Spied: GM could be passing on aluminum truck beds and expanding its hybrid option

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Updated Jun 27, 2017

GM may be passing on aluminum—at least when it comes to the truck beds of its full-size Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.

Spy photographers have been keeping up with GM’s latest half-ton prototypes driving around Michigan—and some have been carrying their magnets along for the ride! In fact, spy photogs working for pickuptrucks.com approached a half-ton GM pickup recently and tried the magnet test on the bed. It stuck, indicating that the bed is made of steel.

“This is our latest look at GM’s next-generation 1500 pickups. This time, though, we caught them on video, and can confirm they have a steel bed and stop-start technology,” an unnamed reporter writes.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise if GM passes on aluminum. After all, the automaker scored millions of YouTube hits last year demonstrating the strength of its steel bed over Ford’s aluminum bed. Honda eventually got into the act and posted a video showing the strength of its composite bed used in its Ridgeline pickup.

Now, regarding that stop-start feature on that spied GM pickup…pickuptrucks.com reports that it could be pointing to a hybrid powertrain. Again, not a surprise. In January, GM reported that it had quickly sold 500 2016 eAssist Silverado 1500s in California—the only state where the trucks have been marketed, but maybe not for long.

“We are continuing for the 2017 model year in California and evaluating other markets,” Rita Kass-Shamoun, assistant manager of GM’s fleet, dealer and customer care communications said.

Hybrid GMC Sierra 1500s have also been sold exclusively in California. GM’s eAssist is a mild hybrid with lithium-battery based technology borrowed from the Chevy Volt and Malibu hybrid. GM reports that the truck gets up to a 13 percent gain in city fuel economy.

While batteries can pack on weight and effect payload, if strategically placed they can offer some benefits as Torque Trends, manufacturer of the electric conversion kit for Ford’s F-150, explained to HWT last month. Torque Trends places their lithium-phosphate cells below the cab, which they report improves handling by providing a lower center of gravity. Also, they attribute shorter braking distances to the battery pack which adds weight to the rear axle which usually runs much lighter than the front because of an empty bed.

Pickup electrification shows no signs of slowing down. Ford announced earlier this year that it will be offering a hybrid F-150 by 2020. Also, last month Workhorse unveiled the nation’s first electric pickup.

Besides test-driving the Workhorse, HWT also got some seat time recently in an electric F-150 that was converted by Canadian company Ecotuned.