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New GM electric truck faces competition and sceptical buyers

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, MICHIGAN (AP) – The competition among United States (US) automakers for a still-small pool of consumers seeking electric vehicles is quickly intensifying.

General Motors, normally the top-selling US automaker, officially unveiled the Chevrolet Silverado EV on Wednesday with a virtual press conference 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. Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, has promised an all-electric Ram.

Industry analysts said the intense competition in the electric pickup market means that battery-powered vehicles are moving into the mainstream after years of confinement to luxury or smaller vehicles.

Pickups are among the most popular vehicles in the nation. Ford’s F-Series is traditionally the top-selling vehicle in America, followed by Stellantis’ Ram pickup and the Silverado.

The 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST on display in Detroit. PHOTO: AP

Automakers sold more than 2.3 million big pickups last year, about 15 per cent of all vehicles sold in the US. Many go for well over USD50,000 and are a huge source of profits and jobs with the automakers.

But converting buyers from gas and diesel powered V8 and V6 engines may be a tough sell, especially for those 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 President Jeff Schuster of global forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm. “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, said an electric truck wouldn’t work for his business, which has clients in four states.

Some days they drive 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 on Tuesday at a housing subdivision under construction near Ann Arbor, Michigan. “How long is it going to take me to charge the batteries?” for the return trip, he asked, also wondering where charging stations would be located.

GM said 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, and competitors, also have the ability to power tools on the job site, tow trailers and even power a house when the electricity goes out.

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

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

“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 seamlessly use their stations, Chevrolet Marketing Vice President Steve Majoros said.

The trucks also offer up to 10 outlets to power electric tools at job sites and can go from zero to 60 mph in as little as 4.5 seconds. Initially they will tow up to 10,000 pounds and carry up to 1,300 pounds in the bed, but later versions will tow up to 20,000 pounds.