GM takes its two-mode hybrid up town
What It Is
New Cars: 2008 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Preview – Not content with offering the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon two-mode hybrids, GM is unveiling a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. Word of the model broke earlier this year, and now it’s official. As with its other hybrid SUVs, the Escalade can run on any combination of the electric motors and the gasoline engine. In addition to regenerative braking, the vehicle also shuts off the engine when stopped and can use just the motors in stop and go traffic. The result is a vehicle with the same capabilities as a plain gasoline model that gets 25 to 30 percent better mileage.
By Bob Beamesderfer
Photo credit: © GM Corp.
Why it Matters
Unlike a smaller automaker that can pull itself up with one or two models, GM needs success in several segments. Building on the popularity of three light truck models, the company is introducing hybrid versions that can do everything the gasoline models can, including passenger and payload capacity, which is 1,435 pounds. The 2008 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid doesn’t tow quite as much as the gasoline model, 6,000 pounds for the two-wheel drive model and 5,700 pounds for the 4WD version. That compares with 7,700 pounds for either the 2WD or 4WD Escalade. The hybrid doesn’t come in the ESV model either.
What’s Under the Hood
The gasoline side of the system is a 6.0 liter V-8 using late intake valve closure, active fuel management and auto stop mode, which shuts off the engine when the car stops. Under high demand, the engine seamlessly restarts. On the electric side, two motors are used in conjunction with the Electrically Variable Transmission. The hybrid system’s computer control monitors load and determines what combination of gasoline and electric or just gasoline propulsion will be used. When the gasoline engine is running on four cylinders, the electric motors provide enough extra horsepower to stay in the more fuel-efficient mode.
What We Think
GM is putting its two-mode hybrid into three top-selling SUVs, figuring that there will always be consumers who need a vehicle that seats seven and has decent towing capacity, but would like better fuel economy for everyday driving. Putting the two-mode system in models that are already popular with consumers makes the most sense. For GM, it gets to show better economy ahead of the likelihood that light trucks will need to meet a target under the upcoming changes to CAFÉ regulations, and plays off the company’s strength in light trucks with a hybrid that gives up very little utility to attain fuel efficiency.