What it Is
Saturn VUE Green Line Plug In Hybrid Preview – 2008 Detroit Auto Show: It ain’t easy bein’ green, especially when you’re trying to change your image from a purveyor of gas guzzling trucks and SUVs. GM’s tactic is multifold, and includes alternative fuels, fuel cells, and various hybrid technologies. One of the newest buzzwords in hybrids is the plug-in, and GM promises to be the first out of the gate with a production version in 2010 with the Saturn VUE Green Line Plug In Hybrid.Why it Matters
The Vue Plug In is based off the Vue Two Mode hybrid that goes on sale late in 2008. However, the powertrain team under the supervision of GM group vice president Tom Stephens (above) has engineered in a lithium ion battery pack that can be recharged at home. This will give the Vue Plug In about a 10 miles range on pure electric power, perfect for those local grocery runs or other short hops. The upshot is a potential 100 percent increase in fuel economy over the standard two-mode version of the Vue, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
What’s Under the Hood
The powertrain itself is based on the Two-Mode hybrid that will go on sale late in 2008. The 3.6-liter engine is connected to a transmission with two powerful electric motors built-in, allowing the Vue to operate under engine power, electric power, or a combination of the two. The plug-in allows the batteries to be recharged in four or five hours through a standard 110 volt house current. With a full charge, the car an operate at low speeds for up to 10 miles on electric power alone; give it more gas or load and I switches to standard dual-mode operation.
What it Looks Like
The only prototype is a green color that is unavailable, but otherwise it looks like a standard Saturn Vue. The only noteworthy change is the addition of a plug in port, cleverly hidden behind one of the Vue’s otherwise decorative fender vents.
What Saturn Says
While the GM logo itself remains blue, we wonder sometimes if it will turn green in the near future, especially after reading comments like this from Saturn general manager Jill Lajdziak: “We announced late in 2006 that a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle was a top priority, and the fact that we’re now announcing production timing to bring the industry’s first plug-in to market, while tackling many technology hurdles along the way, demonstrates our commitment to diversifying from petroleum and reducing emissions.”
What We Think
We like smoky burnouts and 620-horsepower Corvettes as much as any motorheads, but even we acknowledge that enviro-friendliness is going to play a bigger and bigger role in the future. There’s a sea change on the horizon regarding automotive propulsion, and with so many concepts and future products on the horizon, it’s clear GM wants to be on the crest of that wave, not caught in the undertow.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo Credit: General Motors