GM Promises 14 Hybrids by 2012
GM is gearing up to begin serious work on hybrid vehicles as part of an effort to help reach President Barack Obama’s goal of putting 1 million hybrids and electric cars on the road by 2015. GM plans to have 14 hybrid models by 2012, a spokeswoman said today.
“I can tell you we can definitely do the heavy lifting part of that,” Britta Gross, GM’s director of global energy systems and infrastructure commercialization, told Reuters. “We definitely will lift up our end of that.”
The centerpiece of GM’s hybrid and EV line will, of course, be the Chevrolet Volt. GM plans to launch the range-extended, plug-in hybrid by the end of next year as a 2011 model. Gross wouldn’t say how many Volts GM expects to sell, but cautioned that cost of the technology, gas prices, the economy, and the availability of batteries could all affect Volt production and sales. Gross said that it would be difficult for the industry to put 1 million hybrids and EVs on the road in such a short time span, but said that GM is ready to do its part in meeting the president’s goal.
“These are new times with new challenges,” Gross said. “The price of gasoline is one of the factors. The economy is one of the factors. The capacity of General Motors or any large automaker to deploy plug-in vehicles depends on the capacity of suppliers. Among them are battery suppliers. We need more capacity.”
The big question is, what will these 14 hybrids that GM is promising be? The General currently has five in its stable, not including the discontinued Malibu Hybrid and the soon-to-be-sold-to-Penske Saturn division. GM has promised that a better Malibu Hybrid and the Volt are coming, but that only brings the tally to seven. We had a look through GM’s product portfolio, and here’s what we’ve come up with:
As noted above, GM has five hybrids in its line-up already, the Chevrolet Silverado and Tahoe and their twins the GMC Sierra and Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade, all of which are essentially the same vehicle underneath. While the Chevrolet Malibu mild hybrid is out for 2010, it’ll be back and the Chevrolet Volt is promised by the end of next year. That’s where the certainty ends.
From there, GM needs seven more hybrids to meet its 14-hybrid goal. GM has developed a two-mode hybrid system that was supposed to debut on the now-defunct Saturn Vue. GM did not, however, include the hybrid technology in the sale, so it’s still waiting in the wings and it will most likely show up on the Vue’s platform mates, the Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain. That’s nine. Meanwhile, rumor has it that an as-of-yet-unnamed Buick crossover to be built on the Theta platform will be the first vehicle to get the Vue’s two-mode system, so that could make ten. With the new Cadillac SRX now on the Theta Premium platform, it could also be a candidate. That could be eleven.
With the Malibu Hybrid promised to return next year with a better hybrid powertrain — hopefully the same two-mode system that would be found in the Thetas, but more likely an improved BAS mild hybrid system — it’s likely its platform-mates could benefit as well. With yesterday’s announcement of a four-cylinder version of the new Buick LaCrosse, there’s a good chance that a LaCrosse Hybrid could be in the works as well. There’s twelve.
Here’s where it gets really murky. GM needs as few as two and as many as four more hybrids to meet its goal, and it’s running out of ready-to-be-converted models. One possibility is that GM could try to downsize the four-cylinder engine and two-mode hybrid system to fit under the hood of the new Chevrolet Cruze, which would open the door to a hybrid version of the upcoming Chevrolet Orlando MPV and the rumored Buick version of the Cruze. With the Orlando on hold and the Buick just a rumor, though, the Cruze is the only real possibility by 2012, and even that depends entirely on whether or not GM could make the packaging work.
Another possibility would be a proliferation of GM’s new Voltec technology, which will debut in the Chevrolet Volt. We reported earlier that the Voltec-based Cadillac Converj has been green-lighted for production and rumor has it a Buick model could be in the works, but neither of those reports has been officially confirmed. Further, it would be more than a little difficult for GM to get one or both of those cars in the showrooms by 2012.
One platform that GM hasn’t hybridized yet is the popular Lambda platform, consisting of the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave. If GM can get the now-defunct Saturn Vue’s two-mode hybrid system out the door, the Lambdas with their high-feature V-6s are prime candidates, opening up three more potential hybrids to meet The General’s goal. The Lambdas are slightly less likely than the Thetas since their platform hasn’t been adapted for a hybrid drivetrain yet, but being larger vehicles, there should be room to do it. The big question is how long it will take to engineer the conversion to production standards.
A final, remote possibility is that GM could try to shrink its two-mode hybrid system from its trucks to fit into the RWD Cadillac CTS, provided there’s enough room in the car to make it happen.