The hybrid Silverado returns: Will power boost lift Chevy’s second try at an electrified pickup?

Updated Mar 7, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Silverado with eAssist technology

Though the pickup truck has never been more popular than it is today, the problem of fuel economy remains. And while competitors Ram and Ford have respectively addressed this issue through a fuel-sipping diesel and the combo of a lightweight aluminum body and a V6 with V8-like power, Chevrolet recently announced that it’s giving a different route another try with a very limited production run of a new Silverado.

Though Chevy sold a hybrid Silverado between the 2009 and 2013 model years, when the automaker refreshed the truck with a new design in 2014 it decided to drop the option. But with the 2016 Silverado with eAssist, it’s back. Sort of.

Implementing what GM engineers have learned about electrification through the production of the Malibu hybrid and the Volt plug-in hybrid, the eAssist Silverado promises to boost fuel economy by 13 percent while adding a slight boost to the truck’s power.

Chevy says the eAssist system will be a $500 premium over a comparably equipped two-wheel drive Silverado 1500 crew cab in 1LT trim. But the main catch is that only 500 units will be made for the 2016 model year. And they’ll only be sold in California.

However, if the feedback from those 500 units is positive, the automaker says it will “adjust production” for 2017.

A more powerful hybrid truck

This new eAssist system combines a 24-cell, 0.45 kWh lithium-ion battery pack (with the same batteries used by Chevy’s Malibu hybrid) and a modified version of the software used to control the Volt’s battery system. The battery pack is located beneath the center console.

The system adds 100 pounds to the curb weight of the Silverado but adds 13 hp and 44 lb.-ft. of torque to the truck during acceleration and passing. It also enables the 5.3-liter V8’s active fuel management system to operate in 4-cylinder mode for longer periods for further fuel savings.

eAssist also features regenerative breaking, giving the truck’s batteries a bit of juice when the brake pedal is pressed, along with stop/start capability, turning the engine off when the truck comes to a stop and seamlessly turning it back on when the accelerator is pressed.

The end result is a 2-miles-per-gallon improvement on fuel economy over a Silverado without eAssist that is equipped with the same 5.3-liter V8 paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The 2016 Silverado eAssist has an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway for a combined 20 mpg.

While a 2-mpg boost to city fuel economy might not seem like much, achieving 24 mpg on the highway might be pretty attractive to a lot of fleet owners and others who put a lot of miles on their trucks. And when you throw in the relatively small $500 price tag along with that power boost during acceleration, the package starts to sound pretty attractive.

This might be the first and last we hear of the eAssist Silverado. But it’s not crazy to think that the response could lead to an extended-range hybrid version of the Silverado that operates like the Chevy Volt, allowing drivers to get 50 or so miles off a charge before putting that V8 to use.