Payne: The techy, pricey Chevy Silverado EV goes to work

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 9, 2023

Ann Arbor — Chevrolet is introducing its first, electric Silverado as a work truck. Fleet owners might, um, want to put a speed limiter on it.

With 515 horsepower (more than a Corvette C8), 600 pound-feet of torque (more than a Camaro SS), and Chevy’s rock-solid Ultium chassis, the Silverado EV is a rocket ship out of stoplights. ZOT! I challenged Challengers, BMWs — even a ‘Vette C6 — all over Ann Arbor on my brief test-drive of the 8,000-pound-plus pickup.

If I were, say, a DTE utility worker, I’d have my eight-hour rounds done by noon.

The Work Truck (available as a Crew Cab only with a 5-foot-11-inch box) comes with a price tag as stratospheric as its power numbers. The 393-mile-range 3 Work Truck starts at $74,800 and — with 450 miles of range — my 4WT nearly hits the 80-grand marker with a $79,800 sticker. Oof.

That’s reflective of the cost of lithium-ion batteries as the all-wheel-drive EV Work Truck tries to match the range of a rear-wheel-drive, 504-mile, gas-range, 310-horsepower Work Truck Crew Cab costing half as much.

But, like the gas Silverado WT, the electric Silverado WT only loses about 50% of range when towing, according to our friends at TFL Trucks, which recently put the pickup through the paces in its mountainous Colorado backyard. That translates to 250 miles of range, which is workable on a trip to, say, Traverse City where chargers are spaced about 120 miles apart.

The Chevy’s chief electric competitor, the Ford F-150 Lightning, suffered 70% degradation when towing, according to TFL. That means less than 100 miles of towing on the Ford’s 320-mile range battery — which won’t get you between Michigan charging stations (much less make sense if you have to stop every 90 minutes for a 120-minute charge, according to Motor Trend testing).

The 2024 Chevy Silverado EV Work Truck has a distinctive, flying buttress C-pillar - but only the upscale RST truck will get the mid-gate bed extender.The 2024 Chevy Silverado EV Work Truck has a distinctive, flying buttress C-pillar - but only the upscale RST truck will get the mid-gate bed extender.

Still, Silverado EV has similar fast-charging challenges. A gas WT takes 5 minutes to refill, the Chevy 90 minutes on, say, an Electrify America DC fast charger. And that’s not including the time to unhook your trailer and belly up to fast charger stalls not designed (like, say, a Marathon gas truck stop) to handle long tow vehicles. EVs have a looooong way to go.

Which is why initial sales of the Silverado EV are for fleet-focused shooooort hauls.

But for those rockin’ dual motors in its belly, my WT was bare bones. Black interior, 18-inch wheels, all-season tires. No fancy Super Cruise like the $106K RST truck that will debut next spring for well-heeled retail customers. No fancy 24-inch wheels. No Flex-Midgate between the C-pillars that drops to extend the bed (just as an SUV can extend cargo by flattening its rear seats). Bare bones.

But it has a sleek design signature that is more Chevy Traverse than macho, gas Silverado. Check out the flying buttress C-pillar and spare fascia. Inside is one of the best infotainment systems in the industry. Twin, iPad-like, digital instrument and dash screens are standard and run by Google Built-in — a system that will feel familiar to anyone who has used a smartphone.

Map a trip to, say, Washington, D.C., from Ann Arbor and the 2024 Chevy Silverado EV Work Truck will chart your charging stops.Map a trip to, say, Washington, D.C., from Ann Arbor and the 2024 Chevy Silverado EV Work Truck will chart your charging stops.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but if you’re heading out on the road, let me recommend Google Built-in’s navi system.

It’s made strides in its ability to navigate an EV to its destination. Where most systems leave it to the driver to do their homework and find their own charge stations (ugh, imagine expecting a gas driver to do that), Google Built-in charts your course — chargers and all. Similar to how Tesla integrates travel with its proprietary charging network.

In a mock trip that I made in Google Built-in from Ann Arbor, the system prioritized fast charging stations for my journey to Washington, D.C. The trip would take 10 hours and 7 minutes, including two stops at fast chargers for a total of 1 hour and 50 minutes. Useful so you can make plans while you wait. Not so useful if you don’t like waiting.

That’s the fundamental challenges to EVs, which are inferior to their gas peers on long-distance runs. At least the Silverado will get you there assuming you, ahem, drive below 70 mph in moderate weather conditions.

Try the trip in the cold — or traveling at higher speeds — and expect serious range degradation. Also expect logistical challenges at fast chargers if you plan on towing. They simply aren’t designed for large rigs. I look forward to the chance to test Silverado EV on a real-world towing trip sometime soon.

What the Silverado EV is designed for is ease of use.

Access the rear bed with a corner bumper step — a feature every pickup should have. The bed takes advantage of the 4WT’s massive, estimated 215 kWh battery with five outlets for tool support: four 110-volt and one 240. If you’re a small businessperson and the truck doubles as a recreation vehicle, the plugs will come in handy for tailgate parties.

The 2024 Chevy Silverado EV Work Truck looks like a Silverado and Traverse SUV had a baby.The 2024 Chevy Silverado EV Work Truck looks like a Silverado and Traverse SUV had a baby.

The hole under the hood where the engine used to be? Chevy has made it into an e-frunk (a nifty feature pioneered by mid-engine sportscars, then popularized for EVs by Tesla) just like Lightning. There’s another pair of 110-volt plugs up there. It allows the practicality of a hatchback SUV with the hauling ability of a pickup.

But hauling that sticker price around is a challenge.

To properly use the e-truck, businesses (or individuals) will need to add expensive 240-volt chargers so the trucks can recharge up to 12 hours overnight for their duties next day. Home charging is cheaper to operate at 15 cents per kWh overnight, but plug in at, say, Electrify America’s Pittsburgh fast charger and you’re looking at an expensive 48 cents per kWh — meaning costlier trip refuels than a 29-mpg, gas-fired Silverado Work Truck if gas is under $4 a gallon.

The 2024 Chevy Silverado EV Work Truck offers a spare, black interior - though the digital screens are first class.The 2024 Chevy Silverado EV Work Truck offers a spare, black interior - though the digital screens are first class.

The e-Silverado is too expensive to qualify for the $7,500 federal EV tax break, but the usual business tax incentives apply to help get them into employees’ hands. They will find a brawny truck with good specs like 1,440-pound payload and 10,000-pound towing.

And standard all-wheel-drive so you can really put that 600 pound-feet of torque to the ground at a Woodward stoplight. Just don’t let the boss catch you.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV Work Truck

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, all-wheel drive, five-passenger pickup

Price: $74,800, including $1,895 destination ($79,800 4WT as tested)

Powerplant: Twin-motor, 215 kWh battery pack

Power: 515 horsepower, 600 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Single-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.4 seconds (Car and Driver, 4WT); towing, 10,000 pounds, 1,440-pound payload

Weight: 8,500 pounds

Fuel economy: 450-mile range (4WT as tested)

Report card

Highs: High-tech with Google Built-in navigation, fun to drive, capable towing

Lows: Charging stable logistics, 50% costlier than comparable gas work truck

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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