Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid

We put the new Silverado Hybrid through its paces.

If you believe gasoline prices will remain low, we have some Florida investment opportunities you shouldn't miss. If you're not quite so gullible, we have a recommendation. Climb aboard the fuel-efficiency wagon now. GM is ready to help ease your angst at the gas pumps with new hybrid pickup trucks that deliver better mileage at the cost of a little less towing capability.

Hitched to a 23' Sea Ray bowrider on a tandem-axle ShoreLand'r trailer, the 2009 Chevy Silverado Hybrid I recently tested in Texas brought a 5,900-pound tow rating to the party along with 10-mpg fuel efficiency. In addition to quiet and capable cruising with a medium-sized boat in tow, this truck offers an impressive 20-mpg all-around mileage when you're motoring bobtail.

GM's two-mode hybrid system is an ingenious amalgamation of a 6.0-liter V-8, two 80-hp electric motors, an assortment of planetary gears and clutch packs, and a 300-volt nickel-metalhydride battery pack. While towing, this hybrid system performs about the same as a Silverado with a conventional 6.2-liter engine. So why bother? The gain in suburban mileage without a trailer is a whopping 40 percent. Fuel is saved by shutting down the engine at stop lights and at low speeds. The electric motors propel this truck unassisted up to 30 mph. When you need maximum oomph, the gas-electric team goes to work yanking a boat and trailer out of the water and up the ramp with more pure pulling power than is provided by a standard 6.2-liter V-8.

Because of the size of the battery pack, which is stashed under the rear seat, the hybrid powertrain is only offered on crew cab pickups with your choice of two- or four-wheel drive ($3,150 extra). This system costs $3,500 over a standard powertrain, but our generous government kicks back $2,200 in the form of an "energy credit" deductible from your federal income tax. Assuming this truck gets 5 mpg better mileage at $4 per gallon, payback comes in 20,000 miles.