GM Exec Confirms 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Plug-In Hybrid Model

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze and pre-production 2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Cruze and pre-production 2011 Chevrolet Volt

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The Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan is an important car for General Motors.

It's hugely outselling its lackluster predecessor, the Chevy Cobalt, and the EPA rates the special Cruze Eco model at 42 mpg in the highway cycle, giving it gas-mileage bragging rights.

Plug-in hybrid to join diesel model

But Chevrolet has big plans for future Cruze models. Now we learn that among them are a plug-in hybrid version that could debut as soon as 2014, following the 2013 Cruze clean-diesel model that was confirmed by CEO Dan Akerson in July.

Ten days ago, toward the end of the Los Angeles Auto Show media preview, GM executive Jim Federico told Australia's Go-Auto site: "The plug-in Cruze has a place and it will be a hybrid."

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

Federico's full title is Executive Director, Group Vehicle Line Executive/Vehicle Chief Engineer for Global Compact, Small, Mini and Electric Vehicles. In other words, he's a man who knows the product plan. 

“Plug-in Cruze doesn’t make Volt redundant at all," Federico told Go-Auto. "Plug-in Cruze would have a different powertrain. Plug-in hybrids use both the engine and motor all the time.”

Paralleling the plug-in Prius

And that's the reason for the plug-in Cruze: It won't be a range-extended electric vehicle like the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, powered solely by an electric motor that gets its energy either from a lithium-ion battery pack or a gasoline-powered generator once the pack is depleted.

Instead, the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Plug-In Hybrid will use a conventional hybrid drivetrain, paired with a larger battery pack that can also be plugged in to recharge it.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production model

Enlarge Photo

This setup is very similar to the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid that hits dealerships next March. That car has a 5.2-kiilowatt-hour battery pack (versus the 1.4 kWh of a standard Prius) and delivers 9 to 13 miles of electric range--though its engine may switch on at any time regardless of remaining range.

Next-generation Two-Mode

The plug-in hybrid Cruze will use a front-wheel drive adaptation of GM's large and costly Two-Mode Hybrid system, which is currently offered only in full-size sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

A front-wheel drive adaptation of the current Two-Mode system was originally intended for a 2010 Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid model. When Saturn was killed during the GM bankruptcy, it was briefly destined for the 'Vuick,' a  re-badged version of the Vue that was swiftly killed.

For awhile, it looked like it would land in the Cadillac SRX luxury compact crossover. But that program was killed in May, for reasons of added weight and sub-par performance. The Cruze plug-in hybrid represents a fresh start with the next generation of the system.

Many green options = product churn?

What to make of a plug-in hybrid Cruze model? It certainly shows GM moving forward on multiple fronts to offer a range of green technologies that meet the differing needs of its customers.

The 2013 Cruze diesel, for example, may be the best option for buyers who rack up lots of miles at freeway speeds, when diesels can be most efficient. A plug-in hybrid Cruze, on the other hand, may be better for frequent stop-and-go traffic and drivers who do lots of short trips.

Chevrolet Cruze EV, test fleet in South Korea, October 2010

Chevrolet Cruze EV, test fleet in South Korea, October 2010

Enlarge Photo

And just for the record, GM has tested a fleet of all-electric Cruze EV sedans in Korea as well.

But we chatted with a GM insider who suggested that if the Cruze plug-in is really planned for a 2014 launch, it indicates that the near-term product range is continuing to change. That's not always such a good thing.

This past Summer, CFO Dan Ammann said the company's product plan needed to settle down and solidify to reduce the amount of money wasted in frequent changes of direction.

GreenCarReports reached out to GM representatives for comments on Federico's assertion and the idea of a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze plug-in hybrid model. We had not received any responses by the time this article was published; we'll add any information we may get from GM as it arrives.


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Comments (9)
  1. Could this be seen as an admission that the E-REV approach is a failure? Why have a plug-in hybrid model and an E-REV as well? Seems like only one of them will win in the marketplace of ideas.

    Is this also a nod to Toyota having the right solution (yet again) with the often maligned Plug-in Prius?

  2. Yes, John, a low-volume car that's still not on sale in 43 states is already a failure and GM is immediately switching its product placement as a result... Wow, talk about a stretch! The Volt isn't intended to be a high-volume vehicle and as Rich C notes below, there's room for others even in your eternally Toyota-obsessed world.
    But, using your logic, if GM making a PHEV Cruze means the EREV approach was a mistake, I guess Toyota's Prius V PHEV means the original Prius HEV was a mistake, right?
    Again, you can't seem to grasp, ever, that people who drive Volts often wouldn't be caught in a Prius or LEAF. Different demographic in many, not all, cases.
    More choices is a good thing, not an admission of failure.

  3. Love your sense of humor John!!!

  4. The more green car options the better. Not every car's style and function will appeal to everyone. Their motivations may differ, but more and more people are realizing the importance of vehicles that use less gasoline. Will every green car be a success? no again the more options people have the better.

  5. Hurry up, Chevy. I want my 50 MPG diesel NOW! Why wait until 2014?

  6. This past Summer, CFO Dan Ammann said the company's product plan needed to settle down and solidify to reduce the amount of money wasted in frequent changes of direction."

    Clearly the development costs have been expended, now it's time to offer those products to the public, it's vastly different than offering Vues and Vuicks that require changes or even redundancy that the brands must newly support. The Cruze plug-in obviously isn't a new platform that must be slotted in and requires new levels of support.

    The platform is in place and selling like crazy, the investment to develop this option was spent long ago, why not offer it to consumers and take advantage of the ad budgets and buzz for the plug-in Prius and the volt.

  7. More than anything, I think this is GM acknowledging that the conversion over to all-electric vehicles is going to take some time and they need something to compete in the current "sweet spot": plug in hybrids. As mentioned, their two-mode was supposed to debut years ago. I'm guessing bankruptcy put things into turmoil/on hold. I suspect cost could be another issue... but then again.. how can the cost on GM's two-mode be that substantially more than what everybody else is doing? I'll be curious to see how their hybrid compares to Hyundai, Toyota, and Ford (which I believe has the best hybrid application to date: the hybrid Fusion is super-smooth to drive with no compromises).

  8. GM: combine the diesel engine with the plug-in electric motor and give us 65 MPG's and the car will sell like beers at a football game. This also solves the problem of multiple options. The Cruze is already a success and the diesel hybrid will enhance sales.

  9. Well...

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