Saturday, November 16, 2019

California Got It First; Now it Goes Wide

Despite its reputation for palm trees and sunny beaches, California is home to many pickup trucks, second only to Texas. It’s probably because the middle of the state grows most of the country’s food. But with a new 12 cent gas tax being implemented this month, and a general upward trend in fuel costs, some farmers and others might be looking to save some money in the long run. Could expanded availability of hybrid technology be the answer?

GMC adds a little electrification

GMC recently told The Car Connection that it will be offering its Sierra pickup truck with light electrification that it calls  nationwide. The Sierra eAssist will be available in 2018, expanding a market that started in California two years ago. The hybrid option is available on a limited number of two-wheel drive Sierra SLT crew cab pickups.

Light electrification is the correct way to describe GMC’s hybrid system, as it is essentially a glorified stop-start system. Similar to hybrid systems found in other GM vehicles, eAssist combines a compact induction motor with an air-cooled, 0.45kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

The primary function of the system is to allow for longer engine shut-off when the vehicle comes to a stop. At a red light or in traffic, for example, eAssist allows the engine to shut off and eliminate wasteful fuel consumption. The battery pack continues to power the lights, heating and cooling, electrical accessories and more.

While the system is not really designed to add power to the Sierra’s 5.3-liter V-8, it can still provide up to 13 horsepower and 44 pounds-feet of torque, usually when accelerating from a standstill. The added power of the electric motor also allows Sierra’s Active Fuel Management system to run the V-8 engine in four-cylinder mode for extended periods of time.

California got the hybrid first–natch

While the new Sierra eAssist will by a hybrid, it is still a very heavy, V-8 powered truck. And as a result, fuel consumption is EPA-estimated at 18 mpg city/24 highway/20 combined, a two mpg increase from the standard Sierra V-8 across the board (although that will be an 11 percent boost). While not the largest increase in fuel economy, eAssist will still help truck owners save fuel, especially when towing heavy loads.

Pricing for the Sierra eAssist has been a mere $500 bump from the standard Sierra. In addition, as is typical with General Motors, the eAssist option will be available on the Chevrolet Silverado (sister truck to the Sierra).

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Nick Zatopa is a contributor at Smarticd. Nick is heavily into the modified car scene, but has become increasingly interested in performance electric and hybrid vehicles. A graduate of the University of San Francisco with a degree in Media Studies, he has also worked in the automotive industry.

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