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General Motors Press Conference
Declaring that we’re in the hybrid game, officials for General Motors Corp. unveiled two gasoline-electric hybrid SUVs.
two SUVs will go on sale in the U.S. in each of the next two model
years. And the giant automaker promised more hybrids in every market
segment will come by the end of the decade, including a hybrid version
of its Cadillac Escalade by calendar 2008.
Tom Stephens, group vice president of powertrains, said consumers can
expect a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy from the two initial
hybrid vehiclesthe 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line and the 2008 Chevrolet
Tahoe SUVs over comparable gas-only models.
Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid will be in showrooms this summer with a
starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price of less than $23,000.
This is some $4,000 less than the current lowest-priced hybrid SUV, the
2006 Ford Escape Hybrid.
General Manager Jill Lajdziak estimated fuel economy of the Saturn Vue
Green Line of 27 miles a gallon in city driving and 32 mpg on the
highway, which compares with 22/27 mpg in a gas-only four-cylinder
two-wheel-drive Vue with automatic transmission. The hybrid Vue has
front-wheel drive only.
But the Saturn Vue Green Line system operates a bit differently than the Ford Escape Hybrid, as well as hybrids from Toyota.
Different Hybrid TechnologyWhile
the Vue uses an electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery pack to
supplement a 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower,
the Vue cannot run beyond a few seconds solely on electric power. The
Ford and Toyota Hybrids can run for extended periods on electric power.
the Vue’s hybrid system is designed to supplement the gas engine, via
extra launch power as a driver starts up from a stop, as well as via
additional power for passing maneuvers.
does save gas by turning off the gasoline engine when the vehicle comes
to a stop, say at a stoplight. The engine starts automatically when the
driver lets up on the brake pedal.
have called the Vue system a simpler hybrid technology than that of
competitors like Toyota. As a result, the Vue system adds about $1,500
to the price of the vehicle vis-à-vis the $3,000-plus cost for the more
complicated Hybrid Synergy System of Toyota, they said.
consumers should note that there’s no gauge or information display in
the Vue to tell drivers exactly what fuel mileage they’re getting. GM
engineers said the Vue electronic architecture does not support that
kind of calculation. Vue hybrid owners can calculate their mileage on
their own after each gasoline fill-up, they said.
Full-Size Hybrid SUVsThe
second hybrid SUV from GM, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe, has a more robust
hybrid system that does allow the vehicle to operate solely on electric
power, when possible.
When it debuts in about a
year and a half, the Tahoe Hybrid and its twin, GMC Yukon Hybrid
full-size SUVs will become the largest hybrid vehicles on the market.
hybrid strategy will not be confined to small cars, said Mark LaNeve,
vice president of sales, service and marketing at GM. He added that
prices won’t be announced until closer to the on-sale date next year.
Tahoe’s Vortec V8, with automatic cylinder shutdown, will be mated to
an electric motor to produce a 25 percent fuel economy improvement,
After the hybrid press
conference, GM invited media to an event at the Cadillac display, where
the 2007 Escalade was unveiled amid a party during which Travis Barker,
drummer for the band Blink 182, entertained. Barker, who stars on the
MTV show Meet the Barkers is an Escalade fan. He owns three of the big SUVs and has Cadillac tattoo artwork on his body.