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GM’s new electric truck, the Chevrolet Silverado EV, will face stiff competition, skeptical buyers

Experts say the intense competition in the electric pickup market shows battery-powered vehicles are becoming mainstream after years of confinement to luxury or smaller vehicles.

The 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST.
The 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST.
Paul Sancya / AP

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The competition among American automakers for the still-small pool of consumers seeking electric vehicles is intensifying.

General Motors, normally the top-selling U.S. automaker, just unveiled the Chevrolet Silverado EV at the CES gadget show.

Work-truck versions go on sale in the spring of next year, followed in the fall by a high-end consumer version.

By then, they’ll face competition from rival Ford’s electric F-150, startup Rivian’s R1T and possibly Tesla’s Cybertruck.

And Stellantis — formerly Fiat Chrysler — has promised an all-electric Ram.

Industry analysts say the intense competition in the electric pickup market shows that battery-powered vehicles are becoming mainstream after years of confinement to luxury or smaller vehicles.

Pickups are among the country’s most popular vehicles. Ford’s F-Series is traditionally the top-selling vehicle in America, followed by Stellantis’ Ram pickup and the Silverado. Automakers sold more than 2.3 million big pickups last year — about 15% of all vehicles sold in the United States. Many go for well over $50,000 and are a huge source of profits and jobs with the automakers.

But converting buyers from gas- or diesel-powered V8 and V6 engines might be a tough sell, especially for people who need the trucks for work.

“These are very loyal buyers, and they’re not only loyal to the brands, they’re loyal to the engines,” said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting for the consulting firm LMC Automotive. “They know all the specs of what they’re driving as well. They definitely tend to be motorheads or gearheads.”

Brian James, who works for a Birmingham, Michigan, company that supplies heaters and dehumidifiers for construction sites, says an electric truck wouldn’t work for his business, which has clients in four states. Some days, he drives more than 400 miles one-way to deliver heaters.

“I go there, I deliver two heaters, and I’ve got to drive back,” James said at a housing subdivision under construction near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Concerned about the return trip and wondering where he would find charging sttaions, he said, “How long is it going to take me to charge the batteries?”

GM says the new Silverado EV has all the answers. It’s planning to sell the truck’s roomier cabin and better handling than its combustion trucks. The Silverado, like its competitors, also can provide power to tools on job sites, tow trailers and even power a house when the electricity goes out.

The initial Silverado work truck and a version for consumers that’s set to come out in the fall of 2023 will be able to travel 400 miles on a single charge, handle direct-current fast chargers and get up to 100 miles of range in 10 minutes, according to GM.

To ease anxiety over running out of juice, the truck will map a driver’s route, showing the optimal charging stations along the way, according to Nichole Kraatz, chief engineer on the truck.

“It’s really important that we integrate that for the customer so they don’t feel that pressure and pain point and anxiety about not having enough charge to get through their drive,” she said.

GM has agreements with 10 major charging companies for buyers to use their stations, according to Steve Majoros, Chevrolet’s marketing vice president.

The trucks also offer up to 10 outlets to power electric tools at job sites and can go from zero to 60 miles an hour in four and a half seconds. Initially, they will be able to tow up to 10,000 pounds and carry up to 1,300 pounds in the truck bed, but later versions will be able to tow up to 20,000 pounds.

GM wouldn’t say the price of the first work truck but said the early retail version, the RST, will start at $105,000. Lower-range versions will become available later, starting at just under $40,000 — about the same price as the electric trucks from Ford and Tesla.

The $105,000 truck is fully loaded. The truck is built on GM’s modular “Ultium” platform, on which the company build a number of vehicles, lowering development costs.

CEO Mary Barra said a $30,000 Chevy Equinox small SUV on the same underpinnings is coming in 2023, as is a slightly larger Blazer SUV.

The Silverado EV doesn’t have the high hood and huge grille that the gas Silverado does because electric vehicles don’t need grilles to send air to cool the radiator.

Lower-priced trucks will be able to go more than 200 miles per charge.

Ford says it has 200,000 reservations for the F-150 Lightning electric pickup, coming out in the spring.

Last year, sales of fully electric vehicles rose 87.9% to nearly 489,000 but accounted for only 3.2% of the market. Schuster predicts that will rise to 12.8% by 2025 and 33.1% by 2030.