GM eyes revamped hybrid power train for sedans

Even as it bets big on the electric Chevy Volt, the automaker is looking to improve its hybrid technology for sedans, according to a report.

Updated at 12:00 p.m. PT with comments from GM representative.

Even as GM develops the electric power train for its Chevy Volt, the company has plans to design a hybrid platform for sedans, according to a report.

The hybrid technology will be used in a midsize sedan as well as other vehicles and offer better mileage than its current technology.

"What we are trying to work towards is 'Yes,' we will have other hybrid vehicles (besides the Volt) but we are trying to work towards a dedicated hybrid," Ed Peper, GM's general manager of Chevrolet, told GM-Volt.com, a site not affiliated with GM. "We think that's probably a better way for us to go longer term."

The hybrid Chevy Malibu: time for an upgrade? General Motors

GM currently offers a hybrid edition of the Chevy Malibu that promises up to 26 miles per gallon in city driving and 34 on highway. That's only slightly better than the 22- and 33 miles-per-gallon rating for the gasoline-only version--a situation that GM is seeking to improve on, Peper said.

"I think when we bring out a hybrid, and I think its very important, we've got to make sure it has significantly better fuel economy than a non-hybrid," he said.

GM stopped production of the 2009 Malibu but it will offer the improved hybrid system with the 2011 Malibu, a GM representative said on Monday.

The fuel economy with the new hybrid system will be on the order of 20 percent compared to the gasoline-only versions, he added. Rather than nickel metal hydride batteries, the newer hybrid system will use lithium-ion batteries supplied by Hitachi.

"This future system will have the capability to work over a wider range of vehicles," he said.

Offering more hybrid editions would complement GM's range-extended electric vehicle technology used in the Volt and potentially other cars. In announcing its departure from bankruptcy on Friday, GM repeated that advanced battery development is a " core competency " for the revived automaker .

A hybrid power train uses both the gasoline engine and a dedicated battery to power the car. When the car decelerates or brakes, the system charges the battery.

All-electric or range-extended electric vehicles are different in that they use the batteries and electric motor only to move the car. The gasoline engine in the Chevy Volt will be used to charge the battery for trips longer than 40 miles.

In addition to the Volt's electric power train and a revamped hybrid platform, GM also plans to offer plug-in hybrid vehicles across its four core brands. The basis for the plug-in hybrid will be from GM's "two-mode hybrid" system and will be available in 2011, according a GM representative.

Meanwhile, Honda on Monday said that it plans to offer hybrid versions of its CR-Z sports car and Fit Hybrid in Japan by the end of 2010.

 

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