and haw, they will say screw you, it can’t be done, and then we won’t be any further along than we are now. The same mileage gains on a percentage basis are a lot more realistic, and after all, that’s what we all need to be, right? Realistic in what we can achieve, in our impact on the environment.

  • Invisible Hand

    (Pickups and SUVs should be only sold to companies that need them for business purposes and goverment and military, otherwise it is just a waste).

    WOW, SAYS WHO?… DICK…THE GOVERNMENT…THIS IS ABOUT AS ARBITRARY AS SAYING NOBODY SHOULD POST COMMENTS NAMED DICK. THERE IS A SOMETHING IN AMERICA CALLED FREEDOM.

    (Hybrid pickups are a joke unless they can get Prius-like mileage.)

    FINE DON’T BUY THEM.

    GM, Dodge and Ford will be Bankrupt in a couple of years and out of business. The vehicles that make will be worth scrapmetal because gas will be $5.00-6.00 a gallon in a few years and nobody will be able to afford them.

    WELL, THERE YOU GO, THE FREE MARKET WILL TAKE CARE OF THIS “WASTE” THE GOVERNMENT WON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING.

    Hybrid Pickups only gain a couple of MPGs for a high-priced premium.

    America will be in a serious crisis in a year from now when Hillary or Obama are in office and everyone will be rioting over the price of gas and the goverment rationing fuel at about 8 gallons per week.

    We need to come up with different alternitives.

    Oil will also be around $200.00 a barrel a year from now as well, we will never see gas @3.50 again.

    (Hybrid pickups are only a smokescreen to sell more product and stay in business.)

    ISN’T THAT THE PURPOSE OF A BUSINESS…TO STAY IN BUSINESS?! THE CAR COMPANIES ARE TRYING TO FIND A SOLUTION THAT MEETS THEIR FELLOW MANS NEEDS. IF IT WORKS THEN THEIR FELLOW MAN REWARDS THEM WITH A PROFIT. IF NO ONE BUYS THEM THEN THEY GO OUT OF BUSINESS AS YOU PREDICT.

  • Shines

    Invisible Hand you make very valid and accurate points.

    Isn’t human nature funny? Some of us posters want American car companies to be more successful. Why – because a healthy economy is good for us? We are living in a world economy.
    I suggest folks think more globally.

    Isn’t human nature funny? Some of us posters want reduced emmissions to reduce global warming. Hybrid, electric, and fuel efficient vehicles help, but the real global problem won’t go away any time soon because of the vehicles we use. Sorry, this is reality.

    Isn’t human nature funny? Some of us posters (including me) want others to quit wasting fuel by buying big herking SUVs and trucks that they don’t need. But this is a free country so folks can buy whatever they want. Once again the global economy is catching up with us. The people of India and China want what we have taken for granted and are willing to pay more for oil so the price goes up. Those who thought they could afford those big herking SUVs and trucks are now paying the price at the pump. It is unfortunate that those who really need the trucks for business have to pay more for fuel, but they will pass the cost of that fuel for their trucks onto their customers.
    I’m glad that more of us are starting to realize how important it is to think of efficiency and economy when making vehicle purchasing decisions.

    And I think the A-BAT looks kinda cool. From what I read it’s kinda like a mini version of the Chevy Avalanche.
    I think Toyota or Dodge would be successful making a hybrid Tacoma or Dakota

  • Anonymous

    you car is LOSE MONEY BOY, only improved its MPG by 1 gallon,WTF…

    dum haoles

  • Superduty

    Everyone in this country is busy telling everyone else what the other guy should do. Telling Ford and GM what to build. City boys telling country boys what they should buy. No amount of bitching and moaning has ever done more than the almighty dollar can do in a free market.

    The free market will sort it all out. Period.

  • anonymous

    Yes, the A-BAT is B5tt ugly! But if I can comfortably fit my 6’4″ 240 lb body behind teh wheel, I WANT ONE! 37 miles each way commuting. I need fuel economy that I can get in and out of!

  • 张家界旅游

    A man apt to promise is apt to forget.
    A man can not spin and reel at the same time.

  • skeller

    I don’t like the design of the new A-BAT, but that’s just me. As for the debate on pickups and suvs, I think that it all depends on the person who is using it if he would use his pickup or suv. Even a college driver would agree it’s all in the matter of the preference of the driver.

  • Used pickup trucks

    Pickup trucks which are familiar for their toughness and efficiency can get smarter in a TOYOTA way. The hybrid car created by TOYOTA proves that the sales can be increased by wooing consumers to buy the smart and attractive looking cars. Hats off to the new concept.