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GM is First Auto-Maker to Announce Plans for a Production Passenger Plug-In Hybrid
Nov 29, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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After weeks of preliminary comments by General Motors' Bob Lutz (see­news-archive.html), and many news stories speculating on what's coming, CEO Rick Wagoner announced at the LA Auto Show that GM is on a path to building a PHEV version of its Saturn Vue with lithium-ion batteries. (The Vue has been the criticized as a weak implementation of hybrid technology -- as a PHEV it could become a 70MPG winner.)

I and many others involved with PHEVs are in Washington DC at the Electric Drive Train Association's conference (see­calcars-news/­576.html); When GM's Peter Savagian, engineering director for hybrid powertrains (and formerly in the EV1 program), ended his presentation on GM's hybrids with a "bonus" about the LA announcement, over 500 people in the room erupted in applause.

The news made our day. Because there is no commitment to a production date, you could say that this is like Toyota's "Yes....but not yet." (We hope that popular demand and other factors will soon prompt at least one auto-maker to commit to a production schedule using "good enough" batteries.) Yet at the same time, it's impossible to overstate the potential impact of this turnaround at GM -- both within the company and among its rivals, who carefully watch each others' every move!

Below is GM's official announcement, followed by three of the most informative among the many news stories (the first also mentions Toyota North America President Jim Press's comments at the EDTA conference on PHEVs). We await Part II of GM's PHEV announcements at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

GM Statement on Hybrid Plans
November 29, 2006 1:23 p.m.­article/­SB116482087275535847.html
Full statement of GM announcing its intention to produce a plug-in hybrid SUV.

Saturn Vue Green Line Will Use Modified 2-mode Hybrid System, Lithium Ion Battery

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 29 -- General Motors Corp. intends to produce a Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid that has the potential to achieve double the fuel efficiency of any current SUV, the automaker announced at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show.

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner comments on hybrid vehicles, the alternative-fuel push and the future of hydrogen-fuel cells.

This hybrid SUV will use a modified version of GM's 2-mode hybrid system and plug-in technology, a Lithium Ion battery pack when ready, highly efficient electronics and powerful electric motors to achieve significant increases in fuel economy.

"GM has begun work on a Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid production vehicle," said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and CEO. "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."

A plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle differs from non-plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles by offering extended electric-only propulsion, additional battery capacity and the ability to be recharged from an external electrical outlet. The Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid is expected to 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 Lithium 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.

The Saturn Vue Green Line SUV, featuring the modified 2-mode hybrid system with plug-in capabilities, is part of GM's ambitious effort to offer consumers a broad choice of hybrid systems at various levels of affordability:

# 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.

"GM plans to introduce a new hybrid system annually for the next several years, each offering different levels of affordability, fuel savings and performance," said Tom Stephens, GM group vice president, GM Powertrain. "This strategy will allow more consumers to benefit from our hybrid technologies, while providing the opportunity to reduce our country's petroleum consumption."

GM is committed to a comprehensive and cost-effective, three-tiered advanced propulsion technology strategy focused on producing commercially viable and sustainable products. These include alternative fuel vehicles, ongoing improvements to conventional internal combustion engines and transmissions, the electrification of the automobile through a broad portfolio of hybrid models on high-volume car and truck platforms, and commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest automaker, has been the global industry sales leader for 75 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 318,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries.

In 2005, 9.17 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. More information on GM can be found at

Source: General Motors Corp.

CEO: GM starting work on plug-in version of Saturn Vue hybrid TOM KRISHER AP Writer Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report. Associated Press, November 29, 2006­mld/­mercurynews/­business/­16123658.htm

LOS ANGELES - GM's chief executive was talking green technology in environmentally conscious California on Wednesday, announcing that the nation's No. 1 automaker is working on a hybrid vehicle that plugs into a standard electrical outlet.

Rick Wagoner, during an appearance at the Los Angeles Auto Show, said General Motors Corp. is dedicated to developing alternative fuel, hybrid, electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

But Wagoner gave no time frame on when the plug-in Saturn Vue Green Line sport utility vehicle would be on the market, saying it depends largely on development of battery technology.

"The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they also are surmountable," Wagoner said.

Troy Clarke, GM's North American president, said the new Saturn small SUV could get about 70 miles per gallon of gasoline. The company said it has the potential to double the fuel efficiency of any current SUV.

The plug-in hybrid will be a front-drive version of GM's two-mode hybrid system, which uses two electric motors and a V-8 gasoline engine to boost fuel efficiency. The two-mode system will debut in the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs in 2007, and eventually will be placed in GM's pickup trucks, Clarke said.

Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst at Global Insight, an economic research and consulting company, said GM's shift to green is merely a response to the marketplace.

"They're responding to renewed consumer concern about fuel prices and fuel economy," she said.

Environmental activists, one of whom heckled Wagoner on stage after his speech, have complained that GM and other auto companies have been too slow to curb the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

But in his speech, Wagoner said developing greener technologies would be a high priority for GM, which has responded to increasing gas prices with a mix of hybrids, biofuels such as E85 ethanol and work on hydrogen fuel cell technology.

"I can't give you a date certain for our plug-in hybrid today," he said. "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 also announced that it would introduce a Saturn Aura hybrid model early next year. The Aura is a recently introduced mid-sized car that so far is selling well.

Wagoner also said GM will start offering versions of its Hummer models that could run on biofuel within three years. The Hummers, one of the largest SUVs on the road, have become a lightning rod for critics of vehicle fuel inefficiency.

"By developing alternative sources of energy and propulsion, we have the chance to mitigate many of the issues surrounding energy availability," he said.

Hybrid vehicles have both electric and gasoline power systems. They save on gas consumption by shutting off the engine while idling, giving the vehicle a boost of electric power during acceleration and capturing electrical energy when the vehicle is braking.

GM already produces a hybrid Saturn vehicle - the Vue Green Line SUV
- which the automaker says gets 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon on the highway. The comparable traditional-engine Vue is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

GM has been promoting the Vue Green Line as a less expensive alternative to hybrids already on the market from Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. The Green Line's hybrid system adds about $2,000 to the cost of a Saturn Vue, compared with a premium of $3,500 or more for other hybrids.

In Washington on Wednesday, Toyota North American President Jim Press said the Japanese automaker was "really enthused that the industry and other auto companies are embracing this technology."

Toyota has expressed interest in developing plug-in hybrids, and Press said the company's lead in hybrid sales "gives us an advantage."

GM's longer-term goal remains the development and production of nonpolluting hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles, Wagoner said.

"We continue to make significant progress in this area, and we continue to see fuel cells as the best long-term solution for reducing our dependence on oil," he said.

He said nothing about diesel, which DaimlerChrysler AG is banking on as a cleaner alternative to gasoline engines.

Wagoner said that according to the Energy Department the world will need about 70 percent more energy from 2003 to 2030, and oil alone will not be able to handle the increase.

"For the global auto industry, this means that we must - as a business necessity - develop alternative sources of propulsion based on alternative sources of energy in order to meet the world's growing demand for our products," he said.

GM working on plug-in hybrid, Wagoner says AutoWeek | Published 11/29/06, 4:53 pm et By CHARLES CHILD | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS Richard Truett contributed to this report­apps/­pbcs.dll/­article?AID=/­20061129/­FREE/­61129005/­1064/­cara_submit

LOS ANGELES -- General Motors is trying to develop a plug-in hybrid vehicle, CEO Rick Wagoner said today.

Plug-in hybrids generate electricity with an onboard gasoline or diesel engine. But they also can charge their batteries by plugging into an electric socket.

Some environmentalists tout plug-in hybrids as a way to reduce emissions produced by the vehicle. A powerplant still must produce the electricity supplied to the plug. But the plant could be nuclear, which produces no emissions, or a clean-burning-coal, natural-gas or oil plant.

Automakers have been slow to embrace plug-in hybrids because of the added weight and complexity.

A plug-in hybrid needs two powertrains capable of driving the vehicle at all speeds. Current hybrids such as the Toyota Prius or Ford Escape use an electric motor that is designed to be the sole power source for only low speeds and short distances. A plug-in needs a bigger battery pack and a more powerful electric motor, both which would add weight and cost.

For GM, it's a way to develop a high-tech image. That image has suffered as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. have developed successful gasoline-electric hybrids.

Hybrid vehicles power the wheels with an internal combustion engine, one or more electric motors or a combination.

GM is working to put the plug-in hybrid powertrain in a future version of the Saturn Vue. Timing depends on how soon GM and its partners can develop a suitable battery for the vehicle, Wagoner said at the opening today of the Los Angeles Auto Show.

"The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they're also surmountable," he said. "This is a top-priority program for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement."

The emphasis on plug-in hybrids will not diminish GM's efforts to produce conventional hybrids and fuel cell vehicles, Wagoner said.

Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen fuel to generate electricity on board to power the wheels.

Wagoner said electrically driven vehicles offer vast opportunities to reduce pollution and U.S. reliance on petroleum.

L.A. Auto Show: CEO promises GM will make plug-in Saturn hybrid
San Jose Mercury News By Matt Nauman
Posted on Wed, Nov. 29, 2006­mld/­mercurynews/­business/­16124389.htm

LOS ANGELES - General Motors became the first automaker to commit to producing plug-in hybrids Wednesday, as Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner pledged his company would make the high-mileage gas-electric vehicles.

But he didn't commit GM to a specific timetable. `It's pretty clear it will take several years,'' he said in a speech that opened the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis for researcher J.D. Power and Associates, called GM's action ``laudable,'' but he noted that Wagoner had ``not made that many commitments.''

What GM did say is that its first plug-in hybrid will be based on the 2008 Saturn Vue, a redesigned crossover-utility vehicle that goes on sale next year. Eventually, the Vue will be sold in three hybrid versions: as the Green Line that used a mild hybrid system, as a vehicle that uses GM's more efficient two-mode hybrid system, and as the plug-in hybrid.

A hybrid, such as the popular Toyota Prius, uses electric motors and batteries as well as a gasoline engine to achieve fuel-economy gains. A plug-in version would need larger, more sophisticated batteries. It could be charged at home, and would result in ``significant'' fuel-economy gains, Wagoner said.

Activists, including Felix Kramer in the Bay Area, have been pushing automakers to make plug-in hybrids and have been driving converted Prius models that get the equivalent of 100 mpg or more, they say.

Toyota and other automakers are researching plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, but none has committed to putting them into production.

GM's announcement set the alternative-fuel tone at an auto show that is seeking greater prominence now that it has moved several weeks ahead to get out from under the shadow of Detroit's North American International Auto Show, held each January.

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