SEATTLE - When the lights went out in August during the great power failure of 2003, Tom Stephens looked around GM Powertrain headquarters for the keys to a prototype of a Chevrolet hybrid pickup.
Stephens, General Motors' global powertrain chief, knew he could save the contents of his freezer and keep at least part of his house lighted with the truck.
Another executive at the Ypsilanti, Mich., operation had beat Stephens to it, so Stephens joined millions throughout Michigan, Ohio, New York and parts of Canada who cleaned out refrigerators and freezers.
The next time the power goes out, owners of GM's first mainstream hybrid vehicle could have an easier time of it.
GM is about seven weeks away from launching the gasoline-electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado. Under the hood is a V-8 mated to an electric starter-alternator. The vehicle can function as a mobile generator, with two 120-volt outlets in the bed.
The first 500 trucks will go to corporate and government fleets. Consumers will be able to buy them early next spring.
The hybrid pickup is an important vehicle for GM and Detroit. The Big 3 trail Toyota and Honda in bringing hybrid powertrains to market.
GM is following the rollout of the Silverado hybrid with 235 diesel-electric powertrains for city buses in the Seattle area. The buses enter service next summer.