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Light-duty work truck offerings from GM

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For fleets that use light-duty work trucks—pickups and commercial vans in particular—General Motors continues to offer an array of alternative fuel-powered models. These vehicles are gaining in popularity in corporate and government operations. Verizon Communications, for example, just announced it is buying 576 Chevrolet Silverado hybrid pickup trucks.

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Recently, on loan from GM and supplied by Fred Mackerodt Inc., of Montvale N.J., we had an opportunity to put a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid full-size pickup through its paces. The Silverado Hybrid crew cab 4WD model is a sister vehicle to the GMC Sierra Hybrid.

GM’s hybrid pickups utilize the OEM’s two-mode hybrid system, a scaled down version of technology developed and used in fleets of hybrid transit buses in more than 70 North American and European cities. The system is used in conjunction with the Vortec 6.0-liter gasoline V-8 engine with Active Fuel Management (AFM) and late intake valve closing (LIVC) technology, an electrically variable transmission (EVT) and 300-volt nickel-metal hydride energy storage system (ESS).

Other features of the vehicles include an electrically driven 300-volt air conditioning compressor and 42-volt variable-assist power steering, which the company says provides up to a 0.5 MPG fuel economy improvement by reducing parasitic losses common in belt-driven hydraulic systems.

The hybrid technology in the GM and Chevy pickups enable the vehicles to launch and drive up to 30 MPH on electricity alone, and operate in a more economical V-4 mode for longer periods. The result, the OEM says, is 40% greater city fuel economy and a 25% improvement in overall fuel economy while delivering the capability of a full-size truck, including a 6,100-lb. towing capacity.

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EPA estimated fuel economy for both 2WD and 4WD models are 21 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway. Combined with a 26-gal. fuel tank, the Silverado Hybrid delivers a cruising range of more than 500 miles.

GM also announced recently that it is making available compressed natural Gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) powered versions of its Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans. The full-size models will be offered to fleet and commercial customers beginning with cargo vans with CNG capability this fall and LPG capability on cutaway vans in early 2011.

The CNG and LPG powered vans from GM will feature a Vortec 6.0-liter V8 engine with hardened exhaust valves and intake and exhaust valve seats, along with integrated gaseous fuel injection and fuel storage systems. Both systems will meet EPA and CARB certification requirements. GM cites customer interest and an expansion in the nation’s CNG and LPG infrastructure in key fleet markets as the reasons it is now able to offer these options.

“We recognize the value in providing our fleet and commercial customers with a range of fuel saving and alternative fuel technologies,” said Joyce Mattman, director of GM’s commercial products and specialty vehicles. ”The CNG and LPG additions are part of GM’s expanding alternative fuel portfolio including more than 17 E85-capable and five hybrid models in our fleet and commercial vehicle lineup.”

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Fleets that use light-duty work trucks now have even more options to choose from, not only for their fuel saving capabilities but also for the environmentally friendly message they send to customers and constituents alike.

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