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GM Announces Plan to Produce Plug-in Hybrid SUV

General Motors says it will produce a Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid that has the potential to achieve double the fuel efficiency of any current SUV, the automaker announced at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show.

This hybrid SUV will use a modified version of GM's 2-mode hybrid system and plug-in technology, a Lithium Ion battery pack when ready, efficient electronics and powerful electric motors to achieve significant increases in fuel economy.

"GM has begun work on a Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid production vehicle," said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and CEO. "The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable. 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, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement."

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 electrical outlet.

The Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid is expected to offer electric-only propulsion for more than 10 miles. 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 vehicle.

In addition to plug-in capabilities and the modified 2-mode hybrid system, the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid SUV’s powertrain will feature Lithium Ion battery technology, two interior permanent magnet motors and GM’s 3.6L V-6 gasoline engine with direct injection.

When ready for production, the lithium ion energy storage system will be replenished when the battery charge is depleted to a specified level by utilizing the 2-mode hybrid system’s electric motors and regenerative braking systems. When the vehicle is parked, the battery can be recharged using a common household exterior 110-volt plug-in outlet.

In his speech, Wagoner, announced that “GM is significantly expanding and accelerating our commitment to the development of electrically driven vehicles, beyond what we have already committed to with our fuel cell and hybrid programs.”

But he warned that plug-in hybrids, however attractive, have hurdles before they can become commercially available. “In fact,” he said, “given what we know today, it’s pretty clear that it will take several years to bring to market, a plug-in hybrid that will meet the expectations and real-world performance standards that our customers expect -- things like safety, durability, driving range, recharge time, operating temperature range, and affordability.”

Nevertheless, concluded Wagoner: “We see energy and environmental leadership as a critical element of GM’s ongoing turnaround plan -- a key part of our future business strategy. And we intend to bring our substantial global resources to bear on this issue starting … yesterday.”

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