How An Electric Chevrolet Suburban Can Change Future Transportation

The Chevrolet Suburban is one of my favorite SUV’s on the road. Why? Because I like the SUV’s size and it’s passenger/cargo capacity. I like big SUV’s, I won’t lie. I’ve driven a Suburban twice on two separate occasions and I enjoyed it. It’s also the oldest make still active on the road today. However, it’s no secret it’s a gas guzzler and creates emissions on the road, with no hybrid or electric variation to it. So how do we fix this?

I have my own ideas that I feel could be very beneficial. And I’m going to take advantage of the Suburban’s massive size to make it a more green SUV. I think the size is perfect for its kind, as the main purposes of the vehicle is to haul a lot of passengers (7, 8, or 9 depending on configuration) or to use it as a large space for cargo (like luggage and things like that). Right now the SUV gets 22/23 miles per gallon on the highway, and 15/16 miles per gallon in the city (depends on if the car is 2WD or 4WD). That’s improved over the years, but still it consumes a lot of gas and emits quite a bit of carbon.

Could the engine continued to be improved on in efficiency? Of course. I do believe they could get to 30 miles per gallon on the highway with a gas engine. That would be a great accomplishment for an SUV that big (The Suburban is over 18.5 feet long and sits almost 6 feet off the ground). I do believe that’s where the technology will go next. But what about a hybrid version of the car, or better yet an all-electric Suburban? Even if they do get to 30 mpg on the highway, the city gas mileage would still likely be under 20 mpg.

Getting the Suburban to operate as a hybrid would be a good first step. There was a Suburban hybrid planned years ago, but it did not make it to production. One of the big advantages of creating a hybrid version of the Suburban is to increase it’s city mpg, while at the same time having the car be able to run on electric when the car comes to a complete stop. That would reduce carbon emissions by a lot. The hybrid version of the Suburban would also increase the highway mpg because it would use an electric motor in combination with the gas mileage, much how it works in a Toyota Prius, except on a much larger scale.

But here’s the real gold where I believe the Suburban can change: Having it become a fully 100% electric vehicle. It certainly has the room underneath the hood to store a massive amount of battery power, as well as in the rear of the vehicle. The closest fully electric SUV we currently have is the Tesla Model X. Granted it’s a mid-size SUV and much smaller than the Suburban, but it’s important to point out because there has been something developed that approaches what the Suburban is. And Tesla has developed an electric tractor trailer cab capable of a 500 mile range, so that proves right there that at least 1 company that could put together an all electric Suburban.

How much battery power would the Suburban be able to handle? The current high end Tesla Model S and X can hold 100 kwh (kilowatt hours). Because of the Suburban’s sheer size, I believe it would be able to handle quite a bit more. Ideally I’d like to see it tried to be double to 200 kwh. But doubling the battery capacity isn’t the only option it could do to lengthen the life of the battery before it would need recharging. What Tesla is doing right now is developing more efficient batteries with more cells packed into the battery. That means the battery could have the same kilowatt hour capacity but last longer and not increasing the battery size either. Now if they could double the battery pack to 200kwh and develop a battery with more cells in it, that would be really exciting. Not only would the Suburban be a fully electric car, it could last a long time on the road (400 to 500 miles).

Here’s another idea I’d like to see implemented on a car like the Suburban. Since it’s a long vehicle, it has a relatively long roof on top of the car. Now I understand that many people who drive a car like the Suburban enjoy having a moon roof. But think for a second this possibility: What if the moon roof was dropped in favor of putting solar panels on the roof of the car? There wouldn’t be a whole lot of room to put large solar panels on, but a setup that utilized the space well could pack between 200 and 300 watts of solar power. Again, it’s not that much, but think of it this way: While driving down the highway, the solar panels could either help power the car and use the energy produced to help run the vehicle, or it could be used to store the energy and put a small charge into the engine, making it last a little longer. And when the car is parked, it could generate power as well, as long as it’s left out open where there is sun.

I believe that would be a game changer. If we can prove that large SUV’s like the Chevrolet Suburban can produce 400-500 miles of electric power on a single charge, it would lead to more cars being converted into electric vehicles. It would have a ripple effect in transportation. Could you imagine every single car and SUV being all electric, regardless of make? It would go a long way into reducing emissions produced in urban areas, especially dense urban areas. Imagine going into a popular part of downtown and not having to smell exhaust from cars and actually be able to fully enjoy downtown without the worry of foul smells. And at the same time, being able to reduce our reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. It’s always good to have a diversification of power sources and not rely on just one source of power.

Brian Cole

I'm Brian and I'm the founder of TransportationOfTomorrow.com. I have a strong passion for fixing America's transportation infrastructure problem and traffic flow issues. I ultimately want to see the American economy grow as far as it will go, create massive amounts of jobs, and in that way help the quality of how people live.

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