GM Announces Hybrid Production Plans

The company is already selling hybrid bus systems and will offer hybrid full-size trucks by 2004.

Published: 09-Jan-2001

DETROIT, Jan. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) introduced a hybrid system today that enables the company to sell a portfolio of hybrid vehicles, including cars, trucks and commercial vehicles. Sales of the new system will debut in 2004, Vice Chairman Harry J. Pearce announced at the North American International Auto Show.

GM's first adaptation of this new system will be in a sport utility vehicle. The company is already selling hybrid bus systems and will offer hybrid full-size trucks by 2004.

The ParadiGM* system (say PAIR-a-dime) combines a V-6 or an inline-4 cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors and a battery pack. The 3.6-liter V-6 version of the hybrid powertrain, which will be offered first, puts out 220 horsepower from the ICE, plus another 32 hp from the electric motors.

The system is being designed for use on a global mid-sized platform called Epsilon. This shared platform will enable GM to use the hybrid powertrain in a variety of vehicles, including SUVs, new crossover vehicles and passenger sedans. At least 7,000 SUV hybrids should be produced in the first year, Pearce said, and other vehicle types could appear thereafter, depending on market conditions.

"Rather than forcing everyone into a small vehicle, we can offer consumers a choice: Pick the configuration that you think looks good and matches your lifestyle. You want a high mileage minivan? Fine. You want an SUV with excellent acceleration, towing capacity and better fuel economy? We could tailor the powertrain to meet that need too," Pearce said.

"Instead of just pursuing a vehicle that has been engineered from the ground up to eke out the maximum miles per gallon and requires significant performance sacrifices, GM has chosen to develop a practical drivetrain that can power a variety of our vehicles."

"The bottom line is, if we're ever going to achieve a sustained reduction in fleet fuel consumption, it has to be with vehicles that most consumers are actually willing to buy -- ones that might carry the swim team or tow a pop-up camper. That will be a hybrid that makes a difference, and GM is going to build it."

This first vehicle will get about 20 percent better fuel economy than a non-hybrid version of this vehicle -- or about 35 miles per gallon for the planned SUV (composite of the city and highway tests) -- and is targeted to achieve lower tailpipe emissions. "We expect that the hybrid system will deliver a 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption in urban driving," Pearce added.

The battery pack is smaller than you'd find in a purely electric vehicle, and it acts mostly as a supercharger on the IC engine for passing and quick acceleration. The battery pack weighs just one-fifth the weight of a more traditional electric vehicle. This also reduces cost.

"The best news is that consumers get a fuel efficient, performance package," Pearce said. "When you factor in the feature of all-wheel-drive and the performance equivalent of a supercharged V-6, the ParadiGM SUV will reach market at an attractive price as compared to a comparably-equipped vehicle."

Since cost remains a challenge, GM supports financial incentives that encourage the development and consumer acceptance of advanced technology vehicles.

Efficiency and Performance

GM's approach is to apply technology in high-volume solutions. Converting popular vehicle styles into more efficient hybrids will save far more gasoline than creating a small niche vehicle that only a few consumers will want.

"Converting an efficient IC vehicle into a high-efficiency hybrid vehicle saves more fuel than making an already-efficient design into a super-efficient hybrid," Pearce said. A relatively simple calculation shows why: Converting a small car that might get 50 mpg to a hybrid at 70 mpg saves 57 gallons over 10,000 miles of driving experience. But converting a 25 mpg vehicle into a 35 mpg hybrid, while improving the miles per gallon rating by only half as much, actually saves MORE fuel, 114 gallons over 10,000 miles.

"Add to that the fact that more of these kinds of hybrids will be purchased and be on the road, and the fuel savings really start to mount," Pearce said.

This impressive efficiency doesn't come at the cost of sacrificing the power and performance consumers demand. GM expects an SUV powered by the ParadiGM powertrain to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just over 7 seconds.

How it Works

At the heart of the ParadiGM system is an innovative new transaxle. The transaxle package mates to a full-sized engine and includes the two electric motors, the differential that drives the wheels, and the air conditioning compressor. The entire package, including the internal combustion engine, will fit in transverse fashion, over the front axle.

The ParadiGM system is engineered to overcome some of the shortcomings of the small, mild hybrids that are currently available. Most notably, it efficiently powers the air conditioning system, even when the engine is off. Air conditioning is actually the second-largest consumer of the car's energy, after moving it down the road. And, as has been seen in early production hybrids, air conditioning can create serious problems for efficiency and performance. The energy-hungry air conditioning compressor will be driven by ParadiGM's innovative transaxle, allowing it to be turned by the IC engine, one of the electric motors, or even by the regenerative power of the car coasting.

The ParadiGM system fits with GM's strategy of developing production options for rapid response to changing market conditions. Because it can be used in a variety of transverse front-wheel-drive platforms, the ParadiGM powertrain might appear in coupes, sedans, vans, sport utilities and cross-over vehicles.

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