General Motors Chevrolet and GMC gasoline-electric hybrid pickup trucks -- which double as mobile power generators -- will get their first real world test helping hurricane victims in Florida.
Each truck is equipped with four 120-volt outlets, which can be used to power refrigerators, lights, drills, saws, computers and other electrical appliances that use standard household voltage, said GM powertrain spokesman Matt Kester.
You can run four refrigerators at the same time, said Kester. The truck also makes enough electricity to power air conditioners.
GM is planning to send between 40 and 50 of the trucks to the hardest hit areas of Florida, said GM spokeswoman Rebecca Harris. The trucks just started limited production and are in short supply. GM is building just 2,500 units this year.
Kester said GM has another 30 or so pre-production hybrid trucks in inventory that the automaker might be able to send to Florida. However, those trucks, built for testing purposes, may not be street-legal. Kester said GM lawyers have to look into whether the trucks can be used.
About a million Florida residents were without power Monday, two days after Hurricane Charley roared the central part of the state, leaving 17 people dead, thousands homeless and billions in damage. Some residents have been told that they will be without power for up to two weeks.
GM has 50 of the trucks already on the ground in Florida. They were sold to Miami Dade County in this summer, the biggest fleet order to date for the trucks. The county has committed one truck for hurricane relief because the rest are being used to provide backup power for an upcoming election, said a county spokesman.
GM also has three of the trucks in its press fleet and those also may be sent to the eight counties where damage is extensive.
DaimlerChrysler also has a Ram hybrid truck that can generate electricity, but it hasnt started production; only a few pilot build models have been assembled. A Dodge spokesman said the company didnt have any Ram hybrids it could send to Florida. Chrysler group will build 100 of the trucks later this year and plans to sell them to utility companies.
The GM trucks generate the power while idling and can run indefinitely without overheating. With a full tank of gas, a Silverado or Sierra hybrid truck can generate electricity for about 32 hours, said GM powertrain spokesman Matt Kester. As a safety measure the trucks can be locked in park with the keys removed and doors locked while the engine is running.