GM released some more information on what the plug-in Saturn Vue Hybrid would be like.
It will (if made) use the 2-mode hybrid system, developed co-jointly with BMW and DaimlerChrysler. The dual mode system will debut in 2007 with the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size hybrid SUVs.
It will also utilize lithium-ion batteries, when ready. As Wagoner (Chief Executive of GM) puts it, "The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable. I can’t give you a production date for our plug-in hybrid today. But I can tell you that this is a top priority program for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement."
Plug-in hybrids allow cars to extend their electric-only periods. Hybrid car batteries are recharged by the gas engine and regenerative braking. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) get recharged overnight from the electric grid. Some critics claim that plugging in to the grid just switches the pollution from the gas exhaust to the power stations (some of which run on coal).
The Saturn Vue plug-in would be expected to run for more than 10 miles on electric-only. At higher speeds, higher acceleration or longer distances, the hybrid engine (i.e. gas and electric combined) would power the SUV.
The powertrain will feature Lithium-ion batteries hooked into a two interior permanent magnet motors along with a 3.6L V-6 gas engine with direct injection.
The 2-mode hybrid system will be altered for use with plug-in technology. It maintains two driving modes – one for city driving, the other for highway driving – and four fixed mechanical gears to maximize efficiency while maintaining performance. In addition, special controls will be utilized to enable higher speeds during electric-only propulsion and maintain electric-only propulsion for longer periods of time.
The future of GMs hybrid vehicles follows (direct from the press release):
- This year, the GM Hybrid system, an affordable belt-alternator starter hybrid technology, debuted in the Vue Green Line front-wheel-drive SUV.
- In 2007, the GM Hybrid system will expand to the Saturn Aura Green Line and Chevrolet Malibu front-wheel-drive midsize sedans.
- In 2007, the 2-mode hybrid system will debut in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs. Rear-wheel and four-wheel drive will be offered.
- In 2008, the 2-mode hybrid system will expand to the Cadillac Escalade full-size SUV and the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra crew cab full-size pickups. The Escalade will offer all-wheel drive, while the Silverado and Sierra will offer rear-wheel and four-wheel drive.
- In 2008, the first front-wheel-drive application of the 2-mode hybrid system, will debut – without plug-in technology – in the Vue Green Line. The Vue Green Line will offer customers a choice of the GM Hybrid system or the 2-mode hybrid system.
- In 2009, an electric all-wheel-drive, 2-mode hybrid system will be introduced in the Vue Green Line.
Update: With the release of the plug-in Saturn Vue at the auto show in Detroit, I thought I should come back and give an update. Follow the links for more information on the Saturn Vue Green Line 2, the next dual mode hybrid from GM. Although Saturn was hoping to get the plug-in Vue out in 2009, the latest word is it won't be available until 2010. GM is hoping the Volt will go 40 miles on electric power alone, but the Vue will get 10 miles. Instead, the trade off will benefit the Vue's towing power, allowing it to still tow 3,500 lbs. GM currently thinks the Vue may get to the starting line before the Volt does.
The competition isn't sitting still, either. The latest plug-in hybrid news comes from Fisker and Toyota. Both are hoping to beat GM to the line. Fisker is hoping to get the Karma, a four door sedan out before anyone else. But Toyota already has a test version of a plug-in Prius (the HV) on the road in Japan.