What's the one thing that drives our lives?
Okay, food and sex are out. They are essentials.
I'm talking about numbers. They tell us where we live, how much we earn, and even give us our identity, at least, according to the government.
Numbers might also help you decide which version of the Chevrolet Silverado full-sized pickup to buy.
Take a gander at the numbers, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency: 15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway with a combined average of 16 mpg. Now compare that to 16 mpg city, 19 mpg highway with a combined average of 18 mpg. That's the difference in estimated fuel economy between a regular Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck equipped with all-wheel-drive and the hybrid version of the same vehicle.
According to the EPA, the annual difference in fuel cost comes down to just $210. The hybrid option on our test vehicle was $2,500. To recoup the cost of the hybrid option, you'd have to own the Chevrolet Silverado 11.9 years to recoup the option's extra cost.
By now, you're probably wondering why GM's hybrid returns such meager gains compared to Japanese small-car hybrids and also, why anyone would spend $2,500 to have one.
Well, just as you can't divine someone's personality from their Social Security number, neither can you get the full story on the Silverado hybrid from the EPA numbers.
As with most American pickups, the Silverado is available in a mind-numbing number of combinations. But the hybrid option is available only on extended cab models in either two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive. The test vehicle had the shorter 6.5-foot bed and was equipped with four-wheel-drive.
GM's hybrid drivetrain is known as a mild hybrid, and it is different from other hybrid drivetrains.
By comparison, the Toyota Prius uses a full hybrid drivetrain. Its electric motor propels the car at low speeds, without any help from the gas engine. The gas engine can thus be smaller, aiding in fuel economy.
Honda's hybrid system, used on the Insight, Civic and Accord, uses its battery-powered electric motor to help the gas engine, meaning the gas engine runs all the time. This results in lower fuel economy than the Prius.
The GM system is a mild hybrid, and it uses the electric motor as a replacement for the truck's alternator and generator. The electric motor is powered by a 42-volt battery pack nestled under the rear seat. It allows the truck's gasoline engine to shut down as it comes to a stop, such as at a red light. The electric motor instantly restarts the engine upon acceleration. The result is a 10 percent gain in fuel economy, according to GM.
Because the electric motor doesn't help out the gas engine, nor can it power the truck, the Silverado's 295-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 is the same as any Silverado. That means the hybrid vehicle can tow the same 7,400 pound trailer as the regular light-duty Silverado.
Of course, saving $210 a year might not seem like reason enough to buy one. But if you use the truck for work, you might want to consider one, especially if you are using a generator from the back of your pickup. The Silverado Hybrid's battery pack has enough juice to act as a generating station, and GM fits the truck with four 120-volt/20-amp power outlets. Therefore, a generator is not necessary because power tools can be plugged directly into the truck.
See? Numbers don't tell the whole story.
Here's the rest of it.
The hybrid Silverado performs and functions like any other Silverado. That means there is good power at all speeds. The transmission is a willing servant. The ride and handling are softer than in a Ford F-150, and there's some jiggling felt on bumpy surfaces, even though the truck remains under control.
The one thing that you'll need to get used to is coming to a stop on an uphill grade. If you take your foot off the brake, the truck rolls backwards. If you drive with two feet, this will not be an issue.
The test vehicle was equipped lavishly with dual automatic climate control, tilt steering wheel, heated mirrors, keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, Bose audio system, XM Satellite radio, aluminum wheels and heavy-duty suspension.
The bottom line number is $36,860, which isn't a lot different from that of any comparable pickup.
Availability for the new hybrid is limited to six states for 2005: California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada and Florida. For 2006, the vehicle will be available nationwide.
So the new Silverado hybrid can save gas while serving as a mobile generating station. That makes the Chevy Silverado hybrid one hot number in my book.