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It certainly seemed like a forward-thinking business proposition at the time -- take advantage of rising fuel prices and the impending green revolution by marrying gas-saving hybrid technology with a perennially popular full-size pickup truck. But although the first-generation Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid was GM's first-ever hybrid passenger vehicle when it debuted in 2005, this truck's modest "mild hybrid" technology and limited availability put a damper on its appeal. As for the second-generation model (2009-'13), it offered a more advanced "dual-mode" hybrid system, but its middling performance never really justified its high price and complexity.
The Silverado Hybrid was phased out before GM's latest truck platforms debuted for 2014, and there are currently no plans to revive it. Given its limited production numbers, finding a suitable pre-owned example could be difficult; also, the truck's special hybrid hardware may pose special maintenance challenges down the road. Still, the second-generation Silverado Hybrid offered the best overall fuel economy of any big truck at the time, including an impressive 20 mpg in city driving. If that's enough to make you want one, a used example could be a decent option at the right price.
Used Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid Models
The most recent Silverado Hybrid is the second-generation model, which was produced for the 2009-'13 model years. Thanks to dual-mode hybrid technology, its gasoline-powered 6.0-liter V8 and twin electric motors can work either separately or in tandem -- the gas engine shuts off at low speeds when it isn't needed, and it seamlessly re-engages when acceleration is called for, remaining permanently active above 29 mph. The electric motors get their juice from a 300-volt battery pack that lives under the rear seat.
Total system output is rated at 379 horsepower, while fuel economy tops out at 21 mpg combined (20 city/23 highway) with 2WD. The sophisticated transmission can act as if it has variable ratios like a continuously variable transmission (CVT), or it can switch over to four fixed ratios for better towing performance. However, the maximum tow rating of 6,100 pounds is low for a full-size truck.
Offered in two trim levels (1HY and 2HY), this Silverado Hybrid certainly didn't come cheap, but it was well-equipped even in base form. Notable standard features included 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, OnStar, Bluetooth and a CD/MP3 stereo with steering-wheel audio controls and satellite radio. The 2HY added premium touches like heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, rear parking sensors, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery, power front bucket seats, navigation, a rearview camera and upgraded Bose audio with rear seat controls. A sunroof and a navigation system were also available.
In reviews of the second-gen Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid, we found its power plant to be a little too complex for its own good. Despite those 379 horses under the hood, our acceleration testing yielded a disappointing 0-60-mph sprint of 9.2 seconds, which even the regular Silverado's base 4.8-liter V8 might match. There are also some tangible pauses and hiccups in the power delivery. It might all be worth it if you simply must get your green-freak on and maximize fuel economy around town, but the regular V8s offer superior performance and similar highway fuel economy.
If you're shopping for a used Silverado 1500 Hybrid of this generation, there are only a few changes to keep in mind. For 2010, the engine was made compatible with E85 fuel, and the optional navigation system gained a back-up camera and a USB input. For 2012, the nav system became hard-drive-based. Overall, this was essentially the same truck from start to finish.
The first-generation "parallel hybrid" version of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra was produced for the 2005-'07 model years. In this mild-hybrid design, the electric motor was housed within the transmission flywheel assembly and provided only engine cranking, battery charging and power for accessories. The 5.3-liter V8 automatically shut down when the truck came to a stop, and electric power restarted the engine when the brake pedal was released. Three auxiliary batteries were mounted under the rear seat to store and provide power. Several AC outlets were mounted in the bed, making this truck an attractive choice for contractors who often need to plug in electrical devices on the job. Availability was very limited, however, making this truck an increasingly unlikely find as time goes on.