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GM Saturn Aura Greenline Hybrid on Sale in 2006

The current Greenline BAS hybrid powertrain. Click to enlarge.

GM will have its Saturn Aura Greenline Hybrid sedan on sale by the end of 2006, according to Jill Lajdziak, Saturn’s general manager. Saturn introduced the Aura hybrid during the New York International Auto Show. (Earlier post.)

The Aura uses the same hybrid powertrain as the Saturn VUE Greenline hybrid: a 2.4-liter Ecotec engine with a Belt-Alternator-Starter (BAS) system augmented with a 36-Volt NiMH battery pack.

The hybrid accessory drive. The dual tensioner assembly that controls the motoring and generating loads is patent pending. Click to enlarge.

Functionally, the VUE hybrid system offers start-stop and regenerative braking—features expected in a simple Belt Alternator Starter system. GM, however, developed a dual tensioner assembly for the hybrid accessory drive (the motor/generator package) that will transfer a small amount of torque to the drive system for very brief periods of time.

The assembly combines an hydraulic strut tensioner and a friction-damped rotary tensioner on a common pivoting arm to the control the bi-directional loads (motoring and generating).

This assistance takes three forms: electrically motored creep at startup, light power assist during acceleration, and light electric mode during deceleration.

The system consists of six elements:

  • The electric motor/generator unit that replaces the alternator, and is capable of 156 Nm of auto-start torque;

  • Engine-coolant cooled power electronics that control the motor/generator unit and provide 12-volt vehicle accessory power;

  • A Cobasys NiMHax 36-Volt NiMH hybrid battery pack capable of delivering and receiving more than 10 kW of peak power;

  • An engine control module;

  • An engine accessory drive with new, dual-tensioner assembly and cord belt that enables transfer of motoring and generating torque;

  • Hybrid-enabled Hydra-Matic 4T45-E electronically controlled four-speed automatic transaxle that includes an auxiliary oil pump and unique hybrid controls.

GM is using the BAS-based Greenline hybrid system to try to deliver a simple hybrid architecture flexible enough—and at a sufficiently low cost—to implement globally on a broad spectrum of both powertrains and vehicles.

The Saturn VUE hybrid offers an estimated 29 mpg US combined and is priced at less than $23,000, compared to the Ford Escape hybrid with 33 mpg US combined at a starting price of $27,500. The Toyota Highlander and Lexus Rx 400h both are rated at 30 mpg US combined, and priced at $33,000 and $48,500 respectively.

GM has yet to indicate performance specifications on the Aura Greenline or pricing.



I remember when solid-state was the buzz word and manufactures would put a diode in a blender and call it a solid-state blender. No different here... GM is going for the buzz word of the day..


Just waiting for the hippies to start chiming in, claiming that a mid-size and adequately powered vehicle that will be on the market before the year is over for about $23k is a horrible thing, and how GM is the devil's instrument of worldwide destruction......let the entertainment commense!


". . .a simple hybrid architecture flexible enough and at a sufficiently low cost to implement globally on a broad spectrum of both powertrains and vehicles."

OK, if this allows GM to have a hybrid option on every vehicle in their lineup by 2010, then I'll give them a golf clap. Until then I'm calling GM management a bunch of junior varsity, Toyota-following wussies.


How is GM "following" Toyota if they are taking a significantly different approach towards hybrids? Do you think that Toyota invented the concept of the hybrid or something?


The prices and performance here were listed for the VUE. This didn't say anything about the Aura as to performance, mileage, and price. So, we hippies can't chime in yet.

Except to say that I have little use for any of the SUV offerings, regardless of manufacturer. As far as having 4 wheel drive, my wife would feel more comfortable here in the mountains of Colorado to have a 4 wheel drive during the snow season. I have a Prius. If I am to replace our Subaru, it will probably be a matrix when it comes out in hybrid form.

I don't think that the VUE or the Aura will be a horrible thing, I'm just skeptical about the potential success of marketing a poor man's hybrid. It's still a market niche with players who are willing to pay a significant premium for the best technology. When Toyota hybridizes their entire fleet, will GM be able to compete? By that time, Toyota will have reduced the differential between standard and hybrid. They will also have the better technology.

I am not saying that GM is the devil, but I am saying that they better be in a position soon to compete head to head with Toyota or they will end up in bankruptcy.

Ang's Jello

Like you don't have your own knee jerk reactions pre-programmed into your psyche Angelo. Let's give it a try....

I think this hybrid thing is great, but it's just precursor to GM's ultimate return to supremacy via the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

Always Room For Jello

Speaking of GM and fuel cells Ang's seem to be right on top of GM's plans. Did you see this quote today from Larry Burns, head of GM R&D...

"The world doesn't need another niche powertrain," said Larry Burns, GM's vice president for research, development and planning. "We need a solution that will solve energy issues and allow us to grow. The key is durability, cost and performance, and we've made dramatic progress." "Fuel cells and the hydrogen economy are absolutely the next great race for industry," GM's Burns said.


Hydrogen will never solve our energy issues. If anything, it will exacerbate them. Yes, we "need" an energy solution. But it isn't coming from hydrogen, a storage medium that still has an energy return of less than one.

GM would be better off pushing for universal health care. Now, there would be a cost savings and would put them on a more equal footing with the Japanese.


GM's "significantly different" approach to hybrids is less efficient and requires less engineering and manufacturing expertise than even Hondas.

And 35mpg out of a tiny little Aveo? Pfft. GM isn't interested in pushing the envelope. They're interested in riding coattails and cashing in on big, inefficient vehicles.


I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, but let's recap this wonderous hydrogen idea:

1. Extracting hydrogen from other elements through an energy intensive and yet unproven process
2. Compressing it into a liquid form through an energy intensive process
3. Transporting it using trucks to the hydrogen stations
4. Transfering the hydrogen to holding tanks at the stations
5. Making fuel cell vehicles drive to a hydrogen station only to transfer it to their own tank
6. Turning the hydrogen into electricity to power the electic components of the vehicle.

Yeah, really sounds like an efficient process.......

It is being pushed because it extends the use of fossil fuels much longer, as people just assume hydrogen to come from water, oblivious to the fact that it will come from the same fossil fuels that we are trying to get rid of. Plus, all of the oil companies are trying to find an excuse to tap into the huge supply of methane hydrates.


I wouldn’t be so quick to throw out the hydrogen fuel cell just yet. Most people in the field will tell you that their window is approximately 15 to 20 years away, but that it is VERY PROMISING technology. Every few weeks you can read about break throughs in fuel cell research.

This is also why so many people are excited about PHEV’s. They are a great STOP GAP, until the fuel cell can pay its own way! Plug-ins can catapult us to very high mileage (and low emissions!) very quickly, using existing technology. Half the people who commute, drive less than 25 miles to and from work. They could start going from, say, 23 mpg to 90 mpg and more.

Plug-ins also help with the fuel cell car design itself. Much of the design work for electric/ hybrid cars, contributes to the design of the fuel cell vehicle, which will have the same concepts: electric motor, more efficient mechanicals, and electronics, i.e. drive by wire, etc.

John W.

George: you post a reasonable piece of thinking. The tech in fuel cell cars is going places...but the problem with the whole hydrogen infrastructure if it ever comes out is the absolutely huge and inordinate amount of energy it takes in the first place just to split the hydrogen from the O2. It takes huge and massive amounts of energy at present, to the point that there is absolutely no advantage in the end, to be the most positive.

Sure the cars make water when they drive on the road: what about the kazillion tons of fossil fuels it will take to make the hydrogen and compress/store it, etc, at the refinery? Either a process has to develop to split the hydrogen out that is way cheaper/more efficient, or we need the whole thing powered by green power (wind, solar, etc), which isn't going to happen anytime soon b/c of how many turbines would be needed. The way to go is all electric with the new motor, battery and cap technology already out and coming out, and composite technology. With the right set up you could charge it right at home and it would pay for itself: solar is getting cheaper, consider the SunBall Solar Appliance. But we're off topic I guess.

I don't like GM but I am still applauding this development with the Aura. It's definately a step in the right direction and a whole lot better than no step at all! Surely, no one would argue with that?


Angelo: you miss the point. GM bets on SUV and hydrogen fuel cells for one same reason: they are both expensive and wasteful. Perfect set to skim high profit margin.

Aura hybrid technology is at least twenty years late. Toyota leap-frog it, GM no.


I'll agree that GM's approach has been flawed, but I still do not understand why GM takes the brunt of the abuse. They are a corporation, not a government. Their goal is to figure out what the public wants and make a profit from it. A couple years ago, there was no substantial proof that hybrids would catch on. What GM did know was that the government was willing to spend a ton of money promoting fuel cells, and that consumers were still infatuated with SUVs. If anyone is at fault here, it is our own government, and ourselves.

At least GM has developed their 2-mode hybrid drive for their full-size SUVs. What has Ford done with their mid-size or large SUVs? Dodge may have a hybrid Durango a year later, but have announced nothing with Jeep. Even the almighty Toyota has not announced anything for their larger SUVs.


Just to clarify an earlier statement - yes, fuel cells are a promising technology, but my point is that they have NO PLACE in vehicles. It's just plain dumb. Why bring the hydrogen to the car, only to turn it back into electricity? Larger scale fuel-cell "power plants" that are located wherever hydrogen can be produced and then pump that electricity into the grid would be a much better solution. It scales better with PHEVs and the advances in sugars-to-hydrogen concepts, butanol production (which gives off excess hydrogen) and other FT methods that produce excess hydrogen. Sure, our electrical grid may need some significant upgrades to handle this, but this is surely a less intensive effort than building this hydrogen network.

Mark A

GM does take alot of abuse. It must be hard to find the pulse of the "finicky consumer". Just a couple of years ago, us "finicky consumer" were into large SUV's, diesel powered trucks, and fast high horsepower cars. GM obliged by giving us what we wanted. Now we are demanding high efficiency, affordable vehicles, and GM is unable to deliver. It takes alot of room, and time, to turn a battleship, compared to a rowboat. But I think they are making strides. They are taking more than their share of the abuse, I feel.

I am not defending GM. I do hope they get it together. They are throwing their hat into the fuel cell ring, and into the ethanol ring, with their "go yellow" campaign. The fuel cell is a decade or more away. May work, I dont know? I think there will be a big breakthrough in battery technology and that then electrics will power a big portion of our passenger cars. Ethanol is not the answer, in my opinion. Perhaps I am wrong. But if ethanol is to fully replace petroleum, it will require 71% of the US total available farmland to try to deliver. I know it doesnt have to replace it 100%, but you see the conflict it will create, with us also wanting to eat. But I digress...

But it seems as if Saturn is GM's "guinea pig" as far as hybrid technology is concerned. GM is not ramped up enough to deliver hybrid technology full scale, so trickle it out in the division with the least models, and lowest sales, and see how it pans out.


I will agree that GM operates in a context of consumer demand, public attitudes, international competition, and governmental edicts and regulations. However, so does Toyota and so does Honda. Toyota and Honda took the initiative while GM sat on its hands, hoping that the high profit, low cost SUV craze would go on forever, assuming, apparently, that oil supplies would expand forever. They failed to have a Plan B in place and now are reluctantly playing a game that isn't really catchup.

The game henceforth will be about technology, not about spin. Toyota and Honda will deliver while GM will be stuck one or two generations behind. Given their financial situation, they won't have the capital to be where they need to be.

Whether GM is bad or good is beside the point; they are just behind and can't or won't catch up, as they hope for the magic wet dream of a hydrogen economy.

Mike H.

It really is a shame everyone wants to dog GM. Its a company and their interest is selling cars and providing for their investors. Lets laud them for impoving their vehicals and offering efficiency by getting into the hybrid game. Its not the first one out of the gate that wins the race, and Toyota may be in trouble of shooting their load in the beginning of the game.

The GM strategy allows higher mpg vehicals for a wider consumer base. This in the end means less reliance on gas and fewer emissions. Not everyone can afford or has the pateince to get a Prius, which Toyota does not make a profit. Toyota relies on their not so economical large and midsize sedans to stay in buisness... sound familiar? Toyota, Honda, and Ford produce white elephants. Lets hope GM gets it right.

By the way, some of you act like a hybrid is some sort of great technical advance. Remember the hybrid vehicals have low coefficients of drag, special low resistance tires, and small displacement engines. If you drop the hybrid part I imagine you would realize similiar mpg numbers. How efficient do you think it is recovering energy by braking? For city cars it makes since, but most americans don't do mostly city driving. Hybrid diesels are the future since they have the best of both worlds.


"How is GM "following" Toyota"
Toyota will have a have an 90 MPG Prius in 2008.
GM will be lucky to be solvent in 2008.


Icelander your main complaint about GM's hybrid option seems to be it's lack of techno jazz... and the implication from your statement is that Toyota's is better than honda's because it's more techy, and GM's is lower than that still...

Yet Honda still has the MPG and Emissions king... So which are you wanting, more MPG and less emissions, or just more technology?

To everyone else:

If it works and is beneficial then it is a good thing, period.

Let's not bash on something just because it's not a diesel phev vespa.


It's inexpensive. It could be deployed across many GM models, which would save *lots* of gasoline. I hope it finds lots of takers. Micro-hybrid should be baseline technology, and this goes beyond that. What's not to like?


I want GM to survive because I know people who work at their plants. Unfortunately, GM has not learnt. The comments on Fuel Cell being the future is a joke because GM may not be around when Fuel Cell does become reality.

The future is now, whoever can come up with innovative approach to increase fuel economy and reduce emission is going to get the attention of the public. GM is still pinning its hope on the Tahoe, it is selling well. And I believe GM will continue to do more of the same for the next 2 years before filing for bankruptcy.

It is not about technology, it is about innovation. Sit on your laurels, expect to be left in the dust. Continue to innovate, and you will make everyone struggle to catch up.

GM has lost its innovative edge, it is now a dinosaur and ready to go extinct.


What is this the hate america crowd or hate G.M. crowd or both?

Eddie M

The problem is not that GM is behind the curve when it comes to Toyota, the issue is costs for the benefits of retirees is killing their ability to offer competitive cars. It's a lot easier for Nissan, Honda or Toyota to put more content into their products when they dont have the same obligations. Hell, all their factories are in the south where they dont pay as much per hour as the Big 3 in Detroit do.


Solar hydrogen is the ultimate solution. You extract hydrogen from water using the solar energy.

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