2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

With the demise of Saturn, GM was left with only one model featuring its mild hybrid system, the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid sedan, but sadly even that green vehicle was dropped from the automaker’s lineup this year. GM is planning to bring back its mild hybrid models, however, and according to the automaker’s executive director of hybrid and electric powertrain engineering, Larry Nitz, it will happen as early as next year.

Nitz wasn’t willing to reveal which model the mild hybrid option will be available for in 2011 but he did state that the latest hybrid system will be much more powerful than the old one. For the uninitiated, GM’s mild hybrid system is essentially shuts off the engine when the car stops, and quickly restarts it as the brake pedal is lifted. It also provided some electric assist to the engine at speed, but no all-electric running.

As detailed in John Voelcker’s previous report, the GM’s new mild hybrid system will use a lithium-ion battery pack with cells from Hitachi Vehicle Energy Inc. that deliver 4 times as much power (up to 120 Volts versus the current 36 Volts), and is 24 percent smaller and 40 percent lighter.

The extra power and flexibility will mean GM will be able to install the system on a wider range of vehicles and engines, all of which stand to benefit from fuel economy gains in the vicinity of 15-20 percent.

Expect the new mild hybrid models from GM to arrive in the second quarter of next year, most likely with the arrival of new 2012 models.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]