Confusing Choices: Chevrolet Silverado EV to Debut at CES 2022

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

All-electric pickup trucks are easily one of the strangest new vehicle segments of the day. Designed to appeal to a demographic of American motorists that normally wouldn’t give EVs a second glance, they’ve probably managed to get more tech nerds interested in pickups than anything else. Leathery dudes who have labored outdoors their entire lives remain dubious that fuel-deprived products will make ideal working vehicles. But there are outliers and their younger (or wealthier) counterparts seem much more willing to entertain the marketing push behind the sudden onslaught of bedded electrics. And one wonders where these trucks are supposed to belong.

On Thursday, General Motors announced that the Chevrolet Silverado EV will be making its official debut at CES 2022 — a venue that has become synonymous with highfalutin electrics both real and imagined. With traditional automotive trade shows being canceled left-and-right over pandemic fears, the event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show may have been Chevy’s best option. But it also opens up questions about what kind of customer is being targeted by the manufacturer.

While some all-electric trucks are obviously toys for people with more money than sense, others are clearly intended to be capable models with more than a few unique features made possible through electrification. Though we cannot forget that combustion pickups (and SUVs) have gradually become the de facto American luxury car, despite also managing to adhere to their humble origins. If you want a stout gizmo hauler for under $30,000, it’s available. But those seeking a lavishly appointed interior, meaty engine, and supple suspension can take the same vehicle with all the trimmings for a substantially higher MSRP.

It’s sort of the same story with electrics, just on a tighter timeline and less platform overlap. Originally framed as the economical solution to mankind’s need for combustible fuel, EVs have become fashionable automotive accessories with over half the segment averaging price tags in excess of $55,000.

When viewed as playthings designed to help early adopters flex on their neighbors, something like the Tesla Cybertruck or GMC Hummer EV SUT makes a lot more sense. But vehicles, like the upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning and Chevrolet Silverado EV, are clearly supposed to bridge the gap between trendy luxury products and a legitimate working companion that’s ready to haul around livestock and lumber.

Chevy’s choice to show its wares at CES kind of muddies the water. Though they were already clouded by pickups and utilities adopting things like panoramic glass roofs (which the upcoming Silverado will also offer) and massaging leather seats. The Rivian RT1 has been praised for its on-road performance, impressive versatility, novel design, and surplus of unique features — all of which were made possible by its electric powertrain. But it’s one of the first EVs to use the pickup body style and clearly designed to appeal to well-heeled, environmental types that visit REI on the weekends and own luxury cabins as their second home.

The Silverado, like Ford’s Lightning, was rumored to be targeting commercial fleets and the kind of people who knowingly buy pickups to beat them to death. But that might be some marketing magic on the part of the manufacturer, especially when GM has opted to display the all-electric Silverado at a locale famous for featuring hypothetical flying taxi services and vaporware automobiles, while simultaneously providing an outlet for companies to share their utopian visions of society.

All of this pertained to GM, which had CEO Mary Barra using the CES 2021 keynote as an opportunity to discuss an all-electric future where vehicles are perpetually connected to each other and flying luxury drones become the norm.

“At General Motors, our vision for the future is a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” she told last year’s virtual audience. “The key to unlock that vision is electrification. The electrification of global transportation can help reduce emissions and power the advanced systems and connectivity between vehicles and transportation infrastructure to help reduce congestion and crashes.”

Barra could be correct. But the current state of EVs hasn’t convinced me of anything and General Motors’ decision to stick with CES still makes me worry that the Silverado EV isn’t being taken seriously as a mainstream product. Ford revealed the Lightning itself, which is something Chevrolet could likewise do if it didn’t feel compelled to use the Las Vegas venue.

Then again, CES has gradually been supplanting traditional automotive trade events. We’ve even seen pricy gasoline models, like the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, start appearing at the show — and it has been the dominant outlet for previewing autonomous technologies for years. Heck, John Deere has a booth. Perhaps the trade shows of yesterday are simply becoming passé and underserving of the time and money invested by the industry. Maybe the perpetual cancellation of in-person activities has simply made when and where you showcase a vehicle irrelevant. But I’m worried that the Silverado EV is going to have a big debut at CES before swiftly being directed to the back of the bus and promptly forgotten about.

What does the readership think? Am I overthinking the relevance of the event or does the B&B likewise wonder if CES is the best venue for a mainstream electric pickup?

[Image: General Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Oct 08, 2021

    I as well like the simplicity of the EV motor and no transmission (no gears). Solar and wind alone will not generate enough power to sustain increased electrical demand. I am not against solar and wind use it where it is feasible. No one talks about nuclear power or using methane gas from landfills and sewer plants to supplement electrical generation. MIchael Moore's PLanet of the Humans shows the impracticality of just relying on solar and wind. Hydro power and geothermal energy are other sources. Why do many environmentalist limit power generation to just solar and wind when there are many sources of power that are environmentally sound.

    • See 4 previous
    • FreedMike FreedMike on Oct 08, 2021

      @MrIcky I've heard talk that Hoover Dam might not be usable for hydro for much longer.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Oct 08, 2021

    Well whether it is fusion or smaller scale modular reactors we as a country will not have enough electrical power generation with solar and wind especially if we are going to get off of fossil fuel unless we learn to live with continual brownouts. As for methane gas the Toyota Plant in Georgetown Kentucky uses methane gas from a nearby landfill which does not replace all electrical generation but it adds a significant amount to their power. What a lot of people don't realize is that there are numerous types of resources available for electrical generation and just limiting ourselves to just 1 or 2 will not be enough to meet our increased demand for electricity and when we add increased EVs to the mix we will not have nearly enough electricity. We are one of the richest countries in the World when it comes to resources and it doesn't make sense to limit ourselves. I will not get an EV until they are more affordable, battery technology improves, the infrastructure improves and there is enough electrical generation to meet increased electrical demand which presently we do not have especially in states like California.

  • Cprescott This is what happens when you are an early adopter. You are a test subject. Why do Toyoduh (and Honduh) owners feel so entitled?
  • Kosmo Love it. Can I get one with something other than Subaru's flat four?
  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.
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