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Report: GM Fast-Tracking Plug-in Hybrids

Bloomberg reports that General Motors is fast-tracking development of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in response to Toyota’s success with hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles.

The plug-in, according to anonymous GM officials cited by the report, would have an effective fuel economy of more than 60 mpg—somewhat better than the Prius’s combined EPA rating of 55 mpg.

The plug-in designs GM is testing may be ready in time for the Detroit auto show in January [2007], the people said. Any commercial production is at least a year away, they said. The people declined to say how much the company is investing.

...The plug-in research isn’t directly tied to GM’s hybrid project with DaimlerChrysler and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the people said. The first GM model from that effort, a version of the Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, is scheduled to go on sale next year.

The GM Saab flex-fuel E100 hybrid introduced at the Stockholm Motor Show (earlier post) is rumored to have light plug-in capability.

GM’s mild-hybrid Saturn VUE goes on sale this year, and its forthcoming two-mode hybrid SUVs in 2007.

Toyota is seen as working on a next-generation Prius that will deliver about 100 mpg and may likely be a plug-in. (Earlier post.)


Rafael Seidl

If and when GM or any other company actually does introduce a PHEV in series production, pay close attention to battery chemistry, projected unit volumes and lease terms.

It will also be interesting to see if these companies will cross-subsidize the expensive battery packs or expect enthusiasts to put their money where their mouth is. Financially, GM can ill afford to become a leader in a loss-making new vehicle segment, even temporarily. Toyota has deeper pockets, and has proven that it is willing to produce and sustain a marketing vehicle (the Prius) for a number of years until it becomes profitable.


Well they made the EV1 so they have the tech.
This will be interesting since they own Saturn which has cheap light weight body construction.
Fingers crossed on this one. Is GM going to pull a rabbit out of its hat?


Lou Grinzo

It seems that the clue fairy has FINALLY made a delivery to GM. This is great news--the more companies doing the right things, the better it is for everyone.

But I'm really concerned about that 60MPG number. That strongly suggests that this is either a half-hearted attempt (very short battery-only range), or they're targeting a vehicle much larger than the Prius. I hope it's the former, as they can bump up the battery pack size very easily once they realize people will love to have this capability.


I'd bet (and hope) that the Federal government step up and buys a whole bunch of these guys, followed by any state which has GM factories in it. Lots of folks may be underwhelmed with GMs vision for a green America, but if its getting 60 MPG (effective) and will help keep American jobs in America, it'll be hard to be against it, even if they do get $55,000 or some other insanely high price per car.

Rafael Seidl

Stormy -

please consider that a 10% improvement on a million cars makes a bigger difference than a 100% improvement on 100,000 cars. The 10% improvement is MUCH easier to achieve and actually sell.

This is a commodity industry. Focus on the things that can be produced on a very large scale, even if the technology involved is a lot less sexy. Think displacement on demand for big brutish engines, turbocharging + homogenous GDI + cam phasing for small ones and port deactivation + high EGR for the subcompacts.


I'm afraid I do not care very much about the health of the auto industry.
I am concerned with 1) health of people 2) cost of externalities involved with oil use (Army costs in cash and lives) 3)Damage to planet from possible CO2 warming.

The 10% improvement on the million cars should be mandatory using CAFE not exempting SUV and trucks.
Commericial plates and higher registration fees for people who actually need 4 wheel drive trucks in Greenwich, CT can ensure the plumber still has a truck.
No SUV's or pickup trucks on parkways in the northeast, and higher tolls on the bridges and roads. Using all the "this is a truck not a car " tricks that allowed the car companies to shift production from cars to over 55% truck/SUV against them.
Giving a product that gets great milage and low emissions will allow the market to work as fuel goes up.
The ethanol CAFE loophole must be closed and a real incentive introduced.
ALL ICE auto engines, and offroad clones for boats, construction equipment etc. must meet PZEV emisions.

GM killed their baby (EV-1), and now they want sympathy for being childless. Please remember the other US companies never even tried!I hope they are working on the plug in hybrid. I hope it is so good Toyota has to license it! But they have blood on their hands and need to atone for it.
My president says we are at war. My family has relatives in the military, all home right now but all have been over there. They sacrificed. I want some sacrifice from the US public. Buy one size smaller, the car with better mileage, something. And the car companies have to make better cars and stop playing games with the oil guys and congress.

allen zheng

Don't foreget stoplight auto AND manual instant engine shutdown AND startup, along with decoupling (or clutchable) the engine from pumps and powering them with electric motors (AC, coolant, supercharger). Also, a reasonably designed modern automobile will need 30-90 hp (instead of 150-400) for highway cruise. A possibility would be to reduce fuel air ratio during stable low load periods, with instantaneous power increase on demand for passing, and hills. All this may be done with minor to mild engineering, and software/computer modification and upgrade. It may be added to quick responding automated/ paddle shift manuals, with 5-6 grears + overdrive and reverse. All these may save another 10-50% on fuel depending on driving habits, and route taken.


60 mpg for a plug in. Toyota will be introducing that in a couple of years without a plug in. Add the plug in to the Prius and GM, once again, will be left in the dust.

Maybe a better approach is to modularize plug in technology to give the consumer options as to degree of battery capacity and motor capacity depending upon how much range, mpg, and speed they desire.


It seems if your commute 5 miles and the battery range is 20 miles and you recharge it every night you could never use the gas engine and get unlimited MPG. Is there a standard calculation for PHEV MPG?

Bud Johns

Allen, the next gen Prius comes october of next year...not a bad idea about the modular batteries, but of course they would have to provide precious space for add ons........


Unfortunately they will take forever to release the vehicle once it is in production and they will have a two year waiting list once it does start.


I can't believe my eyes. There are hardly any cars that get ANY good gas mileage on the market today (with the exception of a couple models), no affordable commercial EV's whatsoever, and as soon as GM comes out with something, we are already criticizing them. Shame shame shame. Next thing you know, you'll be complaining it doesn't fly yet. If thier car get 60 mpg it is better than the Prius (whom we all agree is a fantastic step towards many goals) yet because they came second, they are looked upon as a second rate citizen. C'mon people, get real.

Bud Johns

Agreed, Richard, lets give them a chance. I don't blame people for being skeptical, but let's wait and see. I would be VERY suprised if they came up with something to beat the next gen Prius though, it's tough enough to catch up with my second gen Prius........


I will wait and see what this thing turns out to be, but this is what GM should be doing. Perception is 90% of reality. People perceive GM as having poor fuel economy, and Toyota having good fuel economy. This will do a lot to change that perception.

Of course, if this fast-tracking leads to poor reliability, it will just underscore the perception that GM can't produce reliable cars.


GM may not match Toyota, but plenty of people are buying GM vehicles now that don't come close to the Prius. If those same people switched to a 60 mpg vehicle, that would be a good thing. I have no love for GM, but doing something that improves the world, even if it is only in desperation to save their hide, is okay. That is how markets work.

Besides, that just puts more pressure on all the other auto makers to step up to the plate. I hope they do have long lines waiting to buy!!


Buy one size smaller, the car with better mileage, something.

I'm going to be selling my car (1999 Protege) and buying a motor scooter. But I don't look at it as a sacrifice, since the scooter's going to be a lot more fun.


Given the 60 mpg I bet its going to be an SUV. As far as marketing goes at least that would attract a lot of Americans....


I also think we all should be congratulating them for actually responding to us. Even if the first model isn't as great as we hope, its a first step in the right direction (forgeting about EV1 for the moment...).

Sid Hoffman

Correction to the above: GM may not match Toyota, but plenty of people are buying TOYOTA vehicles that can't come close to matching the fuel efficiency of the Prius. Toyota produces some of the worst gas guzzlers money can buy! Look at all their large SUV's and trucks, all in the 14-17mpg range for the city rating, and the overwhelming majority of drivers only get the city rating anyway. Toyota's fleet average is worse than Honda's because of the fact they produce so many gas guzzlers.

Toyota = Lip service to greenies
Toyota = gas guzzlers for the masses

bj hanson

A formula for figuring PHEV mileage:

(% of miles using ICE) X (gallons per mile on the highway) + (% of miles on electric) X (%of miles on electric)= gallons per mile cumulative

the reciprocal of GPM cumulative = MPG overall

For example say you drive 80% on electric and 20% on the road and get 60 MPG on the road:

.2 X .017 + .8 X 0 = .0033 1/.0033=300 MPG


In fact the more I think about it, the more I think such a PHEV SUV would really change the status quo. I can see it being way more popular that the Prius. This has probably got something to do with Andy Frank perhaps?

bj hanson

correction: last parenthesis should read "gallons per mile on electric", which would be zero of course.

Joseph Willemssen

and as soon as GM comes out with something, we are already criticizing them

Um, this isn't, in even the remotest conception of things, "coming out" with a vehicle. It's a rumor from an anonymous source about a product which doesn't yet exist, and won't for many years. Even then, its mileage numbers barely stack up to the Prius, and won't match the numbers of the next Prius - which doesn't seem to be a plugin.

If you want to get all worked up and clappy over this, go ahead.

Joseph Willemssen

Toyota = Lip service to greenies. Toyota = gas guzzlers for the masses

That's strange. They and Honda have a lock on all the most efficient gas-powered vehicles sold. Toyota has the widest selection of hybrids that all have excellent emissions profiles. And both they and Honda have considerably higher CAFE numbers than GM or Ford.

And your response to that? Bash Toyota, of course.


If they produce it GREAT! If it is a SUV, I'll pass (whether PHEV or HEV) and wait for them to put such a drivetrain into a sedan/coupe/hatchback/wagon layout.

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