2011 Buick crossover plug-in hybrid

2011 Buick crossover plug-in hybrid

Well, the other shoe finally dropped. General Motors said today that the plug-in version of its Two-Mode Hybrid system would be fitted to a Buick crossover to be introduced next year, with the plug-in arriving in 2011.

That'll be at least a few months after the arrival of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, which is still said to be on track to arrive in dealerships in November 2010. The unnamed Buick model will be the first plug-in hybrid sold by a major automaker (e.g. not Tesla or Fisker).

Using Volt technology

GM also said the vehicle will feature a lithium-ion battery pack using the same LG Chem lithium-ion cells as the Volt. The battery pack will contain 8 kilowatt-hours of energy, or half that of the Chevrolet Volt's pack.

The Buick plug-in hybrid can be recharged from a 110-Volt plug in 4 to 5 hours, giving it an electric range of up to 10 miles at low speeds.

The announcement ends speculation about which vehicle the plug-in system would be fitted to, since GM clearly didn't plan to give up the intellectual property it derived through designing and engineering a front-wheel-drive variation of its Two-Mode Hybrid system.

That system had been destined to appear this summer in a model of the 2010 Saturn Vue this summer, with the plug-in variant arriving at the same time as the Volt or later in 2011. We drove a prototype Saturn Vue Two-Mode Hybrid (not the plug-in) in October, and liked it for its solidity and speed.

In June, GM vice chairman of global product development Tom Stephens told Automotive News the plug-in powertrain would be delivered to U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) and nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) fleets in early 2011.

We guessed; we were wrong

Stephens didn't say whether it would be branded Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, or GMC, or which model the hybrid system would appear in. We thought it might be either the revised 2010 Chevrolet Equinox (a version of which achieved 32 mpg highway) or the new 2010 GMC Terrain.

But we were wrong. We also speculated it might be fitted to the 2010 Cadillac SRX, since Cadillac has been most successful in selling hybrid models of its Escalade large SUV.

Now the company's first plug-in hybrid system will appear in a Buick, a brand not historically known for fuel efficiency or high gas mileage. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

Buick's sole hybrid model, in fact, wasn't never in the US. The Buick LaCrosse EcoHybrid, using GM's Belt-Alternator-Starter mild hybrid system, was briefly sold in China, though it's now been discontinued.

2011 Buick crossover plug-in hybrid - battery pack

2011 Buick crossover plug-in hybrid - battery pack

Saturn Vue Two-Mode Hybrid

Saturn Vue Two-Mode Hybrid

[General Motors, Automotive News (requires subscription), HybridCars.com]