Are Hybrid Pickups the Way to Go?

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Our friends at recently calculated which hybrid cars and SUVs are the best for the money, and they were nice enough to include a pickup category as well. Congrats to the winning truck, the Chevy Silverado Hybrid.

Although that may seem a little odd because there are only two (actually one) such trucks on the market, we thought that vehicles with high "efficiency cost ratings," like the Chevy Silverado Hybrid, deserve to be highlighted.

The calculations to determine the top hybrid in each category were simple: Take the EPA combined mpg number and divide it by the base price (MSRP plus destination fees) of a vehicle. Multiply that number by 1,000. The higher the number, the better your lifetime savings. Because the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is about $400 less expensive than its only rival in the segment, the GMC Sierra Hybrid, the Chevy model won by a hair.

Of course, some critics will say the fact that no other manufacturer has a hybrid pickup makes for a hollow victory, but there are other factors. The Silverado Hybrid has four full-size doors (it only comes in a crew cab), has a strong and bulletproof 6.0-liter V-8, can tow 6,000 pounds and carry 1,500 pounds of payload, and can be set up to offer 120-volt outlets to run just about any electric tool at a work site.

And even though the Silverado Hybrid (designated a "dual-mode" hybrid because it uses two planetary gearsets for a wider eCVT and electric assist spread; the system can run as far as one mile up to 25 mph on electric power) had the lowest efficiency cost score of the all the category winners with a rating of 0.50, it did have a vastly better rating than the Chevy Tahoe SUV or BMW 740 Li.

To date, GM has not announced a new hybrid pickup when the 2014 trucks arrive. Of course, that doesn't mean it couldn't make an appearance in 2015 or beyond. But clearly the market has spoken, at least in the truck arena — buyers just don't seem that interested. These trucks created a sales problem, as most dealers had a terrible time trying to sell the premium-priced hybrids, which offered only incremental fuel economy improvements. By our count, by the end of 2012, the Chevy/GMC hybrid pickups sold fewer than 200 units per month nationally.

We should note that although hybrid technology is a good choice for a lot of people, there are other factors to consider. In fact, if you use the same efficiency-cost calculations with other solid fuel economy vehicle choices in the pickup segment, choosing the Chevy or GMC hybrid may not be the way to go.

In other full-size half-ton trucks, the efficiency ratio score (we used mileage data from the EPA) for the Ram 1500 HFE with the 3.6-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic is 0.71, the Ford F-150 3.7-liter V-6 is 0.78 and the base Ram 1500 V-6/eight-speed is 0.85. Additionally, in the smaller truck category the Toyota Tacoma four-cylinder manual scores a 1.24 and the Nissan Frontier four-cylinder manual scores a 1.11. Depending on how you'll be using your pickup, there are plenty of good choices, and no hybrid technology is involved at all.

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No, the market has spoken, hybrids are not worthe the added cost against the piss poor marginal increases in mileage. Even in the car area Hybrids are still relativly slow sellers as car companies are developing standard Gas and diesel motors that get the same if not better mileage.

Diesel is the way to go.....

+1 for affordable diesel options.

Wow. Calculations like that are way too simplistic. They don't consider the cost of frequent repairs and breakdowns, the cost of towing to get it to a repair shop, nor do they consider the cost of embarrassment at being seen driving such an ugly vehicle.

"Are Hybrid Pickups the Way to Go?"

Uhmmmmmmmmmm... NO!

I fully expect the new F150 and Tundra to have a shared hybrid system since both companies have been working on it over the past 2-3 years. Maybe this time they'll use the smaller motor size and focus on MPG's instead of GM using the biggest gas engine that they could fit in the 6.0. That motor has never been known for being efficient.

For those who think that 23 mpg in the city isn't a substantial increase let me remind you that the standard 5.3 model was rated at 15 mpg's so this is a 53% increase. Yes that is substantial. I'd hope that GM would have gotten the weight issues under control and will be able to boost MPG's even more. I bet a new version would be a significant price reduction with less impact to towing and payload. I'd be willing to wager 25/25 city and highway MPG's out of the updated system. This is likely to be about as good as it gets with trucks.

For those that doubt GM is working on a new truck system they will be offering a new 2-mode system in both the Cruze and Impala in 2014. Thus far GM's hybrids have been, well bad compared to competitors but hopefully they have been working diligently to improve this reputation.

I believe we will have a Duramax in the 1500 in the near future. Thank you so much Ram!!!

give the hybrid a option of CVT for city drivers and 8-speed hybrid for highway drivers

put a better electric motor and battery in the hybrid to make it like a full hybrid like the ford fusion

get ride of the massive over weight 6.0l and put turbo v6 and natural aspirated v6 engines (this will help make up for the hybrid extra weight)

stop fully equipping them with 10,000 in extras plus the 3-4,000 dollars to make it a hybrid.

the natural aspirated v6 will start well under $30,000 and tow at least 5,000 lbs and get about over all 25 mpg average

Hybrids may work for cars and SUVs because they're primarily passenger vehicles. Pickups and vans are cargo vehicles and rely on payload capacity, something that would be greatly reduced by the amount of batteries necessary to give such a truck enough performance to be viable.

The most efficient pickups and vans will be diesels with proper transmission and axle gearing.

The biggest risk to any buyer of new powertrain technology concerns whether or not that particular technology becomes the standard approach or instead becomes the Sony Betamax of the car/truck world.

so, a smart approach for any business owner who's attracted to the hybrid halfton pickup is really simple--LEASE it. Lower up front cost, option at the end of the lease to own it, or not. Tax deductible, fuel savings. Green image is big in some areas.

The way to do it is a diesel electric in a serial (not parallel) setup, just like a diesel electric locomotive. Stick that in a Ram 3500! It has to have at least 2000 lb-ft of torque and get 40mpg+ though! It would be even better if it was branded the "Cummins Diesel-Electric." That would be worth a price premium.

If we're talking about GM's pathetic half-ton gas parallel hybrid that still got 20mpg, then forget it!

The problem here is that the only 'hybrid' truck isn't exactly Hybrid. It doesn't carry much of a battery and only does a minor boost on the driveshaft on acceleration. That hardly qualifies as a Hybrid which is exactly why its numbers were so poor.

The problem with a hybrid truck is the same as what you'll run into with an all-electric truck. The battery pack needed to make the running gear viable will eat into the trucks load-carrying capacity. At least for the moment, the concept would only work in a half-ton truck and requires more changes than what the GM lone-runner has offered.

There are those of you who suggest that diesel would be better. Well, I have to agree. A 2-litre diesel designed to run at a steady speed to drive a generator could charge a heavy battery pack which itself powers the motor on the driveshaft. Better, put the motor at the input of a transmission like one of the old GM Powerglide and the electric motor could run at reasonably low speeds, where it puts out greater torque. So many of you guys talk about how torque is so critical and quite honestly nothing beats the torque of an equivalently-sized electric motor. We've already seen how a converted Land Rover performed equally well with a late-model Isuzu-built 4x4 in some serious off-roading, proving faster in some cases (like a drag race) and only marginally slower in others (like a climb up a noted 'waterfall' in a known off-road park.

Simply put, there is such a thing as too much engineering and in this case using older technology would both reduce cost and improve capability. Still, it won't work that well if you consistently tow or haul heavy loads over extended distances--unless you add a bigger engine and stronger motor. Railroad locomotives have used the technology for almost 100 years now; why has it been so difficult to translate that technology onto our highways?

@Papa Jim - I would tend to agree. Many big companies prefer lease over purchase.
The in town mpg is a big boost and for light cargo use, the current system would probably be okay. It has never made sense to me to match the system to the 6.0. That was a stupid decision at GMC. A 6,500 tow capacity with the 6.0 and hybrid is obviously an incompetent decision. They should of used the 5.3 and obtained better mpg and still have similar tow capacity.
I've only seen a few ever show up on the dealer lot in my town. I see the odd Tahoe hybrid with the big "look at me" hybrid stickers down the rocker panels.
Most get purchased by government agencies to meet their green quotas.
I am surprised that I never see any hybrids used by the RCMP. If they were worth it from a cost benefit perspective, I would of expected to see more.
The funny thing is that now the Crown Vic is dead, I'm seeing more and more Tahoe's and CrewCab pickups being used as police vehicles.

@dsklfjja: You've got the first step of a good idea, with one problem; you're assuming a diesel will run about the same as a gasser. Take a look at the most efficient gas engines vs the most efficient diesels; there is a huge difference in cylinder size, which creates the requisite torque difference.

A 3 litre I-4 diesel would probably provide as much torque as a 5-litre V-6 gas, and if it's tied directly to a generator which in turn feeds the batteries, that diesel is able to run at heavy load longer and with better economy than the larger gasser. The batteries need to be capable of high drain loads like our current lead-acid batteries which would offer the grunt power to get strong acceleration after which the high energy output of the diesel can recharge those batteries with help from other energy reclamation sources like dynamic braking. Again, by using a single motor/transmission system such as we currently use, the motor itself could be rated at 90 hp and still out-accelerate a V-6 rated at 300 hp.

@lou thanks for the acknowledgment, Lou. The Crown Vic is actually not dead at all. The US is morphing into a third world economy, so I figure in 20 years we'll see overhauled Crown Vics still in service as taxi cabs and delivery vehicles, just like you would in Cuba or Mexico.

Regarding the point about leasing, not only does it make business sense but it relieves the risk of investing in a non standard technology, something that procurement officers at companies really frown on.

The 6.0 GM V8 is confused sometimes because the one they used in the Hybrid is an Atkinson cycle engine; they sacrifice torque to get lower pumping losses in the intake manifold, and since the electric motor helps at low speed situations the Atkinson works o.k. and gives better cruising economy in gasoline mode.

I like the diesel-electric idea like most folks but the only company I know of that has a model you can buy today is Volvo and only in Europe. I believe it is about $12-14k price increase that here in the US might be more like $15-16k and would be nearly impossible to justify. Essentially you are buying two complete drivetrains which is big, expensive and heavy.

I think this kind of technology would be well suited to OTR tractors class 7 or 8 where it is common to log 100-150k miles per year and most of the time the speed is relatively constant. The generator would be operating at its peak point most of the time and simple 3-speed tranny would cover low-medium-high ranges and the increase costs could be covered quickly in the lower fuel use.

I think typical hybrids are just most cost effective for the vast majority of the car/truck buying public at this point.

What's going on with hydraulic hybrid technology?

if you take a truck from 15 mpg to 30 mpg how much fuel would you save over the first 100,000 miles
100,000/15mpg = 6,666 gallons burned X $3.50 = $23,331
100,000/30 = 3,333 X 3.50= $11,665
if you take a truck averaging 15 city miles and get 30 city you save $11,665 in the first 100,000 miles
(ford escape hybrid have proven to go over 350,000 miles with no major brake downs and much lower maintenance cost)

if you take a car from 30mpg to 60mpg and bubbled the fuel economy like the truck over 100,000 miles
100,000 /30= 3,333 X $3.50 =$ 11,665
100,000/ 60 = 1,666 X 3.50 = $5,831
you save only $5834 dollars over the first 100,000 miles in a car and the Prius on get 50 mpg so the saving are even less

you can only pick one save $5,000 in a car hybrid or $10,000 in a truck/SUV hybrid?

yes a 3.2l diesel (or new 2.3l or 2.7l nano Ecoboost not on market yet) from the international ranger
add a power full battery and motor (not like the Chevy Silverado weak one)
have a option of a CVT for city drivers or 8-10 speed for highway drivers

nano ecoboost hybrid would cost 5-7,000 more depending on i-4 or v6 and transmission
diesel hybrid $8-10,000 and would get the best mpg but how many???

back to the question at hand are hybrid trucks and larger suv coming yes yes yes the pay back period is faster and better then the small cars

Diesel electric hybrid for the win.

That is all.

I think the idea is currently in the wrong platform, with the wrong engine etc.

It would have been better to use a 2.8 diesel in a hybrid pickup and make a work truck, that can work. The people who will benfit the most from this technology at the moment is inner city operators.

Do the car manufactuers target the correct market?

Here's a Hino truck hybrid review.

@Big Al from Oz:

I'm a little surprised at the relatively low horsepower of that 4.0L diesel at barely 150 hp for its size. Then again, I was unable to convert the torques so don't know what that adds up to.

Still, high torque is what gives that push against your back when you're accelerating, not the horsepower.

I was all about fuel economy until I sat down and looked at the cost of owning a vehicle for 2-4 years.... I now own a 2013 raptor. Don't forget resale value when figuring out cost of ownership.

As the article correctly points out, your vehicle choice depends on your needs. Personally, I'd love to see the Toyota A-BAT hybrid concept come to market. My needs fit into the compact (not mid-size) pickup category. Unfortunately, at least at this time, the A-BAT doesn't look like it's going to be available anytime in the near future.

@ DW

It seems like most commercial duty motors are well below what consumers get in the interest of longevity and low maintenance. Case in point the 6.7 L Cummins. In a Ram 3500 it is now up to a staggering 850 lbs of torque but in a 3500 without a bed it is limited to 650.

I bet that Hino could safely tune up the motors to produce 200+ hp and torque around 500 lbs and still have a long-life, relaible motor but they won't do it. I hope the new 5-speed auto works out for them. It seems light on the number of gears, especially at any kind of freeway speed but likely allows for low gearing for city transport which is likely the key demographic for the hybrid anyway.

It's a real truck engine. Not like the 3 litre diesels in our utes which are a comprimise engine.

HDs have similar engines to our 3 litre diesels a comprimise engine.

If you look at the characteristics of the engine it will be alot different from say a 2 litre VW car diesel.

the Silverado Hybrid (designated a mild hybrid because the engine cannot run on battery power alone)

I think someone is mistaken the 2004-2005 mild hybrid gmc and chevy truck with the 2008-2013 2 mode hybrid pickup,

the 2 mode hybrid is a real hybrid with 2 electric motor inside the transmission, if gm doesn't continue with the hybrid its just sad to loose all the innovation they bring in pickup..

@howam00 That 23 MPG (EPA) is "combined" and 17 MPG combined is what full-size pickup are averaging now. What nobody talks about is the CAFE 'fines' are another way out. It $55 fpr each MPG under the CAFE scheduled mandate. That fine isn't expected to increase by 2025 either.

Even if full-size trucks stayed at the exact same size and MPG, that's $55 X 6 MPG = $330. Split between OEM and consumer and adjusted for inflation, that's approx $90 fine, each.

What's that, floor mats?

GM wil be supposedly dropping the hybrid system from the pickups in 2014 but will keep it in the suvs with a smaller displacement engine and a possible plug in option.

hybrids arent the way to go. hydrogen fuel cell and cng are the future of motoring. And biodiesel can easily be made in ones basement.

Here's an interesting video on EV's and rocket vehicles.

Quite fast stuff.

Electrics and plugin hybrids are the way to go.

So many dumb rednecks here would rather keep paying more and more and more each year for gas and diesel and are completely clueless to the large medium duty parcel delivery vans that are all electric that could haul around the biggest redneck pick'emup truck for 10 hours in between charges.

Unfortunately dumb rednecks are the largest market segment.

GM's hybrid is pretty pathetic performance for the price but it's a starting point. GM's never been much for innovation.

@DW to convert torque

1lb-ft = 1.355Nm. Also, if it has low HP in it's class, it's pretty likely the torque numbers will also be unimpressive, even though it peaks at low rpm.

@alex: Low in-class torque seems like a strange deduction, seeing the kinds of loads those tiny diesels haul in India and other countries. Sure, they're not intended to be speed demons, but they do seem to be strong enough for the job and quite reliable on average.

Electric trucks don't offer a huge advantage in gas milage, and often times they produce just as much pollution through increased use of electricity as a gasoline vehicle. I think if you want a hybrid, buy a hybrid, if you want a truck, buy a truck.

Truck buyers spend tones of dough on their trucks and fuel efficiency drives the market to a large extent. So does fuel range that's why it costs $150 (in Canada) to fill your typical truck. Trucks are big and have a high coefficient of drag due to their overall shape so it would make sense to produce plug in electric hybrid along the lines of a Volt setup. Give it a 300 mile/500 km unloaded real world range battery. Add a gas or diesel generator that can power the vehicle for extended rang, remote recharge and while loaded & towing. Some truck buyers also need to be able to charge while on a job site and might need power there as well so you could have the best of both worlds with a generator.

Big Torque and power, but torque more so is what you need in a truck and electric motors provide that. Here are two examples of what truck buyers expect out of their vehicles today. A new 2014 1500 series GMC or Chevrolet crew cab pickup with 6.2L gas engine producing 420 hp with 450 ft-lbs and 3.73 gears can tow 12,000 lbs. And that's a just a half tone truck! A Ram 3500 with a Cummins Diesel producing nearly 900 ft-lbs of torque with can pull upwards of 30,000lbs that's huge, but is in the realm of today's HD retail trucks. Properly set up electric power will do this and more!

Truly a hybrid setup should be what highway tractors (semi trucks) use. Down big hills regenerative braking would eliminate Jake brakes and noise, and help recharge the battery. Engine size and power could be reduced since the battery could provide peak power requirements for pulling large hills while recharging during highway cruising and downhill sections. Constant rpm out of the engine for recharge would reduce emissions and consumption.

Train locomotives have been using diesel generators powering electric motors to drive the wheels for years as the most efficient way to move massive loads long distances. So we know that this part of the system works very well. Adding a battery might only make a limited difference to a locomotive but to a relatively light Pick-up or highway tractor the difference could be profound. Even though we would still be using gas or diesel it could be much less consumption doing much more work and for now and into the immediate future that is the name of the game.

I think that a plug in electric hybrid truck would be a real winner in the North American market as long as there is no range issues and all work aspects of the truck are maintained or improved upon.

I can even see a small turbine generator instead of a typical ICE as sustained RPM work best for a generator and a turbine overall is far more efficient at producing sustained power than an ICE. We are reinventing the wheel here folks so why not make the new wheel as perfect and efficient as we can?

I would love to be selling this type of technology! For now we dream and put the ideas out into the ether, maybe someone with some cash will take it and run with the idea.

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