GM confirms: We’re developing a plug-in hybrid

Rick Wagoner, chief executive of General Motors Corp., has finally come clean with plans to commercialize a plug-in hybrid consumer vehicle. He didn’t give any dates, only a commitment that GM is considering this a top priority. “Production timing will depend on battery development,” he said.” Wagoner did say, however, the first version would be a Saturn VUE plug-in hybrid. “We’re working today with a number of battery companies to develop the technology necessary to build a plug-in hybrid.”

Wagoner made the comments during a speech today at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. An environmental activist apparently wasn’t satisfied with the commitment, or the lack of a date, and walked up on stage asking Wagoner to sign a pledge to be the industry’s fuel-economy leader by 2010. Wagoner’s response: “You have to leave now.”

Good on GM for making the commitment to come out with a plug-in hybrid, but without a ballpark date it’s tough to say whether this is just PR that won’t go anywhere. We know battery technology is holding up the technology — Toyota and other car makers have said this as well. It’s a safe bet for any company to say they’ll come out with a plug-in hybrid when that technology is ready. Hasn’t that been the claim for fuel cells?

I’m being a skeptic — perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps this move by GM will spark similar announcements from its competitors and then, suddenly, we’ll have real competition toward getting the first plug-in hybrids into the North American market.

Here’s hoping.

7 thoughts on “GM confirms: We’re developing a plug-in hybrid”

  1. Since batteries are now good enough for an electric car (Tesla and others), they should be perfectly sufficient for a plug in hybrid. This just more double talk from GM.

  2. While battery technology may be good enough, the price for something like the Li-ion system that Tesla uses is not. My guess: Firefly batteries will finally meet all the needs (price, energy density, power density) to make it a reality.

  3. Let the Plug in America soft order actors use their procurement capacities. Europe has just set the CO2 restrictions stricter. Let Arnold return to his fatherland & other states on the Old Continent and forge an alliance with other sortlike frontrunners, like Rotterdam and Heerlen. Let Dubya bite the dust and make GM and Toyota lead to a better future!

    Emil M

  4. Just a quick addition to the part on a timeline for commercializing a potential GM-made plug-in hybrid; the article I just read in the Wall Street Journal quotes Wagoner as saying that it will be “years” before this thing can be brought to market. As you point out, Tyler, “years” sounds like about the same period of time GM says is necessary to to roll-out some form of fuel-cell or hydrogen-powered vehicle. I’m an optimist about most things clean tech in the long-run, but if I were a GM shareholder I wouldn’t hold my breath for a massive recalibration of corporate strategy to favour clean powertrain technologies. I think both GM and Ford very much still see the SUV as the highest margin product they have, and are probably banking more on a return to lower oil prices than on a large increase in the demand for clean cars to save their sagging bottom lines.

  5. I saw the GM hybrid at the Atlanta Auto Show and it shouldn’t even be called a hybrid. It is even worse then Toyota’s. What you say! Yes the only correct hybrid is like a locomotive, meaning motor generator (APU). As an example, there is a demo BMW Mimi that can do 0 to 100 in less then 5 seconds and has 160 Hp electric motors in each wheel, but when it USES it’s APU and dependent on the speed, it should get between 60 and 80 mpg, and they believe with better capacitors they wouldn’t need the APU at all. Should GM be designing this correct type (which knowing GM and that they can’t do anything right will not be doing the right hybrid design), it could take one or two years. With all the new batteries and ultacapacitors coming out, I don’t even see the need for the APU. We should be looking at only electric cars, or as a minimum electric powered cars with APUs to provide power for long trips, which could be attached to the car at time of uses my a trailer hitch.

  6. In response to an earlier article on this blog, I posted the following (the third comment, from Andrew L posted 18 Oct 2006 02:03 PM EDT). Can anybody refer me to a study that shows that plug-in hybrid technology is the most effective option for reducing emissions based on a complete energy lifecycle analysis?

  7. As I see it, phev’s could be a spearhead towards a 100% RES based power supply. Making the question of how efficient it exactly is, not a show stopper. What we need is bold action towards 100 % RES.

    As well as social justice and economies geared towards an optimization of gross global happiness. The latter 2 are more intimately dependent on our level of consciousness; the former is something we can start with relatively easy.

    Being bogged down by a healthy inquisitiveness or by some corporate and/or government spin, by and large has the same result: tardiness re what we’re discussing here. Our current trajectory towards a system crash won’t wait for us to find silver bullets, 100% academic support, a majority vote in parlaiment or in shareholders meetings.

    My suggestion is to take our losses of not knowing -exacly- and focus on the larger picture. A comparison with Roosevelt’s commitment and succes in engaging the US production capacity at Ford, GM and Chrysler to fight 2 wars on the far side of 2 oceans after Pearl Harbour comes to mind.

    Re the larger picture for centralized power generation: see here and here.\

    Combine this with decentralized power generation in DMFC‘s & according -non foodstock competing-bio mass utilization here and here

    Finally, in order to optimize the chances for an all electric option: — reduce the use of auxilary power by some 60%, by using Direct Drive (cars and busses, trucks, trains)

    – make auxiliary power generation modular, so there’s minimal desinvestment when better power generation and/or storage become available

    – transform soft orders (phev’s, direct drive vehicles) into hard ones and allow HyMotion and CS EnergyCS to go through the learning cycle at high speed and bring down cost.

    – main stream media attention + a serious marketing effort using the resulting instances of adaption, so phev’s, Direct Drive become spearheads for a wider acceptance of RES and perhaps a willingness to become a part of a solution of other pressing problems, like one’s ecological footprint, one’s sense of quality of life (for oneself, one’s dear ones, one’s neighbours, one’s neighbours in Darfur, one’s posterity)

    Who do I consider actors?

    We are the change we’ve been waiting for. Let’s team up and move boldly forward.

    Emil M

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