Extensive use of carbon fiber was key to the Silverado Cheyenne Concept weighing significantly less than its counterpart, the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado.
“This is probably the first time that we’ve ever looked at this much carbon fiber usage on one vehicle,” David Ross, Design Styling Manager for Chevrolet Performance & Specialty Builds, said during an SAE Magazines interview in advance of the Silverado Cheyenne Concept’s debut. The Cheyenne is one of several vehicles Chevrolet is showcasing at the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas November 5-9.
Designers and engineers involved in developing the Cheyenne concept wanted more than minimal weight reduction, which is why the truck’s entire 6-1/2 ft (1.98 m) truck box is made of carbon fiber.
“We literally pulled all the sheet metal from the bed of a 2014 Silverado and produced a carbon-fiber bed at General Motors’ Warren, MI, design center shops,” Ross said.
Cheyenne’s bulkhead, right side inner, left side inner, bed floor, bed floor supports, tailgate inner, and tailgate outer components were cast directly from Silverado’s sheet metal surface math. Structural adhesive was used to attach the carbon-fiber truck bed to the underside cross members, which were attached to the truck frame.
The concept truck’s hand-laid pre-preg, low-temperature carbon-fiber bed has a standard automotive water-based, clear-coat with a custom blue tint. The carbon-fiber truck bed is capable of holding the same amount of weight as a production Silverado.
Cheyenne’s front and rear lower bumpers replace the production Silverado’s stamped steel bumpers. “Chevrolet’s advanced engineering has done some testing of carbon fiber bumpers, and we’re seeing the potential for many of the energy-absorbing capabilities normally associated with steel bumpers,” said Ross.
A five-vent hood extractor, the front splitter, the side mirror caps, as well as interior accents are carbon fiber. The lightweight material’s usage on the Cheyenne helps account for the concept pickup truck’s mass being about 200 lb (91 kg) less than the 4503 lb (2043 kg) base curb mass of the 5.3-L V8-powered production Silverado with a 6-1/2 ft box.
Moving forward, more vehicle models will employ lightweight materials to help meet the EPA’s mandate that every automaker achieve a 54.5 mpg fleet average by 2025. According to Sandor Piszar, Director of Strategy & Planning for GM’s Performance Vehicles & Motorsports, “We’re working to build up our expertise in using carbon fiber as it really does provide opportunities for weight savings while maintaining strength.”
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the automaker’s most carbon-fiber-intensive production vehicle to date. All 2014 Corvette models have a carbon-fiber hood, while the coupes also sport a carbon-fiber roof. The Corvette Stingray’s Class-A carbon-fiber panels are produced via a patented pressure press technology by Plasan Carbon Composites.
In addition to Cheyenne’s extensive carbon-fiber usage, the concept truck is minus a trailer hitch, spare tire, and interior center console. Weight reduction also meant less sound-deadening material usage.
From a performance perspective, the Cheyenne taps components used on the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. The Silverado Cheyenne Concept sports 19-in aluminum wheels and high-performance tires, Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and Recaro bucket sport seats.
According to Ross, “Reminiscent of the Z/28’s hood louvers, the concept’s carbon-fiber hood extractor allows the flow of air to go through the engine compartment and radiator a lot more efficiently. This extractor also provides a small amount of downforce by relieving some of the back pressure and some of the heat.”
Other performance-orientated Cheyenne treatments include a composite rear leaf spring, a Borla performance exhaust with dual black chrome tips, and a tubular sway bar. “The sway bar on this concept was modified to make it feel, ride, and perform more like a Z/28,” said Ross. The Cheyenne is also approximately 2 in (51 mm) lower in stance than the production Silverado.
The highest output gasoline engine available in the production truck lineup--the 420 hp/460 lb·ft EcoTec3 6.2-L V8--powers the Cheyenne. In regular cab production models of the 2014 Silverado, two EcoTec3 engine choices are available: a 4.3-L V6, and a 5.3-L V8 that is SAE certified to produce 355 hp (250 kW) at 5600 rpm and 383 lb·ft (519 N·m) at 4100 rpm on gasoline fuel.
Jim Campbell, GM’s Vice President of Performance Vehicles & Motorsports, said the concept pickup truck exemplifies performance by “reducing mass and getting the horsepower to weight ratio as optimal as possible.” The vehicle’s 0-60 mph time is estimated at 5.3 s.
Chevrolet’s performance and specialty vehicle group developed the high-performance, lightweight full-size pickup concept truck with plenty of input from the production side, according to Ross.
“This lightweight truck was proposed by the Chevrolet truck group development team. We had a lot of discussions and reviews with them all along the development process,” said Ross, adding, “Even as extreme as the Silverado Cheyenne Concept is, we wanted to access the truck group’s expertise as much as possible because they are the people who could make something like this concept happen in volume production.”
In addition to the Silverado Cheyenne Concept, Chevrolet will showcase 38 other vehicles at the 2013 SEMA Show.