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First look: General Motors finally embraces hybrids

Family look: The Saturn Vue is similar to the Holden Captiva Maxx.

GM plans to make hybrids more widely available

6 Dec 2006

GENERAL Motors plans to build a plug-in hybrid version of its Saturn Vue, joining the Green Line range of hybrids it has planned over the next three years.

In addition to plug-in capabilities and the modified two-mode hybrid system, the Saturn Vue hybrid – the equivalent of Holden's Captiva Maxx – will feature lithium ion battery technology, two interior permanent magnet motors and GM's 3.6-litre V6 direct-injection petrol engine.

The fact that the Saturn Vue hybrid is the US equivalent of Holden's Captiva Maxx also raises the prospect of such hybrid technology appearing in local Holdens at some point in the future.

The car-maker believes the plug-in hybrid has the potential to achieve double the fuel efficiency of any current SUV.

GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said work had already started on the car but it would not be on sale for several years.

"I can't give you a production date for our plug-in hybrid today. But I can tell you that this is a top priority program for GM," he said.

A plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle differs from non-plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles by offering extended electric-only propulsion, additional battery capacity and the ability to be recharged from an external power outlet.

The Saturn Vue hybrid is expected to offer electric-only propulsion for more than 20km.

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 car.

When the vehicle is parked, the battery can be recharged using a common household exterior 110-volt US plug-in outlet.

The Saturn Vue front-wheel drive is currently available as a belt-alternator starter hybrid.

Next year, GM hybrids will expand to the Saturn Aura Green Line and Chevrolet Malibu front-wheel-drive sedans, as well as Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs. Rear-wheel and four-wheel drive will be offered.

In 2008, the two-mode hybrid system will be offered in the Cadillac Escalade SUV and the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra crew cab full-size pickups.

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