In 2006, GM unveiled a plugin hybrid 2-mode Saturn VUE concept six months before unveiling the Volt concept. Since the 2-mode hybrid system was already near production, and the plugin version would require a smaller battery than the Volt, it appeared likely that car would make it to market first.

However, since the Volt met such strong public praise, and GM was desperate for positive press, product guru Bob Lutz pushed the Volt program ahead to leapfrog all else.

Over these years we have seen and heard about the 2-mode plugin hybrid in various forms; there was the VUE, then after Saturn folded a Buick version . Later the system was shown in a Cadillac XTS flagship concept.

The system has been operational though in small test fleets for years. In fact, more than two years ago I test drove a perfectly satisfactory 2-mode plugin SUV on GM's proving grounds. At the time I heard off the record from GM insiders that a Cadillac SRX 2-mode plugin hybrid was being brought to production.

Now the latest iteration, and in my opinion the one that makes the most sense, is leaking into the media, though not yet of course officially announced.

Jim Frederico, who is GM's electric vehicle chief, alluded to reporters in Australia that his company was readying a plug-in hybrid version of the Cruze.   When I met Frederico in the past he told me GM had extensive future electric vehicle plans, but was very tight lipped about them as the Volt was about to be launched.  Currently, he didn't say the Volt would be abandoned but that the two would complement each other in the product portfolio.

“The Volt will always be a plug-in electric vehicle,” Federico told GoAuto. “Plug-in Cruze doesn’t make Volt redundant at all. Plug-in Cruze would have a different powertrain. Plug-in hybrids use both the engine and motor all the time.”

The plug-in Cruze would be able to compete directly with the plugin Prius for which Toyota is currently accepting orders.

The car would presumably have a small battery, perhaps 1/3 the size of the Volt, and be able to travel 10 or 15 miles on electric only at low load demand. High loads and speeds would cause the gas engine to go on and it would drive the car once the battery reaches the depletion point.

The car's small size lends to more fuel efficiency by the 2-mode plugin system than larger vehicles like SUVs.  Also since the Cruze is in mass production and priced below $20,000, it is likely GM could make the plug-in Cruze affordable - think under $30,000 without rebate.

Furthermore customers going into showrooms to see the Volt and instead buying the Cruze for cost reason, would likely be more tempted to get the plugin version.

Before we get too excited, GM communications as usual gives us the official party (pooper) line, this time attributable to Kevin Kelly:

We have not announced a Cruze PHEV and currently have no plans to produce a Cruze PHEV. Federico was providing direction on the multiple technologies that GM continues to work on in the hybrid space. We have said on several occasions that PHEV technology is something GM continues to work on, but we have no production plans or timing announced yet.
And so just maybe our horizon of a world less dependent on oil slowly widens.

Source ( Go Auto )


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