You may have read about the latest Buick Riviera concept car, which was unveiled last Saturday at the Shanghai Auto Show.

Perhaps you also noticed that it uses a new and innovative plug-in hybrid powertrain that includes wireless battery charging.

In the words of GM's own press release:

The new Riviera has adopted BIP (Buick Intelligent Performance) technology. It is equipped with GM's all-new, dual-mode W-PHEV (wireless plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) propulsion system.

The user can drive the car on green power in electric mode and enjoy the exhilarating handling and performance of a sports car while driving “green” in hybrid mode.

In addition, the vehicle can be charged with a traditional cable or wirelessly via a sensory recharge panel on the car's chassis. The charging port is integrated into Buick's iconic porthole design.

This description, frankly, left us scratching our heads.

We track powertrain development at global automakers pretty closely, and this didn't square with anything we'd heard coming out of General Motors recently.

It sounded rather like a reuse of the Two-Mode Plug-In Hybrid powertrain that was last seen in the Cadillac XTS Platinum concept car way back in January 2010.

While the XTS is now in production, there's not a hybrid to be seen.

In fact, GM product chief Mary Barra said last fall that GM is downplaying full hybrids in favor of developing its Voltec range-extended electric powertrains and the eAssist mild-hybrid system.

So we asked Buick communications group manager Nick Richards about this new, hitherto-unknown plug-in hybrid setup.

He responded: "This is a pure concept--which is to say, if these technologies existed, how might they package into the Buick design language.

"I would not read anything into it beyond that," he advised.

Translation: It doesn't exist. It's not real. It's conceptual.


Glad we got THAT settled.


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