Saturn Hybrid Powertrain Will Live On

By dancurranjr On May 24th, 2009

saturn-vue-plug-inThe death of the Saturn brand won’t slow down the rollout of General Motors’ plug-in hybrid power train, says Tom Stephens, vice chairman of GM’s global product development.

After GM said on April 27 that it would stop building Saturns at the end of this year–not 2011, as previously planned–company sources said they knew of no other plans to use the plug-in hybrid power train, which had been scheduled for the Saturn Vue.

But Stephens says: “It doesn’t just go away because Saturn goes away. We are going to plug it in.”

GM plans to install the advanced gasoline-electric drivetrain, teamed with GM’s Two Mode front-wheel-drive transmission, in a compact crossover and introduce it when the Saturn Vue plug-in crossover was to debut, early in 2011, Stephens told Automotive News.

He would not say which vehicle would get the plug-in power train, but vehicles similar to the Vue that might be candidates include the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.

The plug-in Vue would have delivered fuel economy of about 35 mpg or slightly higher in city driving.

GM plans to deliver the first plug-in hybrids to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute for fleet testing in 2011, Stephens said. The institute is a nonprofit group that studies electricity.

GM had planned to launch a full hybrid version of the Vue this summer using its acclaimed Two Mode transmission, then add the plug-in in 2011. Now GM is going to launch the Two Mode with the plug-in feature all at once in that year.

No date has been set for when consumers will be offered a plug-in hybrid. Stephens said the price of fuel may play a role in determining that. Toyota Motor Corp. also plans to launch a test fleet of plug-in Priuses before offering them to consumers.

With the death later this year of the Saturn Aura Hybrid, GM will have more available hybrid parts, such as batteries and electronics, to build the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid if sales are strong. The two vehicles use the same power train.


Saturn Vue Plug-in Hybrid Will Live on as a New Brand and Model

By dancurranjr On May 12th, 2009

saturn-vue-plug-inEverything at GM is undecided at this point. At least almost everything.  GM has decided that the progress made on the 2-mode plugin hybrid powertrain and  is simply too much to lose.

Though Saturn support will be ending, the engineering behind the planned Saturn VUE plug-in hybrid will live. The vehicle was set to debut in early 2011 and still will.

What will change is the nameplate. GM must figure out what brand will be best suited for the new plug-in hybrid crossover. Candidates now include Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC.

Both Chevrolet with the Equinox, and GMC with the Terrain could become the recipients of the Saturn Vue plug-in powertrain.

According to GM’s vice chairman of global product development Tom Stephens, “It doesn’t just go away because Saturn goes away. We are going to plug it in. You have to stay tuned to which brand we are going to put it in. The good news is that the introduction of this technology will not be delayed. It is going to be on time.”

The only change at this point is that GM will not launch a Saturn 2 mode hybrid this summer as they had planned. Instead, they will launch both the 2 mode hybrid and the plug-in version together in 2011.

Whether it’s a Chevy product or part of the GMC lineup doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that this technology that GM has worked hard on will come to market on time.

SOURCE: All Cars Electric

GM: Hybrid Drive A Good Fit For Pickups

By dancurranjr On March 17th, 2009

gmIn today’s falling market for full-size pickups, towing capability is more important than ever, General Motors Corp. believes. And that, it says, is one reason for its recent four point gain in market share, to 42 percent, in the segment.

According to AutoTech Daily, GM figures more buyers will embrace the new hybrid-electric versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra currently being launched by the company. The new pickups are fitted with the same two-mode hybrid system — teamed with a 6.0-liter V-8 engine — offered on the 2008-model Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade hybrids.

GM says the two-mode powertrain,which has four fixed gears as well as a planetary gear that combinesthe output of the gasoline and two electric motors, is a good fit for the pickups. The additional gear ratios improve towing capacity — 6,100 pounds for two-wheel-drive versions of the Chevy/GMC pickups — including in all-electric mode at speeds up to 30 mph. Although towing capacity is down significantly from the traditionally powered counterparts (9,700 lbs for a 2wd extended cab truck), GM says its system provides more oomph than Ford and Toyota’s hybrid trucks, which top out at 3,500 and 1,000 pounds, respectively.

Refinements also have been made to other parts of the pickups to better complement the hybrid system and optimize fuel economy, which is listed at 21 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway in the two-wheel-drive model, up 40 percent in the city and 25 percent overall compared
to gasoline-only models.

The 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery drives the 42-volt electric steering unit through a DC-to-DC converter. In addition to recharging the battery, regenerative braking helps extend the life of the regular brake linings.

The 2010 pickups also get low-rolling-resistance tires. A new exhaust system is tuned specifically for the V-8’s cylinder deactivation
system — which cuts cylinders under partial-load operation.

A new hydraulic shock mount on the cab helps reduce vibration. The feature also will be included in GM’s non-hybrid pickups. In the hybrid models, the system is teamed with a new low-noise electric cooling fan for the battery pack.

Despite the benefits, GM expects fewer than 15 percent of its full-size pickup buyers to opt for the hybrid system. This compares to a 25 percent take rate for the Escalade hybrid, which GM says is one of the highest rates for a hybrid drive in vehicles that offer it as an option. The hybrid versions of the Tahoe/Yukon account for about 15 percent of Chevy/GMC full-size SUV sales.

The two-mode hybrid system was developed in partnership with DaimlerChrysler and BMW. Chrysler briefly offered the system in the Durango and Aspen before killing both vehicles in the face of the company’s economic woes. BMW will launch its version in the new X6 crossover later this year. GM also plans to offer the system in the Saturn Vue, although the program has been delayed and is somewhat questionable considering the future of Saturn itself is in jeopardy.

SOURCE: WWJ News Radio

Parts Shortages Could Delay GM’s Plan to Offer 26 Hybrids by 2014

By dancurranjr On March 5th, 2009

gmGeneral Motors ambitious viability plan announced a fortnight ago called for up to $16.6 billion in additional aid and the reduction of more than 47,000 jobs across the company’s global resources, but there was another major announcement in the plan that went largely unnoticed. GM also pledged to increase the number of hybrid vehicles it sells from the current eight to 26 by 2014.

Unfortunately for GM, while it may have the technology ready, potential parts shortages, especially for the all-important battery arrays, may end up causing delays. That’s the biggest worry according to GM executive vice president of global powertrain and global quality Tom Stephens. Speaking with Automotive News, Stephens said the original viability pledge for all 26 hybrids was made on the assumption that the components will be available.

It’s not just batteries that are in short supply, GM may also have to start producing its own electric motors for its future hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

One vehicle, the Saturn Vue Two Mode hybrid, already has been delayed because of a component shortage. That vehicle was supposed to have been launched by now but has been pushed back to June, Stephens said.

Tom Stephens is an important man at GM as he will replace the head of global product development, vice chairman Bob Lutz, who is retiring at the end of the year.

SOURCE: Motor Authority

Ford Motor Planning Plug-In Hybrids for 2012

By dancurranjr On February 4th, 2009

Ford Motor says it will have plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in showrooms in 2012, promising 30 miles on battery power before the gasoline engine kicks in.

Ford plans to underscore that promise with an announcement here today that it has contracted for lithium-ion battery cells with Johnson Controls-Saft, a U.S.-French joint venture that manufactures the batteries in France.

Ford’s buying enough cells for 5,000 plug-in vehicles a year and will assemble them into auto battery packs in North America, says Nancy Gioia, Ford’s hybrid chief, but she wouldn’t specify where. Nor would she say what the plug-in vehicle would be.

Ford is demonstrating the technology in a 2009 Escape SUV.

Ford becomes the latest automaker to set a public deadline for offering the fuel-saving vehicles, known as PHEVs.

General Motors says it will sell a PHEV version of the Saturn Vue compact SUV in late 2010 or early 2011. If the Saturn brand has been sold or discontinued, as GM has hinted, another GM brand would sell the PHEV.

Toyota Motor says it will sell a PHEV soon but hasn’t been specific.

GM, Nissan and Chrysler have said they will sell battery-only vehicles in the U.S. in 2010; Ford in 2011. Those are not hybrids and must be recharged by plugging into a household outlet for hours.

GM’s Chevrolet Volt battery car, promised for November 2010, is unusual. It has a four-cylinder gasoline engine to recharge the batteries or run a generator to power the car, but the gas engine never directly drives the car, as it would in a true hybrid. GM says Volt can go 40 miles on a full plug-in charge.

PHEVs have smaller, lighter, less-expensive batteries than pure electric vehicles. But they have bigger batteries than conventional gas-electric hybrids, so they can run longer on batteries only.

As a result they potentially can use no gasoline in shorter drives and hit 50 to 100 miles per gallon in longer drives.

Seattle-area tests of Toyota Prius hybrids converted to plug-in operation show an average 51 mpg in 17,636 miles of all types of driving, according to Scott Thomsen, spokesman for Seattle City Light, a utility company participating in the trials. That rises to an average 59 mpg in 8,886 miles of mainly city use, he says. The U.S. Department of Energy is overseeing the experiment.

Gasoline-electric hybrids already sell for $2,000 to $4,000 more than similar gasoline vehicles, and “there will be a premium for the plug-in capability” beyond that, Gioia says. Chevy Volt will be priced “under $40,000,” according to Tony Posawatz, who has directed the Volt’s development.

Source: USA Today