Because big trucks are among the worst gas-guzzlers, remodelers are feeling the pinch. Fortunately, the latest pickups offer increased fuel efficiency through alternate-fuel or “hybrid” gas/electric engines.

In 2005 GM introduced hybrid pickups, which have a standard gasoline engine augmented by a 14-kilowatt electric starter generator. The electric motor supplies supplemental power (including a 120-volt alternating current to power electric tools) and allows the vehicle to shut down instead of idling. GM offers 5.3-liter V8 hybrid gas/electric engines in its 2006 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra (shown) pickups.

Chevy heavy-duty HD Silverado pickups are available in bi-fuel models that run on gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG), a green fuel. Ford, which says it will produce 250,000 hybrid-electric vehicles per year by 2010, offers flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) technology on all F-150 pickup engines. These vehicles operate on either gasoline or a corn-based ethanol mixture; the engines will run exclusively on E85, an 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline blend.

Though there's no upcharge on FFV engines, the vehicles require special fuel pumps designed to withstand the highly corrosive ethanol, which are hard to come by in the U.S. where there are currently fewer than 500 flex-fuel fueling stations nationwide.

Adapted from the March/April 2006 issue of BUILDING PRODUCTS magazine.