By Mark Boada, Senior Editor
Indianapolis may not be everybody’s ideal destination for early March, but it was the place to be last week as The Work Truck Show set records for product unveilings and press conferences. It also made for a lot of exciting news for the light- and medium-duty markets.
General Motors grabbed top billing, as it used the show to unveil its brand-new Chevy Silverado 6500-HD, the top of the line model in its re-entry this year into the Class 4 through 6 market. The rest of its new lineup includes the Silverado 4500-HD and 5500-HD trucks.
Chevy discontinued its presence in the segment in the 2009 model year, when it dropped its Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC Topkick offerings. The new line – an extension of the brand for its pickup trucks — puts it squarely in competition with Ford, which leads the segment with its F-series. GM says it is aiming at a 25 percent share of the medium-duty market, which features seven manufacturers.
Ed Peper, vice president for GM’s U.S. fleet and commercial operations, beamed with enthusiasm over the 6500-HD. “It’s best in class, and we think it’s going to be a smashing success,” he said when FMW visited the GM booth. “It’s got an Allison automatic transmission, the best in the world, our 6.6 Duramax turbodiesel V-8 engine, and a tight turning radius.”
The powertrain delivers 350 horsepower and 700 lb-feet of torque, enabling it to carry up to 22,900 pound of GVWR. It will come in both two- and four-wheel drive versions.
Ford made its own splash with the unveiling of its updated Transit Connect small delivery van for 2019. The big news is that the model includes the first diesel engine in the segment, a 1.5-liter turbodiesel it expects to earn an EPA rating of more than 30 mpg on the highway. It will still be offered with gasoline engines, a 2.0- liter and 2.5-liter version.
All three versions also come with a refreshed front-end fascia, automatic emergency braking, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, and an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment. They can also be ordered in short- or long-wheelbase configuration, and either with dual rear doors or an optional liftgate.
The Transit Connect wasn’t the only way Ford made headlines in Indy. XL – formerly known as XL Hybrids – unveiled the product of its collaboration with Ford to create the first hybrid Ford F-250. Powered by XL’s trademarked XLH hybrid electric system, the truck is slated to go into production this month. Clay Siegert, XL’s chief operating officer, claims its system, a range-extender, achieves a 25 percent increase in miles per gallon and accompanying reductions in CO2 emission.
Last year, XL introduced its XLP hybrid range extender for the Ford F-150 pickup. “Ford trucks are in high demand by XL’s fleet customers, so we developed our hybrid-electric upfit solutions for both the F-150 and F-250 pickup to support needs for power, payload, as well as better fuel economy,” said Siegert.
In its press release, XL said the installation of XLH hybrid and XLP plug-in systems are completed in just hours on pickup trucks as a Ford ship-thru upfit. “Fleets will maintain the complete original equipment manufacturer’s warranty and receive a three-year, 75,000-mile warranty from XL on the hybrid powertrain,” the company said. “XLH and XLP will also include the XL Link™ cloud-based big data analytics system, which collects millions of operational data points, measuring MPG performance, reporting carbon dioxide emissions reductions and other key performance indicators.”
Motiv Power Systems also teamed up with Ford to grab a headline, with the unveiling of its new EPIC all-electric chassis, for the Ford F-450, F-59 and F-53 platforms. The acronym stands for Electric Powered Intelligent Chassis, and is designed for use in such medium-duty applications as walk-in vans, box trucks, school buses, shuttle buses, work trucks and specialty vehicles.
Motiv’s F-450 chassis was on display in the Ford booth. Unlike Motiv’s other electrification systems, the EPIC can be dropped in to Ford’s standard chassis, instead of requiring a customized chassis. In its press release, Motiv said, the “EPIC chassis is available with universal charging flexibility and fleet/driver connectivity.”
Motiv also announced at the show that it has agreed to provide Spartan Motors battery-electric chassis products for Spartan’s class 4-6 Utilimaster step vans for three years. Motiv said its chassis provides universal charging compatibility and secure remote telematics and diagnostics. A walk-in van equipped with it can provide a range of 100 to 150 miles per charge and up to 30% gradeability, according to Spartan.
Workhorse, an Ohio-based company that makes a remarkable variety of electric-powered products, including a helicopter, won one of the show’s innovation awards for its W-15 plug-in electric pickup truck. The truck, unveiled late last year, features an all-carbon fiber body, has an engine that generates 460 horsepower, accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds, and has a payload capacity of 2,200 pounds and can tow 5,500 pounds.
Although the truck has an electric-only range of 80 miles, it has a supplemental gasoline engine that extends its range to 310 miles per tank, and a fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon on the highway and 32 miles per gallon on city roads. Safety-wise, the vehicle’s electric engine accommodates an “extra-large” crumple zone, a lower center of gravity for improved handling, true all-wheel drive, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking.
CEO Steve Burns told FMW that the truck, which will go into production, has already received some 6,000 orders from both commercial and government fleets.
With action like this, I’m looking forward to booking my flight to Indianapolis next March. See you there?