GM’s new electric truck faces competition and skeptical buyers
TOWNSHIP OF PITTSFIELD, Michigan.
Competition among American automakers for a still small pool of consumers in search of electric vehicles is rapidly intensifying.
General Motors, normally America’s best-selling automaker, officially unveiled the Chevrolet Silverado EV at a virtual press conference at the CES gadget show on Wednesday. Work truck versions will go on sale in the spring of next year, followed in the fall by a high-end consumer version.
Until then, they’ll face competition from Ford’s electric F-150, Rivian’s R1T, and possibly Tesla’s Cybertruck. Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, has promised an all-electric Ram.
Industry analysts say intense competition in the electric pickup truck market means battery-powered vehicles are fast becoming mainstream after years of confinement in luxury or smaller vehicles.
Pickup trucks are among the most popular vehicles in the country. Ford’s F-series has traditionally been America’s best-selling vehicle, followed by the Stellantis Ram pickup and the Silverado. Automakers sold more than 2.3 million large pickups last year, about 15% of all vehicles sold in the United States. Many cost well over $ 50,000 and are a huge source of profits and jobs for automakers.
But converting buyers from V8 and V6 to gasoline and diesel can be a tough sell, especially for those who need the trucks for the job.
âThey are very loyal buyers, and they’re not just brand loyal, they’re engine loyal,â said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm. âThey also know all the characteristics of what they are driving. They certainly tend to be motors or reducers.
Brian James, who works for a Birmingham, Mich. Company that supplies heaters and dehumidifiers for construction sites, says an electric truck would not work for his company, which has customers in four states .
Some days they travel more than 643.7 kilometers (400 miles) one way to deliver heaters. âI’m going over there. I’m delivering two heaters and I have to drive home,â James said Tuesday in a housing development near Ann Arbor, Mich. âHow long will it take me? need to charge the batteries? âfor the return trip, he asked, also wondering where the charging stations would be located.
GM says the new Silverado EV has all the answers. It plans to sell the truck’s roomier cabin and better handling than its combustion trucks. The Silverado and its competitors also have the ability to power tools on the jobsite, tow trailers, and even power a home in the event of a power outage.
The first Silverado work truck, and a consumer version coming out in fall 2023, will be able to travel 400 miles on a single charge. It can handle fast DC chargers and get up to 100 miles of range in 10 minutes.
To alleviate anxiety about running out of juice, the truck will plot a driver’s route, indicating optimal charging stations along the way, said Nichole Kraatz, the truck’s chief engineer. âIt’s really important that we build that in for the customer so that they don’t feel that pressure, that painful point and that anxiety of not having enough load to make their commute,â she said.
GM has made deals with 10 major charging companies so that buyers can use their stations seamlessly, said Steve Majoros, Chevrolet vice president of marketing.
The trucks also offer up to 10 outlets to power power tools on job sites and can go from zero to 60 mph in as little as 4.5 seconds. Initially, they will tow up to 10,000 pounds and carry up to 1,300 pounds in bed, but later versions will tow up to 20,000 pounds.
GM wouldn’t say the price of the first working truck, but said the first retail version, the RST, will start at $ 105,000. Lower-end versions will be available later, starting at just under $ 40,000, roughly the same price as electric trucks from Ford and Tesla.
The $ 105,000 truck is fully loaded, and while it’s about the same size as a gasoline-powered Silverado, it has more interior space and better front sight lines, Kraatz said. The truck is built on GM’s âUltiumâ modular platform on which the company builds a number of vehicles, reducing development costs.
CEO Mary Barra said in her CES speech that a small $ 30,000 Chevy Equinox SUV on the same foundations will arrive in 2023, as will a slightly larger Blazer SUV.
The Silverado EV looks sleek and lacks the high hood with a huge, nasty-looking grille that comes with the gasoline-powered Silverado. Electric vehicles do not need grilles to send air to cool the radiator.
Majoros said GM research has shown that the electric vehicle will appeal to existing truck owners, but also people who are new to the segment and electric vehicles. âIf you’ve got something that’s specially designed that still has that feeling of strength and confidence but isn’t overdone, I think that’s the right place to be,â he said.
GM says it has the flexibility to make the work and all-terrain versions more muscular.
Inexpensive trucks will be able to travel over 200 miles per charge, but GM would not give the exact number.
The first results show the promise of a large market. Ford says it has 200,000 reservations for the F-150 Lightning electric pickup, which will be released in the spring. Earlier this week, Ford announced plans to almost double its annual production, ahead of the sale of the first trucks. Tesla is said to have hundreds of thousands of them as well.
President Joe Biden is pushing to convert the vehicle fleet to electric to help meet a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. With automakers, he has set a goal that electric cars and trucks account for half of new vehicles sold by 2030..
Automakers say tax credits in a stuck $ 2 trillion social and environmental policy bill are needed to reduce the cost of electric vehicles. A $ 1,000 billion infrastructure law authorizes a nationwide network of charging stations and sets aside $ 5 billion for states to build them.
Schuster said the Silverado EV is another sign the transition to electric vehicles is underway, but it won’t happen overnight. Last year, sales of fully electric vehicles increased 87.9% to nearly 489,000, but they still only accounted for 3.2% of the market. Schuster predicts this will grow to 12.8% by 2025 and 33.1% by 2030.
This story has been corrected to correct the spelling of Chief Engineer Nichole Kraatz’s first name.