Thursday, November 30, 2006

GM Will Focus on Electric-Drive Vehicles - Expanded Hybrid Offerings, Plug-ins in 2009

[From Green Car Congress:]

Speaking at the Los Angeles Auto Show, GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner outlined the automaker’s planned efforts to diversify the sources of energy that power vehicles in the years to come. First on the list for GM is optimizing the use of conventional gasoline and diesel through increasing engine efficiency and working on partial fuel substitutions such as alternatives, biofuels (including flex-fuel vehicles) and synthetics.

Second is the development of electrically-driven vehicles, “beyond what have already committed to with our fuel cell and hybrid programs.”
"I’m announcing today that GM is significantly expanding and accelerating our commitment to the development of electrically driven vehicles...

First, electricity offers outstanding benefits…beginning with the opportunity to diversify fuel sources upstream of the vehicle. In other words, the electricity that is used to drive the vehicle can be made from the best local fuel sources—natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, hydroelectric, and so on. So, before you even start your vehicle, you’re working toward energy diversity.

Second, electrically driven vehicles…when operated in an all-electric mode…are zero-emission vehicles. And when the electricity, itself, is made from a renewable source, the entire energy pathway is emissions free.

Third, electrically driven vehicles offer great performance…with extraordinary acceleration, instant torque, improved driving dynamics, and so on.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Wait a minute—what about hybrids? What about fuel cells? Didn’t GM already commit to those technologies?” And the answer is, “Yes, we did.” They are both big parts of our broader commitment to electrically driven vehicles…so, rest assured, we remain committed to both."
As part of the expanded focus on providing a range of electrification options, of providing what Troy Clarke, the President of General Motors North America described in a subsequent speech as “offering [a range of] fuel savings fuel at varying price levels,” GM:

  • Officially introduced GM’s first hybrid car, the Saturn Aura Green Line, which is based on the GM Hybrid System used in the VUE Green Line—a belt-alternator starter hybrid technology [see graphic above]. GM has already announced plans to expand the Hybrid system to the Malibu as well.

  • Introduced the new 2008 Saturn Vue which will also have an updated version of the VUE Green Line Hybrid powertrain;

  • Announced that in 2008, the VUE will become the first front-wheel application of the GM two-mode hybrid system being applied in the larger format Tahoe/Yukon SUVs. (GM has already announced that 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.)

  • Announced that in 2009, the 2-mode hybrid system in the VUE Green Line will be configurable as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

  • Wagoner said:
    "I’m pleased to announce today that GM has begun work on a Saturn VUE plug-in hybrid production vehicle. The VUE plug-in hybrid, GM’s first, will use an advanced battery, like Lithium-Ion.

    ...production timing will depend on battery technology development. But based on our work with EV1 and our different hybrid-electric vehicles, we at GM already have a lot of experience developing and integrating advanced battery technology into our vehicles…and we’re working today with a number of battery companies to develop the technology necessary to build a plug-in hybrid.

    The technological hurdles are real…but I can tell you that this is a top priority program for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement."
    GM expects that the Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid will offer electric-only propulsion for more than 10 miles. At higher speeds or when conditions demand it, such as brisk acceleration, a combination of engine and electric power or engine power only will propel the vehicle.

    In addition to plug-in capabilities and the modified 2-mode hybrid system, the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid SUV’s powertrain will feature lithium-ion battery technology, two interior permanent magnet motors and GM’s 3.6L V-6 gasoline engine with direct injection.

    When ready for production, the li-ion energy storage system will be replenished when the battery charge is depleted to a specified level by utilizing the 2-mode hybrid system’s electric motors and regenerative braking systems. When the vehicle is parked, the battery can be recharged using a common household exterior 110-volt plug-in outlet.

    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.

    GM rates the VUE Green Line hybrid as delivering a 20% fuel economy improvement over the base model. The company said that it expects the front wheel drive, two-mode hybrid VUE to improve overall fuel economy by 45% over today’s base VUE. Saturn chief Jill Lajdziak during her announcement of the plug-in work that she expects the plug-in powertrain to double the fuel efficiency of any SUV on the road.

    "I should point out that GM’s commitment to improving fuel economy, reducing vehicle emissions, and developing electrically driven vehicles is not a short-term strategy," Wagoner said. "We’re in this game for the long term."

    GM said that it will provide additional announcements on the development of electrically driven vehicles during the coming auto show season, including the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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