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GM’s Focus on Electricity; Expanded Hybrid Offerings and a 2-Mode Hybrid Plug-in VUE Under Development (corrected)

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.

—Rick Wagoner

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. 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 offer an electric all-wheel-drive.

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.

—Rick Wagoner

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. We’re in this game for the long term.

—Rick Wagoner

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.



Hopefully this puts pressure on Toyota to release a PHEV. 10 mile range is underwhelming, but its a good first step.


Finally! But to be honest I do not believe them...plug-in hibrid in 2009...I doubt!


10 mile range is underwhelming, but its a good first step.

It is underwhelming -- but 20-25 miles would be pretty significant. It would cover many short errands for most urban and suburban dwellers, and it would cover the commute to (or from) work one-way for many as well. It's conceivable that employers will offer plug-in opportunities for elec owners, which means if they can get to work on elec, they can get home on elec.

kent beuchert

A 10 mile range plug-in is hardly worth the effort and makes zero sense. Bob Lutz, No. 2 man at GM, last week mentioned 25 to 30 mile range for plug-in, so apparently Rick and Bob don't lunch together very often. Lutz has described the fuel cell car as having evolved into an electric car (fuel cell cars are ALWAYS electric cars, since electricity is the only thing a fuel cell can produce), and here is Rick talking about fuel cells again and acting like the technology is distinct, for some reason. Rick is acting as though Altair NanoSafe li ion batteries don't even exist, so I have no idea what kind of li ion battery development he's talking about.
What I got from Rick was more mush, refusing to reject any technology. Apparently, everything is being developed at GM. I note that Toyota has said they do NOT plan on building a hybrid plug-in. For a company that grew only because of California, they are telling Californians to jump in a lake. Will be interesting to see the response of environmentalists, who look to Toyota as some sort of hero company. I predict they wil somehow manage to blame GM for Toyota's refusal, like they did in that lying film "Who Killed the Electric Car?" which ignored electric car cancellations by Honda, Toyota and Nissan (all after months, not years) and somehow concluded that only what GM did had an effect on the technology.

Rafael Seidl

As for that 10 mile minimum all-electric range: underpromise and overdeliver. Why would they stick their necks out too far when they are the first to officially announce they have a PHEV in development at all? It's consistent with GM's corporate philosophy that the first application should be in an SUV rather than a passenger car. As the Aura with BAS system shows, there is a trickle-down strategy in place for solutions that deliver an adequate cost/benefit ratio.

With 85000 people working at GM Powertrain world-wide, it's not surprising that the corporation is pursuing multiple strategies all at once to ensure they don't miss out on a possible quantum leap in component technology that turns someone's idea into a viable mass-market proposition. Safe Li-ion batteries with long life at deep discharge plus high power ratings would be an example. But GM is wisely not betting the farm on any single powertrain strategy before the market shakes out.

FCVs and BEVs are both all-electric (as are hybrids of the two), but the technologies incl. refuelling are so different that from an carmaker's perspective, they are two separate categories, much more so even than gasoline vs. diesel engines. Also, remember that Rick Wagoner is a finance weenie, not an engineer.

mike z

Altair's NanoSafe don't exist. They are merely press statements that have never been put to independent tests.

Promising, but the lack of announcing partnerships with reputable companies makes me think this is a pump-and-dump stock scam.

Max Reid

10 miles is the ideal range.
At 10 miles / day, if you drive for 300 days / year, it comes to 3,000 miles / year and this may be 20 - 25 % of your driving.

After all, cost is primary factor.

Whats not needed is the V6 engine. After all, motors with V4 engine gives V6 power. Honda suffered with V6 engine in their Accord-Hybrid.

Hope competition from Toyota push GM into V4.

Better late than never. Good work GM.

Now they have realised that they cannot run the company with gas-guzzlers alone.

1st, they pushed 6-speed tranny on 6-8 models.
2nd, they are selling Flex-fuel vehicles.
3rd, hybrids.

hampden wireless

Ok, so WHEN is the two mode hybrid system going to be actually available?


10 miles is a good start. Perhaps they could offer a 20 mile "extended" range at some dollar cost + boot (trunk?) space cost.
They they could see what people would pay for. 10 miles also would cause people to ask for recharging stations in work which could be interesting.
Here you would have people recharging at peak ( or at least non-off peak) times. Perhaps you could work out a smart charger that would avoid known peak times or could be shut off for several hours / day ( for a reduction in cost ).
10 miles is definitely interesting - it causes more system optimisation to be done than a 100 mile range would off the bat.
If we find how to work with 10 mile range we could end up with a more economical ( and lighter ) car in the long run.


10 miles would be awesome compared to zero today. Funny to hear the geekheads bash everything.
10 miles would get millions to and from work, if they can even double suv milage like they are talking about that would be a quantum leap forward. I just hope cobasys stays involved.


I think there is some debate as to wether or not GM will still be in business in 2009!

Max Reid

Whether 10 miles, 20, 30 is ideal is ultimately going to be decided by the customer.

Lets say a hybrid vehicle costs 20K and with 10 mile range there is an extra 4K, so
for 20 miles - 8K extra
for 30 miles - 12K extra.

No one will be willing to foot 8-12 K. So an average guy will go for 10 mile range. Meanwhile the smart guy who know about optimum returns will also go for 10 miles .

Max Reid

Hello andrichrose

If GM goes down, Michigan's economy will also go down and will hit the US economy very hard.

Imagine the GM pensioners going down and settling in Mexico since healthcare, food and energy are cheaper there.

It will hit the real estate market as well.
So pray God for GM to live.

Ofcourse their future lives in alternate fuel vehicles.


10 miles covers 90% of my trips ... and even if I have to go 20 at least the first 10 don't need gas. Not to mention that after the first 10 it's still a hybrid.

Mark R. W. Jr.

Let's give GM some credit for at least announcing hybrids. But I've said it before and I''ll say it again: can GM deliver? They'll have to expect stiff competition from Toyota with their Prius and other hybrid choices, Honda, Nissan (whose hybrids are on the way), and even Ford who has the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market (the Escape FWD Hybrid).

We shall see what we shall see.


Give us a Vue with 4 cylinders and 20 electric miles, instead of 6 cylinders and 10 electric miles. This is a no-brainer.

Max Reid

In Hybrids, GM is slow, but in Flex-fuel they have moved quickly. After all there are 8 million FFV's in the World and thats 1 % of World vehicle population.

Hope they move fast on hybrids also in the future.

Lou Grinzo

I'm thrilled to see this announcement.

I've never been a GM fan, to say the least. But I know that the healthier and more competitive US car companies are, the more they'll push the imports to develop greener cars sooner. Plus, keeping those jobs in the US is a huge bonus.

I was sure that when GM announced this it would be very bad news, like a PHEV Tahoe (shudder). So I'm glad I was wrong on that major detail.

I suspect that we'll see a longer battery-only range than promised. A lot could happen between now and when this vehicle ships, including GM hearing from a lot of would-be customers saying the range should be at least 20 miles.

The real fun will be watching the other companies react to this news in the next 6 to 12 months. I bet we'll see some interesting announcements--will the new 2009 hybrid model from Honda suddenly morph into a PHEV? will someone commit to the US EV model and try to leapfrog GM?--as the companies try to one-up each other and be "greener than thou."


I have another hunch as to why they are targeting the 10 mile range. They made it clear that their charging system would work with a standard 110 volt household current. If you double and triple that range, the charging time goes up proportionately. They probably feel that people aren't going to want to keep them plugged in for 8 hours straight, more like a couple hours. Keeping it simple.

Using the Tesla as a basis for comparison, they only quote their quick charging times when using their special charging device which I believe runs off of 220 volts.


10 miles on a charge is a great start, and would work really well for my daily commute. And as Lou Grinzo mentioned, this should give GM's competition a reason to accelerate electric autos as well as other alternative fuel vehicles.

This is exciting, but I hope it's not too little too late for all of us.


It's a step. GM have the engineering expertise: they've built the EV-1 (a plugin) and the PNGV Precept (a hybrid). We could nitpick and say: the range should be 30 miles, it should be in the Astra, etc etc, and all of it would be true. But it's still welcome news, and a long overdue first step.


Enthusiastic kudos to Rick Waggoner and Company. This will challenge the competition, stimulate GM divisions, and gives birth to a new growth in Detroit. All those who understand the 10 mile initial goal is of course under promising, so to deliver improvement at launch.

Just the fact that GM, a nearly exclusive ICE business, has today made it clear they are in the alternative energy transportation business is reason to celebrate.

And just to make it more interesting, redirecting the U.S. market away from non-renewable oil, changes the virtual balance of power in middle-eastern energy States. Energy independence is a step toward global independence. Good work GM!

FYI co2

"Meanwhile the smart guy who know about optimum returns will also go for 10 miles"
are you implying the smart guy doesn't consider external costs (emissions, natl. security)?

tom deplume

Considering that 1 out of every 6 gallons of fuel used is burned in a stationary car or truck then even an idle-stop hybrid is a big improvement. GM and other companies are waiting to see what battery technology is most cost effective considering there maybe a demand for 10 million battery packs/yr. Foamed lead could still prove a better buy than lithium.


This is all very amusing considering how much money & effort GM put into fighting California's Zero Emission Vehicle mandate.

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