Mild-hybrid system adds power & efficiency with minimal drawbacks

General Motors is launching a new trail hybrid powertrain program for approximately 700 pickup trucks to be sold in California for the 2016 model year. Roughly 500 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab trucks trimmed in the mid-grade 1LT trim, along with roughly 200 GMC Sierra Crew Cab trucks with the SLT Premium Plus package, will receive the hybrid eAssist powertrain. GM will monitor customer feedback in preparation for a larger rollout for the 2017 model year.

The hybrid system is only available with the 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission with the 2WD driveline configuration.

The hybrid system utilizes the same lithium-ion battery cells as the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid and software derived from the Chevy Volt. Power is sent to a compact induction motor located on the engine’s accessory drive. It provides up to 13 horsepower and 44 pound-feet of torque during high-load situations, while also allowing the 5.3-liter V-8 to operate in four-cylinder mode more often, furthering its efficiency. When not under power, the electric motor acts as a generator, providing 15 kW of regenerative power back to the battery pack. Furthermore, both trucks now feature a Start/Stop system for the V-8.

That battery pack is a 24-cell, 0.45 kWh unit and is located in the center console or under the front bench seat, depending on which seating configuration is chosen, while the power inverter module is located in the engine bay for liquid cooling. The total system only adds 100 pounds to the trucks, resulting in little sacrifice in capabilities. Maximum towing is listed at 9,400 pounds.

All told, the hybrid system increases both the Silverado’s and Sierra’s fuel economy by two miles per gallon in city, making their EPA numbers climb to 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined. The eAssist system is only costing customers an additional $500 atop the truck’s price. If GM receives good reports from its customers, it may expand availability of the eAssist system in its 1500-series trucks for future model years.

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Why It Matters

GM Debuts eAssist System for Silverado and Sierra 1500 Pickups
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This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a mild hybrid system on GM’s full-size, 1500-series trucks. Sold between 2009 and 2012, both the Silverado and Sierra offered a two-mode hybrid system. The system increases fuel economy by five mpg in city and two mpg on the highway. Still, the systems 500-pound weight and added cost ultimately ended the program with marginal success.

This new hybrid system, while only helping increase fuel economy by two mpg, is a more economical option, both in terms of weight and price. It’s a sure bet GM is testing the waters with this eAssist system, likely for widespread applications in future products. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar hybrid system, though with more power, appear as a common option on the next-generation of Silverado and Sierra. What’s more, the system could spread to all GM’s V-8-powered vehicles, including the Tahoe/Yukon, Suburban/Yukon XL, and Cadillac Escalade.

It seems GM is trying everything it can to keep the small-block V-8 alive. At this rate, things are looking good.

2016 Chevrolet Silverado

2016 Chevrolet Silverado High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the Chevrolet Silverado here.

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