OEM Insider
Electric Trucks-But Can You Jump-start Them?

Today, you can go to your Chevy dealer and buy the technically advanced Tahoe SUV hybrid. This is a truly slick piece of engineering that pairs a 6.0L aluminum-block V-8 with variable valve timing to an electrically variable transmission (EVT) that takes the place of a conventional gearbox. The combination delivers impressive mileage that is 20-percent better on the highway and 40-percent better in the city.

For 2009, GM is expanding this powertrain into the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado. Keep in mind that these won't be wheezer trucks with gutless acceleration. On engine power alone, the hybrid drive makes 364 hp. This power is enhanced by two electric motors that occupy the space where the conventional transmission used to be. These motors consume 300 volts when you stab the throttle.

Although we haven't driven a Sierra or Silverado yet, we spent 10 days behind the wheel of a Tahoe Hybrid, and that heavy SUV knows how to move out. Especially during 40- to 60-mph bursts of wide-open throttle, the Tahoe felt equal to a 6.2L Escalade. In further proof that these hybrids will be real trucks, GM rates the Silverado and Sierra towing capacity at 6,100 pounds. The trucks will come with Crew Cabs and be available in 2WD and 4WD models.

Not to be left out, Dodge recently announced a two-mode hybrid version of its Ram 1500. This truck will not be available at the beginning of the '09 model year but should come on line with the '10 editions. The Ram uses the same system that's in the Dakota and Aspen hybrids: a Hemi backed by the EVT.

First Blood: '09 Ram Beats F-150
While the comparison stories have yet to be written, in one significant way the '09 Dodge Ram has already whooped on the '09 Ford F-150: The Ram is getting into the market first. It goes on sale September 1, while the Ford has been delayed until late fall. Ford explained the delay was not related to product development; it was to make it easier for dealers to clear their lots of the outgoing '08 F-150 models they already have in stock. Dodge 1, Ford 0.

2009 Miscellaneous Updates
GM's Silverado/Sierra twins are carryover for 2009, with only these major changes: A new six-speed automatic will be offered with several different V-8 engines. Also, the powerful 6.2L V-8 (used to be available only on the Sierra Denali and Cadillac Escalade) becomes optional on Crew Cab models.

The Canyon and Colorado finally offer V-8 power in the form of the 300hp 5.3L that we've long expected. The engine will make these midsize trucks better, but the timing of this announcement relative to fuel economy isn't great. Towing capacity with the V-8 increases to 6,000 pounds. To go with this extra power, the trucks get a new braking system with four-wheel ABS that is further enhanced with StabiliTrak electronic stability control.

Over at Toyota, the '09 Tacoma will now include side curtain and seat-mounted airbags, ABS, traction control, and stability control. Other less significant changes were made to trim and features. The fullsize Tundra will be offered with standard E85 fuel capability in markets where you can find an ethanol pump, plus there are two new option packages from TRD: one for rockcrawlers and the other for asphalt carvers.