GM Unveils 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV
A first look at the latest full-size electric pickup offering many features to expand the EV customer base – with some compromises.
General Motors has fired its first salvo in the high-volume electric vehicle wars, unveiling two versions of the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV that bring formidable feature content, evolutionary style and impressive performance claims – along with some questions – to what will eventually be GM’s most important product. The new pickup’s January 5 online debut, also the start of customer reservations, disappointed those who had expected to see the truck live at CES 2022, on the Las Vegas stage with CEO Mary Barra.
But GM pulled out of the event in late December due to increasing COVID concerns. Fortunately, prior to that SAE Media attended a preview of the $105,000 RST-First Edition version and the decontented $39,900 WT (work truck) in Warren, Michigan, hosted by the program’s engineering, design and marketing leads. While not all of Silverado EV’s technical specs have yet been announced – and EPA testing won’t be completed until closer to the vehicle’s mid-2023 production – the long list of details as we know them include:
Range: GM estimates 400-mile (644-km) range capability for both the RST and WT models, under ideal thermal conditions and duty cycle. The estimate, based on analytical projections consistent with SAE J1634 revision 2017-MCT, is roughly 33% greater than Ford’s electric F-150 Lightning.
Propulsion: Silverado EV shares its 200-kWh Ultium lithium-ion battery pack with the GMC Hummer EV, according to chief engineer Nicole Kraatz. Packaging of the drive units and DC inverter (one traction motor for each axle on AWD variants, a single motor for rear-drive) is unique to the Chevy pickup for a more compact layout than on the Hummer.
Output: RST models will deliver SAE-rated 664 hp (495 kW) and more than 780 lb-ft (1,057 Nm) in what GM calls ‘Wide Open Watts Mode’ enabled by unique control software. Kraatz said simulations show RST models to be capable of 0-60 mph acceleration in less than 4.5 seconds. WT models will generate 510 hp (380 kW) and 615 lb-ft (833 Nm).
Charging: Standard DC fast charging using 800-V public chargers will deliver up to 350 kW, adding about 100 miles (161 km) of range in 10 minutes, GM claims. Both Silverado EV models can produce up to 10.2 kW of off-board power, distributed across 10 outlets (two of them each provide 240V) on the vehicle.
Towing: Estimated up to 10,000 lb. (4,336 kg) of maximum trailering with up to 1,300 lb (590 kg) of payload on RST, and 8,000 lb. (3,629 kg) and 1,200 lb. (544 kg) payload on WT. The ground-to-tailgate load height on the RST 4WD Silverado EV at our preview measured 35.5 in. (901 mm).
Special features: The truck’s wheelbase is slightly shorter than a conventional crew cab/short bed Silverado, and the 233-in./5918-mm overall length is one inch longer. To help reduce turning radius, the electric pickup shares Hummer EV’s four-wheel steering system. Also shared on the fully loaded and expensive RST models launching first in limited volume in fall 2023 is the Hummer’s automatic/adaptive air suspension. The system provides a two-inch (50 mm) vertical stroke. A fully glazed roof is optional on non-WT models; Kraatz claimed this is a first for a full-size pickup.
At the truck’s Jan. 5 reveal during CES 2022, Barra added that there will be a Trail Boss trim available for the Silverado EV. The raised-suspension Trail Boss package “taps into our strong foundation of capable, factory-lifted trucks,” she said.
Super Cruise, GM’s SAE Level 2 ADAS package with trailer-control, will deploy as standard on RST-First Edition models. RSTs also get a hefty 24-inch wheel/tire combination while WT models ride on 18-in. wheels. A towing package rated at up to 20,000 lb (9,071 kg) is being readied for WT models after initial launch.
A flexible “midgate” partition in the rear of the passenger cabin opens to effectively extend the cargo bed via folding 60/40 rear seats – an idea copped from the old Chevrolet Avalanche. The setup provides nearly 11 feet (3,302 mm) of linear space from inside the cab to the edge of the tailgate. Kraatz and Chevy marketing director Steve Majoros argue that with the midgate, the truck’s limited crew cab/short bed (5-ft. 11-in./152-mm) will not turn off pickup customers whose use cases (farming, construction trades, landscaping) require the longer beds available on today’s body-on-frame Silverados.
Majoros indicated that electric utilities, a logical clientele, are among the initial fleet customers for the WT model. “A four-door cab is not a deterrent to fleet customers,” Majoros asserted. “Water has a way of finding its own level.” He noted that Chevy dealers are asking for fewer build combinations and the EV’s single body configuration helps that cause. “The days of mass availability are going away,” he stated.
And therein lies the Silverado EV’s unique architectural rub. The truck is not a unibody design, although its seamless cab/bed exterior appears to be that. Nor is it the body-on-frame architecture that Ford chose for its electric F-150 Lightning. “It’s somewhere between the two [types],” said Kraatz. She reckons that less than 60% of Silverado EV content is shared with its Hummer cousin.
GM’s purpose-engineered ‘skateboard’ EV chassis uses the huge 24-module Ultium battery pack, rather than a ladder frame, as its foundational structure. That makes it “extremely stiff” in bending and torsion, Kraatz noted. Combined with Silverado’s independent suspension the skateboard structure benefits ride/handling and simplifies GM’s bill-of-material and in-plant complexity, at the expense of customer choice. The industry will be watching which EV pickup strategy, GM’s or Ford’s, proves most profitable over time.
While Chevrolet has not yet released curb-weight figures for Silverado EV, the truck’s exterior body panels, closures, and cargo bed are in steel, to minimize cost, according to a GM engineer on the program. Vehicle efficiency is aided by attention to aerodynamics, explained exterior design manager Chip Thole. His team spent “a lot of time in virtual CFD analysis” and in the GM wind tunnel optimizing the truck’s exterior form. He said cowl height has been reduced compared with the current Silverado, which also aids visibility, and the A-pillars are noticeably “faster.”
The truck’s sail panels, while echoing Avalanche, functionally improve laminar flow, Kraatz said, and the front corners are shaped to create separate air currents to reduce turbulence and drag. Kraatz suggested that Silverado EV may feature the lowest coefficient of drag (both Cd and CdA) in the large pickup segment; watch this space for details.
New Linux-based communication
Without an IC engine, the front compartment becomes a deep and voluminous lockable “frunk” for weatherproof hauling of suitcases and other gear. Shortening the truck’s front clip and reducing front overhang helped Thole’s design team optimize the cabin experience. Second-row seating gained meaningful leg room versus the current Silverado crew cab, he said. A center modular console provides more than 7 gallons of capacity, enough for a lunch cooler.
Chevrolet’s interior designers created a nicely balanced cockpit in terms of legibility and overall user functionality. A 17-in.-diagonal LCD freeform infotainment screen is paired with an adjacent 11-in.-diagonal reconfigurable cluster and a multi-color driver head-up display (HUD) with field of view greater than 14 in. RST owners get access to GM’s Ultium Charge 360, designed to simplify the vehicle charging experience with access to more than 100,000 publicly available charging points in the U.S. and Canada.
Enabling the truck’s UX (user experience) is Chevrolet’s first application of Ultifi, a new Linux-based software platform developed in-house at GM. Ultifi separates the vehicle’s software from the hardware to enable rapid and frequent software updates; over-the-air (OTA) capability is expected when production begins a GM’s ‘Factory Zero’ complex in Detroit in 2023.