||03-04-2008 01:17 PM
Just thought I'd post this. Hadn't seen it before. From MT.
GENEVA - General Motors has signed a deal with Hitachi to supply Lithium-Ion batteries for its next-generation mild hybrid technology, due to hit the road in 2010. The GM/Hitachi Vehicle Energy deal also will provide battery technology for the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which GM says it's continuing to develop apace. The Hitachi deal is the latest volley in what has become a three-way race to get Li-Ion batteries -- used mainly to power laptop computers -- under the hoods of clean, high-mileage cars.
Mercedes-Benz has apparently taken the lead in that race. It plans to bring an S400 hybrid using Li-Ion by 2009. That car will launch in Europe before the U.S., and probably won't come Stateside until late in that year.
The third player in this race is, of course, Toyota, which is partnering with Panasonic on battery technology (Mercedes hasn't named a battery partner) and showed a plug-in Li-Ion Prius at the Detroit show in January and again here at Geneva.
GM's showcase for its next-generation mild hybrid was the Saab 9-X Biofuel concept, a major hint at that brand's Volvo C30/Audi A3 competitor, which may be imported to the U.S. The 9-X was shown with a 1.4-liter biopower (gas and E85) turbo four (an engine soon to make its way into the Chevy Cobalt), with an electric motor three times as powerful and a battery less than two-thirds the size of the one used in the current Chevy Malibu hybrid and Saturn Aura Greenline. GM plans to have the new mild hybrid technology on the road starting in the 2010 calendar year (likely 2011 model year). Like other major automakers, GM has a number of high-tech toes in the green car/oil independence pool, and this one takes a number of leading edge, but relatively conventional technologies and combines them for incremental fuel economy gains.
Think of Volkswagen's twincharger technology, which uses supercharging for low-end torque and turbocharging for high-end torque on a small-displacement (1.4-liter) engine, but with Honda's IMA hybrid technology in place of that low-end torque blower. Engineers have moved the hybrid system's control unit from the engine to the hybrid system itself, making it easier to adapt to more engines. Bottom line is this; whether or not you see mild hybrids as worthy to be called hybrids, GM will use them in the coming decade to power a much wider range of cars and trucks, taking an incremental, but substantial leap toward reaching stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. Look for the new system in everything from the next-generation Saturn Aura to maybe even the Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Camaro and possibly the Corvette starting in the 2011 model year.