GM floated the idea of leasing the battery in their plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), i.e. the Chevy Volt, in the US a few months ago. Now they are floating the idea in Europe for their Opel Plug-In Hybrid, the Flextreme.
The problem is the premium price consumers pay when buying a hybrid car. Most of the extra cost (to the automaker) comes from the very large battery packs. The last estimate I saw on how much more it costs GM to build a hybrid is $10,000. Obviously, few people would be willing to pay that much more for a car, even if the gas savings were great.
GM's solution is simple. Instead of purchasing the hybrid battery pack outright, as you normally purchase all parts of your vehicle, GM wants to lease the battery instead. By charging a similar amount to what you would normally pay in gas instead, GM is hoping to sell consumers on the overpriced batteries. So, instead of paying for gas, you would be paying for the electricity from the battery pack.
What GM gets: More people buying the hybrid cars they build (hopefully) and a steady paycheck from the consumer for the lifetime of the car.
What the buyer gets: Full coverage on the battery system. If the battery pack fails, you can return the car for full service and replacement, without cost to you. Also, any upgrades could also be done for free.
But, don't expect all of the premium pricetag to go away. GM warns that even with a leasing program in place for the battery pack, the new vehicle may still cost thousands more than a more conventional vehicle.
Source: GM may lease batteries in Opel plug-in hybrid - Automotive News Europe
GM’s plug-in concepts each have a front-mounted electric motor that generates 120 kilowatts of power (about 160hp) plus a 16 kilowatt lithium-ion battery. GM says the Flextreme emits less than 40 grams per kilometer of CO2.
Unlike the Toyota Prius, the electric motor drives its wheels in the GM models. Also unlike standard hybrids, GM’s cars can be plugged into any power outlet for recharging, which in Europe would take about 3.5 hours.