Two Hybrid Powertrains Planned for Next-Gen Vue


The 2007 Vue Green Line hasn't even arrived at Saturn retail facilities yet, and there's already talk about what we can expect from a hybrid perspective when the all-new 2008 Vue arrives. The next generation Saturn Vue will reportedly offer two hybrid options when it debuts in second half of 2007, according to a report this week in The Car Connection (TCC). One option will be the so-called "mild" hybrid powertrain that will be available in the Vue Green Line this summer. The other will be a two-mode system that GM is developing with BMW and DaimlerChrysler.

The two-mode hybrid system features two modes optimized for city and highway driving. In the first mode, at low speed and light loads, the vehicle can operate in three ways: electric power only, engine power only or in any combination of engine and electric power. When operating with electric power only, it provides all the fuel-savings benefits of a full hybrid system. Leaving the engine shut off for extended periods of time and moving under electric power at low speed is key to reducing fuel consumption in heavy stop-and-go traffic.

By comparison, today's typical single-mode systems rely on much larger electric motors than are needed in the patent-protected two-mode system. The two-mode system innovations provide performance and fuel economy improvements at highway speeds and better trailer towing ability. Packaging is more efficient than today's single mode designs as the system's compact and powerful electric motors are designed to fit within the approximate space of a conventional automatic transmission.

"The two-mode design is the optimal merging of full hybrid and state-of-the-art automatic transmission technologies," explained Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM Powertrain. "Together we will jointly develop what is essentially an electrically variable transmission with two hybrid drive modes. This system will reduce fuel consumption at highway speeds much more effectively than available single mode systems and achieve at least a 25 percent improvement in composite fuel economy in full-size truck applications. In the near term, GM will also continue to expand its offerings of six-speed transmissions and engines equipped with advanced technologies such as variable valve timing and Displacement on Demand."

Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak admitted that having a dual hybrid strategy may be a little confusing to car shoppers, but she feels it's important to offer options in a market where fuel economy is such an important factor when buying a car. "One will be very cost competitive," she explained TCC, while the other "will be more aggressive in terms of capabilities and will come in at a higher price point."

Source: The Car Connection, General Motors

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