GM To Concentrate On Plug-In Electric Cars, Downplay Hybrids

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2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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General Motors has narrowed its portfolio of future technologies, and will focus on plug-in and electric vehicles over the coming years.

The company will build on the success of its Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car, an area where it leads its competitors, while downplaying more traditional full hybrid technologies.

GM Product Chief Mary Barra said in a videoconference yesterday that GM will "make educated bets on which technologies hold the most potential for creating values for our customers and our company."

The company will continue with its mild-hybrid eAssist system, which improves the fuel efficiency of vehicles up to 25 percent, Barra said.

The eAssist technology is currently standard on base models of the 2013 Buick Lacrosse and Regal. It's also used in the optional Eco model of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, and will be offered in an Eco model of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala full-size sedan as well when it goes on sale next year.

Through October, Barra said, GM has sold 26,000 vehicles fitted with eAssist this year alone.

But spurred on by the increasing popularity of the Chevrolet Volt, GM will concentrate its efforts on plug-in vehicles and add battery-electric cars as the market demands them.

"We think plug-in technology will plan an increasingly important role over the years to come" said Barra.

The company expects to sell half a million vehicles a year globally with some form of electrification--everything from mild hybrids to pure electrics--by 2017.

Joining the Volt in Chevy's line-up next summer is the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, an electric variant of the Spark minicar that's set to debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month.

Also launching next year is the 2014 Cadillac ELR plug-in sport coupe, which uses the same Voltec range-extended electric drivetrain as the Volt four-seat hatchback.

Cadillac ELR

Cadillac ELR

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Although the electric Spark is viewed by many as a 'compliance car'--a vehicle developed solely to meet California's zero-emissions vehicle regulations--it provides GM with a test-bed for its future battery electric vehicles.

Company executives also stressed that the Spark EV will be sold in Korea and other markets that it hasn't yet announced.

While sales of pure battery electric vehicles are currently slow, GM seems confident that its Voltec range-extended electric vehicle technology will prove successful.

Equally important, Chevy pioneered the technology and leads the industry in deploying it in production cars.

That gives GM an important edge as more plug-in cars join the growing number of hybrid vehicles on the road--an edge that arch-competitor Toyota thus far can't match.

Chevrolet provided airfare, lodging, and meals so that High Gear Media could bring you this first-person report.

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