Deep Dive: 2023 Chevrolet Silverado EV

Demanding use cases require energy-dense packages

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Canada will play a major role in GM’s push toward an electrified future, with the automaker investing about a billion dollars into Canadian electric vehicle (EV) production and development.

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At the center of GM’s EV push is Ultium, General Motors’ new battery and drive module technology designed to help meet growing demand for electric models — demand that is expected to double between 2025 and 2030 to 3 million or more EV sales per year.

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GM’s Ultium architecture is flexible and scalable, enabling the rapid development and deployment of electric models across a variety of sizes, shapes and purposes as market conditions change and evolve. With the Ultium, GM says the number of line-wide driveline components is drastically reduced compared to today’s traditional combustion-powered models — which in turn reduces cost and complexity.

The prescription for Ultium batteries also helps keep costs down, as they use much more nickel and (expensive) much less cobalt.

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The unique cell design allows more energy to be stored in the same physical space in the battery pack. On a broader scale, Ultium-powered vehicles can therefore use a variety of battery packs and drive module settings to create models covering a wide range of price points, ranges, and power output levels, with front, rear, or four/all-wheel drive options. .

GM says battery options will range from 50 to 200 kWh, and most drive units are designed and built in-house.

Chevrolet Silverado EV
Chevrolet Silverado EV Photo by Chevrolet

How will Ultium work in the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV?

This all-electric pickup uses a dedicated full-electric Ultium platform that will provide a range of up to 640 kilometers on a full load under ideal conditions, as well as a maximum trailer of 10,000 pounds.

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The battery pack is structurally integrated within the floor and underbody of the vehicle, mounted low and wide to reduce the center of gravity and improve handling. With a drive motor on each axle, the Silverado EV’s e4WD system ensures maximum traction when needed, with four-wheel independent air suspension and four-wheel steering working to further optimize ground clearance, maneuverability and ride quality in a variety of conditions.

In particular, the four-wheel steering system makes the Silverado EV easier to maneuver when parked, and works in tandem with the vehicle control system to help make the truck more stable and easier to drive at higher speeds, and especially when trailering.

Most Silverado EV owners will charge almost exclusively at home, overnight, in their garage or driveway. With more than 600 kilometers of available range and the average Canadian driving less than 50 kilometers per day, there’s a lot of flexibility.

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Of course, cooler temperatures will reduce the available range, as will installing a trailer. Even in cold temperatures or while towing, the Silverado EV will spin for hundreds of kilometers.

With fast charging up to 350 kW, the driver can add up to 160 kilometers of range in 10 minutes of stop charging on the 800 volt charger, if conditions are ideal. This will make the Silverado EV the leader in fast charging speeds. Andy Oury is a battery engineer at GM. He explains how 800 volt charging works.

“While you are driving, the battery packs are connected in parallel. If you arrive at a compatible 800 volt charging station, when you plug it in, the charging station and the vehicle talk to each other. The charging station says ‘hey, I’m an 800 volt charger’, and the battery says ‘good, give me a minute, I’ll reconfigure to 800 volt mode’.

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Since then, several electrically operated switches (relays) have been reconfigured to allow for maximum charging speeds.

“Some relays opened, some closed — and the package went from parallel wires to series wires — which doubled the system voltage to 800 volts, allowing us to charge faster. We’re still going to maximize the amount of current available from the charger, but when you double the voltage you get roughly double the power put in the package… 400 volt parallel mode is the wired way for propulsion, series mode is the switch to 800 volts , which increases the voltage for fast charging.”

The powerful Ultium battery can even store enough energy to run 10.2 kilowatts of power to the GM PowerBase charging system, with ten outlets for recharging or and powering tools, supplies, and equipment on the job site or while camping. The Silverado EV can even power your home in the event of a disaster or power outage, or recharge another EV’s battery.

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Chevrolet Silverado EV
Chevrolet Silverado EV Photo by Chevrolet

Storage provisions are numerous, and include the so-called eTrunk, which is a lockable, weather-resistant compartment under the hood where most pickup trucks store their gasoline engines. The center console can accommodate a lunch cooler, and a variety of accessories allow drivers to customize their Silverado EV’s storage and bedding to their specific needs.

The first of Detroit-built Silverado EV models is expected to debut in fall 2023, with more models coming online as production ramps up. Buyers will be able to consider the value of the RST, Work Truck, and Trail Boss trim.

The Silverado EV uses a special Ultium-based platform, so its appearance, proportions and dimensions are completely different from conventional petrol and diesel powered Silverado models.

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It’s also the most powerful Silverado, thanks to an estimated over 660 horsepower and nearly 800 lb-ft of available torque. On certain models with Max Power mode, it’s great for 0-60 in under 4.5 seconds, almost as fast as the Camaro SS. The Work Truck version of the Silverado EV will produce 510 horsepower and 615 lb-ft of torque, with 8,000 lbs of towing, and GM says a max tow package was introduced with up to 20,000 pounds of towing for fleet owners.

Based on current data, the Silverado EV delivers more range, horsepower, and faster charging than the Ford F-150 Lightning, with slight differences in towing and payload. With an available 775 lb-ft of torque, the F-150 Lightning is the torque output leader of the pair.

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Chevrolet Silverado EV
Chevrolet Silverado EV Photo by Chevrolet

Based on data from early 2022, the Rivian R1T offers more power, towing capacity and torque than the Silverado EV — but less range. With 350 kilowatts of fast charging, that’s more than the Tesla Cybertruck (250), Ford F-150 Lightning (150), and Rivian R1T (210). At power output, the Cybertruck’s 800 horsepower is available leaving the Silverado EV, though the Rivian has the highest towing capacity of this group, at 11,000 lbs.

However, the market has several barriers to EV adoption – including the effects of cold weather and towing on vehicle range. Cold temperatures can reduce the EV’s range significantly (about 40 percent at 30º below, in my experience), and towing can reduce the range even further.

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I asked Oury when we would see an EV pickup that could tow a trailer a few hundred kilometers in the middle of a Northern Ontario winter. He told me that when GM upgrades and updates the Ultium system, it will reach a point where enough energy can be stored on the board to mitigate this problem.

“If you look at the vehicles we need to supply to the market, a lot of them are very good at towing. Towing is on the roadmap, and we need a lot of energy to tow,” Oury said. “Our gas, diesel and EV models are tested the same way for cold weather. At the component level, we also test components to extreme temperatures. There is a lot of thermal mass in the battery that we can use to our advantage.”

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