Miami-Dade County gets big hybrid pickup

/ Source: The Associated Press

General Motors Corp. delivered the industry’s first full-size hybrid pickup Monday to Miami-Dade County, one of 50 such vehicles expected to be added to the county’s fleet.

The trucks feature a V-8 engine and four-speed automatic transmission coupled with hybrid technology that delivers 10 percent to 12 percent better fuel economy than GM’s conventional half-ton pickups.

GM made the delivery of the Chevrolet Silverado on Monday at a conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Miami-Dade County plans to receive the remainder of the extended-cab hybrid pickups later this month.

“We’re looking forward to putting our new hybrid trucks on the road and on the job,” said Miami-Dade County representative Olga Diaz.

The Silverado is considered a “mild” hybrid by industry standards. GM, the world’s largest automaker, has said its advanced hybrids — those that can achieve a fuel-economy improvement of up to 35 percent — are not scheduled to reach showrooms until 2007.

That means GM will be roughly three years behind its biggest rival, Ford Motor Co., in offering a full-hybrid vehicle in the United States. Ford plans to begin selling a hybrid version of its Escape SUV this summer. Toyota’s luxury Lexus division is scheduled to begin selling a hybrid SUV later this year.

Hybrids draw power from two energy sources, typically a gas or diesel engine combined with an electric motor. The only versions now available in the United States are small cars made by Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., but nearly every automaker is investing in hybrid technology.

In addition to improvements in fuel economy and emissions, GM’s first hybrid pickups — the Silverado as well as the GMC Sierra — feature four 120-volt, 20 amp electrical auxiliary power outlets under the rear seat of the cab and in the pickup bed.

For now, the trucks are available only for fleet customers. Mild-hybrid versions of the Silverado and Sierra are expected to be available to retail customers this fall.

Pricing hasn’t been announced, but hybrids for now cost more than conventional vehicles.