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Old 11-29-2006, 03:40 PM   #1
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GM working on hybrid power plug-in for Saturn Vue

GM working on hybrid power plug-in for Saturn Vue

November 29, 2006

By MARK PHELAN
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

LOS ANGELES -- General Motors made a major commitment to electric vehicles as CEO Rick Wagoner said the automaker will produce a “plug-in hybrid” Saturn Vue SUV in addition to two other types of hybrid systems.

“These are the formative years of the electrically driven automobile,” Wagoner said at the auto show Wednesday.

The plug-in system could double the Vue’s fuel economy compared to any other SUV on the road, Saturn general manager Jill Lajdziak said. Saturn will eventually offer three different hybrid versions of the all-new Vue, which goes on sale in March.

Wagoner would not say when GM will offer the plug-in hybrid. GM is the first automaker that has committed to producing vehicles that use the system, which can be charged from a home outlet and uses electric power more than today’s hybrids. The system relies on more powerful and compact batteries than anything that’s available today.

“I can’t give a date,” for when the plug-in will hit the road, “but it’s a top priority program,” Wagoner said. GM is working with battery companies to develop the system.

In addition to the promised plug-in, the 2008 Vue will be available with GM’s current hybrid system, which reduces fuel consumption about 25%, and a more costly system that will cut fuel use 45% compared to a V6 gasoline-powered Vue, Lajdziak said.

GM will also offer a hybrid system in its 2008 GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe full-size SUVs, said Troy Clarke, president of GM North America. Those vehicles will use a V8 engine and two electric motors to reduce fuel consumption 25%, Clarke said.

“You can have the most impact on overall fuel consumption by using hybrids with full-size SUVs,” which burn more fuel than the small cars and SUVs other automakers use for their hybrid models. GM will also use the system on its full-size pickups.

‘Our goal is to remove the automobile from the environmental debate and reduce our dependence on petroleum,” Clarke said. “The goal is to move from mechanical to electrical systems for propulsion.”

The hybrid now accounts for about 10% of Vue sales, Lajdziak said.

“We will see other models that offer all three types of hybrids,” she said.
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