General Motors (GM) announced in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show that it intends to produce a Saturn VUE Green Line plug-in hybrid for 2008. The new design has the potential to have twice the fuel efficiency compared to all the sport utility vehicles (SUVs) currently on the market. The hybrid SUV will employ a modified version of GM’s two-mode hybrid system using plug-in technology.

“GM has begun work on a Saturn VUE plug-in hybrid production vehicle,” said GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner. “The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable. I can’t give you a production date for our plug-in hybrid, but I can tell you that this is a top priority for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement.”

The 2008 Saturn VUE

The 2008 Saturn VUE will be available in the Green Line as a plug-in hybrid. Credit:

The VUE plug-in hybrid will use a lithium-ion battery pack with two permanent magnet electric motors to achieve significant improvements in fuel economy. Four fixed mechanical gear ratios will maximize performance, and GM’s 3.6-liter V-6 gasoline engine with direct injection will serve as the prime mover. Saturn General Manager Jill Ladjiak noted that the early versions of the 2008 VUE Green Line will employ the current four-cylinder engine and belt-alternator hybrid technology until later next year when the four-wheel drive, two-mode system with the V6 is available.

The vehicle will have two driving modes, one for city driving and another for highway driving. The SUV is expected to provide electric-only propulsion for an average of ten miles for low-speed city travel. At high freeway speeds or during acceleration, the gasoline engine and electric motors will work in combination to propel the vehicle. During stops, the engine will shut off. The lithium ion energy system will be recharged by regenerative braking during travel, and when the vehicle is parked, the battery pack will be recharged using a household exterior 110-volt outlet.

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