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GM Announces Next-Generation GM Hybrid System with Hitachi Li-Ion Pack; Plans Global Deployment

General Motors Chairman Rick Wagoner announced at the Geneva Motor Show today that GM will introduce into production a second-generation version of the GM Hybrid System equipped with a lithium-ion battery system from Hitachi Vehicle Energy Ltd (HVE), a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd.

The Li-ion pack will help make the next-generation GM Hybrid System—the mild hybrid belt-alternator-starter system applied in the Saturn Vue; Saturn Aura; Chevrolet Malibu; and Buick LaCrosse Eco-Hybrid in China (earlier post)—nearly three times more powerful than the system it replaces. Overall fuel economy improvements for cars and trucks using the system are expected to be up to 20%, depending on engine and vehicle application.

By building on this system, Wagoner said, GM will be able to make the GM Hybrid System more cost-effective and expand its application in GM’s global vehicle portfolio.

In order to have a real impact in reducing oil consumption, oil imports, and CO2 emissions, advanced technologies must be affordable enough to drive high-volume applications. We plan to roll out this next-generation hybrid technology globally, across our brands and regions, starting in 2010 in North America, and we expect that volumes will eventually exceed 100,000 units annually.

—Rick Wagoner

The next-generation GM Hybrid System will complement GM’s Two-Mode Hybrid system as part of the company’s advanced powertrain portfolio. The Two-Mode Hybrid system debuted in 2007 in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, and will be offered this year in the Cadillac Escalade full-size SUV and the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups. The first front-wheel-drive application of the Two-Mode Hybrid system will debut in the 2009 Saturn Vue Green Line.

The increased power from the lithium-ion battery will allow the next-generation GM Hybrid System to be used in a wide range of global powertrains, including naturally aspirated engines, new high-efficiency turbocharged engines, bio-fuel engines and diesels.

This technology is showcased in the Saab 9-X BioPower Hybrid concept car, which made its debuted at the Geneva Motor Show. The Saab concept is capable of 117 g CO2/km, or projected fuel consumption of 4.9 l/100 km (48 mpg) when running on gasoline over the combined cycle. (Earlier post.)

Features supported by the next-generation GM Hybrid System include:

  • Turning the engine off at idle;

  • Offering brief electric-only propulsion;

  • Using a more powerful electric motor to enhance engine efficiency;

  • Extending fuel cutoff during deceleration;

  • Extending regenerative braking to recapture more energy;

  • Performing intelligent hybrid battery charging

For additional energy savings, an advanced six-speed automatic transmission also may be used, depending on the vehicle application.

The current GM Hybrid System was introduced in 2006 on the Saturn Vue Green Line SUV. By the end of 2008, GM will offer eight hybrid models in North America and nine worldwide. GM will introduce 16 new hybrid vehicles over the next four years.

Hitachi Vehicle Energy Ltd. Hitachi Vehicle Energy Ltd. was formed in 2004 as a joint venture between Hitachi, Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co. Ltd. and Hitachi Maxwell Ltd. to develop, manufacture and market rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for hybrid electric vehicles and other applications.

In January, the partners injected ¥6 billion (US$58 million) to the JV company to strengthen its production and development capabilities. Following the capital increase, capital ratios of Hitachi, Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery and Hitachi Maxell will be 64.9%, 25.1% and 10.0%, respectively.

HVE is working with a layered nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cathode material and a graphite anode.

Hitachi expects the global market for HEVs to continue expanding from the 410,000 unit level recorded in 2006 to 1.5 million units in 2010. Against this backdrop, Hitachi estimates that demand for HEV lithium-ion batteries will overtake that for the current mainstream nickel metal hydride batteries in 2015.

Hitachi Chemical Co. is expanding its output capacity for graphite materials used in lithium-ion battery anodes by 20%. (Earlier post.)

Hitachi also produces power electronics and motors for application in hybrid and electric vehicles. The company already provides the motor in the first generation GM Hybrid System: a 4kW (mechanical) machine with 5kW generating power, delivering some 60 Nm of motoring torque.



Rafael Seidl

The 20% gain is presumably relative to the conventional base model with a naturally aspirated V6 and a five-speed slushbox.

The mild hybrid system alone will not deliver gains that high. It must be combined with engine downsizing, i.e. lopping off a couple of cylinders (V6 to I4 w/ balancing shafts) and adding a turbo, preferably homogenous GDI as well. Adding gears to the transmission is also desirable. The electric motor can mask turbo lag and provide transient boost torque at low RPM such that the entire system can deliver the same performance characteristics as the one in the base vehicle.


it wasnt that long ago that the Detroit auto manufacturers went to Bush and asked for relief on all the new mileage requirements because they were impossible to meet. He told them to stuff it. Guess they lied to him about impossibilities, although they are way behind the times on understanding what they should be doing.

Mark A

GM bashers, start your engines!!!!


Adding power and torque to a belt-driven starter-alternator is a dumb idea. It ought to be crank-mounted to maximize the benefit of all that torque available from the e-machine. All that talk about 'accelerative power' and 'regenerative braking' is more marketing than anything effective. This is like throwing good money after bad. I just don't see how this is significantly superior to what they already have out there in the Saturn VUE mild-hybrid system.


Rafael - the 20% is also a numbers game. The comparison is between a V6+Auto trans (as base) with torque converter and an I-4 with auto trans and torque converter, with the vehicle having low rolling resistance tires, aero treatments and all that stuff. So, you are absolutely correct. The fuel economy improvement from the hybrid system alone is not more than 10%. The same was the case also for the hybrid Civic, but that's how the game is being played.

Michael McMillan

Offering brief electric-only propulsion

That line is key, and I suspect will offer greatly increased gas mileage on the road side.

In stop and go traffic, the ability to stop, then roll at 3 mph for 60 feet then stop without ever turning the engine on is a great gas saver.

At a stop light, the ability to roll forward 30 - 80 feet as people make right hand turns is a great gas saver.

The article did not make it clear if there was a 20% savings over a non-hybrid model or over the existing mild hybrid. I took it to mean that it was a 20% savings in gas over the existing hybrid.


Michael McMillan

With this system I can see them closing the valves, and to roll forward just making the engine go around without starting. This is not as efficient, but it means that they don't have to add the expense and complexity of an additional clutch or speed and gear matching system.


Harvey D

Rafael & CarNut:

It's easy to make numbers say what you want when you change the reference base at will.

GM is to produce a second version of their pre-generation mild-hybrid. This is not much of an effort. A small e for a mini effort?

However, the Saab 9-X seems to be much more but is just another concept vehicle. It may, most likely, never be produced.

GM has a very long way to go. Meanwhile, their local sales are dropping rapidly. It will take much more to turn the trend around. How can a large organisation get that far behind?



Because large organizations have a great deal of institutional inertia. They also have those massive legacy costs (pensions, health care) for hundreds of thousands of retired workers. Their labor costs thus eat into the R&D money that would otherwise go into new products. But then, we've been over that ground before.


Complexity and high efficiency come at a premium. That rule sure applies to hybrids, heck even diesel connoisseurs can see that. Therefore, these GM next-gen hybrids being submitted as a lower cost variation, that give several more mpg's to almost any vehicle platform, is a "good thing". A larger demographic will be served and offered a more fuel efficient and affordable choice than they had before. I welcome them, and hope and anticipate better things yet to come.

Dan A

I think you guys are underestimating the importance of this. Considering the existing mild hybrid system GM currently makes, it seems more than reasonable that a 20% increase in fuel economy can be achieved, and over 100,000 for just this one type of hybrid allows them to get significant economies of scale, and mild-hybrids are significantly cheaper anyway.

Considering this is comming along with the introduction of the two-mode hybrid and the volt (wich is essentially the first mass produced electric car, as the electric is the only thing providing power to the wheels, which allows you to put whatever engine you want, even a fuel cell, and allow them to opperate always at their peak efficency), GM is really putting some signficant effort into hybrids. They're really the only ones after toyota who have put a signficant effort into hybrids.


GM is evil. They should be nationalized and the executives beheaded.

andrew rose

Bob Lutz wrote a whole page in "Newsweek" a couple
of weeks back, about how he was convinced that the future
of the car industry lay with driving the wheels with electric
motors , and not with the ICE . what with this post and the fact
that GM are spending 690 million on a new diesel engine
plant , it makes me wonder, does Bob still work for GM !


Considering it has been 10 years after the debut of the Prius and Insight, I am amazed that this is all they have. Lithium batteries is not going to make all that much difference with BAS. You can only make a belt drive motor do just so much and that is it. The fact that they have the two mode only in large SUVs and trucks is pretty bad. They need to light a fire under it between now and 2010, or get left in the dust.


Is this GM's Plan A? I hope they have a Plan B.


I completely agree with Dan. Where does this idea that the BAS alone cannot deliver a 20% gain? The current system already does. Unless the EPA is lying, a FWD Saturn Vue Hybrid w/ 4spd auto delivers 25/32 (28.5 combined), while the non-hybrid equivalent delivers 19/26 (22.5 combined). That is a 26%+ improvement. Yeah, the BAS in the Malibu/Aura produces a much smaller percentage improvement, but that is consistent with most hybrids - they provide a smaller improvement on inherently fuel efficient vehicles.

My point is, if the current generation BAS can produce a 26% improvement in an application, I see no reason a system with 3x the power could not hit that 20% mark GM is quoting.

Dan A

The volt's innitial production run will be 60,000 per year, which is 12 times the innitial production run of the Prius. Honda stopped producing the Insight and hybrid Accord. Also, the return on investment for a hybrid drivetrain on an SUV or truck are better than those for small cars, and the majority of gasoline consumption in the US is from trucks/SUVs. Given all that, how do you figure GM's not taking this seriously


Mick, SJC, seriously? What do you call the 2-mode system, the EV (Volt) and the fuel cell projects they have? Did you really miss those? Hell, the 2-mode was referred to in this article! It's like people cannot wait to bash GM, no matter how absurd they ultimately sound.


It remains to be seen how many Volts will be produced, if any. The number of large hybrid SUVs sold this year will be few. The number of BAS cars sold so far are few. The numbers speak for themselves and the marketing press releases seem to go on forever.


One more empty promise from GM, 20% improvment compared to existing model will bring the saturn aura from 25 to 30MPG even consider the today saturn green aura mild hybrid model improvment from 27MPG to 32MPG. The Toyota camry hyrid today return 34MPG and they don't need a Li-ion battery to get that.

The truth is that GM will NEVER make fuel efficiency car, not only because they are not good at doing it but also because they don't care.

Look at this the Saturn Astra that they are introducing now return 32MPG on highway and that's a small car with 1.8MPG. My 94 Honda accord get the same for bigger size.

Shame on GM


Fuel cells will prove to be a non starter for passenger sedans. Ballard Power systems who've been working to supply the automobile industry for what seems like forever dumped their passenger vehicle business a few months ago to concentrate on transit vehicle powertrains, so much for fuel cells being a viable candidate in the short/medium term.

Regarding these BAS systems. Similar to Honda's IMA, Integrated Motor Assist, was introduced first with the Civic and then with the Accord. Honda and its customers, who, unwittingly, were the guinea pigs for the major field testing found the system not to provide the benefits expected particularly in the colder climes and the Honda Accord hybrid ran only for two model years before being discontinued after the 2007 year. It's a fact, any uninsulated battery box will suffer from 'cold soak' when left outside in the open for long enough in the snow belt and leave the car as a Hybrid in name only. The Panasonic Battery site displays the temperature/power curve for the NiMH battery chemistry showing the drop off at -10 deg C, it's brutal. The Prius is affected to a much lesser degree since its modus operandi is to run the ICE, which is only partially coupled to the wheels, at the lowest possible speed at all times. By supplying power at almost the lowest engine speeds but at commensurately higher torques, before the onset of lugging, the system is able to minimise the effect of friction per engine revolution. This is full hybrid system is also implemented in the Ford Escape I should mention.

I believe disappointment in the mileage from the mild hybrids not living up to expectations was damaging to Honda's future prospects of selling to these owners later on so they quietly took the HAH off the market. That's my opinion anyway. In any event I had been posting about why this IMA was not a particularly good system from the electrical engineering perspective at least three years before on the Honda Civic Hybrid board. Anyway you'll see the arguments Toyolla2 was advancing in the Edmunds board at the time if you're interested. After I made the case to one owner he managed to have all his posts removed from the board which kind of killed the thread. I didn't think he would take it so badly. I lay off those hatchet jobs today. Although sometimes it takes an AXE to get peoples attention.

Accusations of GM bashing, well don't look at me. I want GM to succeed. Heck in my immediate area a major supplier to the Big three just closed shop let 800 people go. Two years ago there were 2000 people working there. And that was just one of several companies that have had major layoffs here in the past year. Despite taking hundreds of millions of dollars in inducements from our government to set up shop here in the first place.
So I want to see GM retain its customer base particularly from those Asian companies that are allowed to ship cars in by the boatload. It has to be making the right decisions . Sound decisions. This BAS idea is just terrible. It continues to perpetuate the large gasoline engine with equally large and complicated stepped transmissions for channeling power to the wheels, irregardless of the fact that alternatively controlling electrical power instead of mechanical poer is a comparitively simple matter. Control of a hundred kilowatts can fit inside a shoe box and connect to an induction motor on the transaxle differential. Job done.
The mechanical method requires variable rpms with variable torque and those torque reactions have to be nursed all the way from the engine block mountings to the transaxle supports with special considerations all the way through to prevent sending powerful vibrations into the body frame. A seies hybrid setup gets you away from all that. Then again there would be no DSG with its own ECU which no transmission shop will understand when you take it there. Here's a scenario - It could be a mechanical problem or it could be an electronic sensor problem with the DSG. How about we replace the whole thing Sir that way we'll be sure. Er... would you mind if we just run your plastic now Sir it's not going to be cheap and we don't want to have to hang on to your car do we Sir! Who wants that outside warranty ?
In the industrial setting involving the machines I helped design we sometimes used 200Hp drivelines. But even if it was only 60Hp the procedure was standard. Connect the motor to the controller, download parameters. Tune. Test. Job done.
But in the auto industry -with these announcements- you would think they were launching the damn space shuttle.


Dan A,

GM says first year Volt will be 10,000 units.


Somehow the announcement lacks the impact that would get me excited. They need to get more weight reduction ideas going to have a more attractive offering. A hybrid should be smaller, lighter, more efficient, and more reliable. The age of the lumbering giant is over.



You are right but unfortunately it seems that GM is committed to keep his business as usual and his head in the sand like if the constantly increase of gas price was not a signal strong enough flashing "the end of cheap oil is over" no, instead they will go to the congress or the white house to cry for more ethanol to fill their dinosaur as they become ever bigger and heavier before going extinct. GM has no plan to make fuel efficient car, and instead of working at developping efficient cars they hide their suicidal policy behind a screen of smoke of concepts or "revolutionnary technologies" life fuel cell or Volts that they will never happen. America needs cars with better than 40MPG at less than 20K$ right now. After 3 straight years of increasing gas price they still have none, when Honda and Toyota have.

All the economists are baffled now by the oil staying at 100$/barrel, they look for a good reasons, speeculator, weak US$, blablabla, they fail to admit the truth: "the age of chip oil is over" and the production can't keep up with the demand and we will have to learn how to live with that, like it or not. The only solution on the short/medium term is : fuel efficiency, that's it, if the big 3 think they will repeat what they did in the end 80s then they won't survive. My bet is that Chrysler will not survive the incoming oil crisis, but that's only my bet. GM and Ford can survive but they will suffer the hell.

Dan A

I've read 60,000 from Bloomberg News, but also 10,000 from an automotive blog which was more recent. Even still, the Toyota only produced 5000 priusus in it's first year, and the volt is easily as revolutionary.

Also the idea that mild hybrids just aren't "serious" hybrids is a pretty dumb idea--it's comparing apples to oranges. One is a highly expensive, complicated drivetrain, which gives a large improvment in mileage. The other is a relatively simple, relatively cheap drivetrain, which provides a much more modest increase in mileage. I haven't crunched the numbers, but it's certainly possible the mild hybrid can give you a better return on investment.

Also, while the innitial production of the two-mode hybrid will be 10,000 per year, that's only on two different models. It's going to be available on three more models by the end of the year. I'd bet that they're going to increase that production some time in the future, similar to what they did with the BAS.

Every time GM does something, you get people like Treehugger and Lulu that'll either say that they're not doing enough, or that they're not actually serious enough. If Toyota on the other hand does something, it's the best thing since sliced bread.

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