The Chevy Silverado, a major pickup contender since 1999, is once again dominating the headlines with the announcement of its new all-electric version. This brand new Silverado EV, when it hits the road for the 2024 model year, is the first of its type and also the first on the new GM Ultium battery platform. But there is much more to the Silverado than its recent history. Like many successful models that we know and love today, the Silverado name was once originally a trim on another vehicle. While we celebrate the future of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and its upcoming EV iteration, let’s also take a deep dive into its past and how we got here. The more you learn about the Silverado, the more you’ll want to visit your local Chevy Silverado dealer for a test drive.
Where We Started
The Chevrolet Motor Car Company started in 1911, and it took just seven years for the company to create its first pickup, the One Ton. The One Ton truck was put into production after the powers-that-be realized how handy it was to have vehicles that hauled things from place to place in their plants and that perhaps other businesses would like it, too. As Chevy itself says, it is a prime example that sometimes, “form follows function.” The One Ton had an open cab with either an open chassis or a curtain-top flatbed. This meant that customers could customize it to their needs. The first closed-cab Chevy truck came over a decade later in 1929, and nearly another decade later, the Half-Ton hit the scene. The Half-Ton featured a longer, lower design with more structured fenders, as it was the first time Chevy realized cars and trucks should have different designs to appeal to their different audiences.
Fast forward a few decades, and in 1960, Chevy introduced the C/K line. The C was used for trucks with two-wheel drive, while the K represented a truck with four-wheel drive. Besides standard production pickups, the C/K came in just a chassis body for customer customization, just like the One Ton, and they were the base for SUVs. 1967 introduced the C10 Action Line. Chuck Scheer, director of Exterior Design for Chevy Trucks, says that this is “the first truck that I truly fell in love with.” Highlights of this design included a hint of wheel flare and a strong shoulder, making for a balanced line that swept the length of the truck. In addition, the C10 Fleetside had a front grille that connected the lights to the bowtie badging, a design element that continues today.
1973 brought the first C/K crew cab dually, making it what many consider to be the first proper heavy-duty truck. This one-ton dually proved pickups could be used for both hard work and everyday driving. Two years later, we first see the introduction of the Silverado trim. It was the top of the four trim C/K trim levels. In 1998, the C/K name was retired, and Silverado became the face of Chevy pickups. There are a lot of similarities between the original Chevy Silverado and GMC’s Sierras, but the Silverado, specifically, introduced many design details we still see in the line today, including that distinctive front end.
The contemporary Chevy Silverado features not just full-size pickups but also medium-duty commercial trucks–introduced in 2018–and, still, chassis cab trucks for full business customization. The light-duty Silverado debuted with two-door regular cabs and a three-door extended cab. Since those early years, a four-door extended cab and a front-hinged four-door crew cab were added as options. A short box cargo bed is available for the crew and extended cabs. Over the years, there have been many revisions to the line, both in design and under the hood.
2003 introduced the Silverado SS, a high-performance trim with an extended cab, standard all-wheel drive, upgraded drive train, and 6.0-liter V8 engine–the same engine, in fact, as used in the second generation Cadillac Escalade. The heavy-duty Silverado showed up at the turn of the last century. There were three HD models, and they had a few engine options. The current 2500 HD has a max available towing rate of 18,510 pounds, while the 3500 HD nearly doubles that to 36,000 pounds. With the 2022 Silverado HD, you can get up to 15 camera views, so whatever you’re hauling with all that power, you’ll be able to see all around it.
The very first hybrid Silverado was introduced in 2004. Who would have thought that a pickup would be GM’s very first hybrid passenger vehicle? The Silverado is a familiar sight on construction sites because building companies like it for its utility. The hybrid Silverado lost none of that usefulness thanks, in part, to the fact that it had four AC 120-volt outlets (two in the bed and two behind the rear seats) besides having comparable power to the traditional gas engines.
Into the Future
Without that early Silverado hybrid, we wouldn’t be where we are today, with the Silverado EV set to debut for the 2024 model year. Chevy says the EV Silverado isn’t just a truck; it’s a “category-defying, boundary-breaking game-changer.” And, well, they have a point. The Silverado EV will be the first Chevy built with the new Ultium battery system. The Ultium system utilizes batteries that can be arranged in a variety of layouts, making them functional for not just the Silverado EV, but also the smallest of compact cars and everything in between. This modular functionality is what will help GM with its goal of only selling EVs by 2035. The Silverado EV is not missing any power, offering up to 664 horsepower and 780 pound-feet of torque. It’s estimated to go from zero to 60 in under 4.5 seconds.
On the outside, the Silverado EV only comes in a crew cab, and it has a shorter front overhang, so it looks more low-set, solid, and aggressive. This downward shift allows for a more spacious interior than other trucks, especially as the second row of seating has also been pushed backward, making more room for your taller backseat passengers. The cargo bed is nearly six feet long, and it has a Multi-Flex Midgate. This midgate, first seen on the now-discontinued Chevy Avalanche, allows you to fold the wall between the cabin and the bed, thereby extending the cargo space to just over nine feet in length. The Silverado EV will also have Chevy’s patented Multi-Flex Tailgate. The Multi-Flex Tailgate adds a load stop for carrying extra-long items, functions as a standing workstation, and makes it easier to step into, access, and load items into the cargo area.
Inside, the Silverado EV features a massive 17” infotainment touchscreen and an 11” driver instrument display. There’s also a multi-color driver head-up display with a field of view over 14 inches. Besides being the first practical use of the Ultium battery system, the Silverado EV will be the first Chevy to feature the Linux-based Ultifi tech system, allowing for more regular and faster software updates. Ed Peper, vice president of GM Fleet, says, “We’re excited to launch the Silverado EV, providing customers with a true work-capable truck to help them begin the transition to an electric fleet and assist them in achieving their own sustainability goals.” In other words, the Silverado EV isn’t just a trendy, environmentally-friendly truck; it’s a proper pickup, as well.
Silver is Gold
Chevrolet has been a major automotive player for over 110 years, and from trim to model to industry changer, the Silverado continues to be a standard of the Chevy line. Chevy utilized functional vehicles in its earliest factories, and they’re poised to help you with all your work needs, as well. This truck isn’t just an old standard; it’s leading the way into the future. Even if you’re not looking for an electric truck, the current gas-powered model is, as Chevy says, “the strongest, most advanced Silverado ever,” with a variety of engines and trims to take you from the worksite to the grocery store with ease. Check it out at your local dealer today.