Cadillac SRX Plug-In Hybrid Crossover: Killed Before Birth?

It may be the most star-crossed program in recent automotive history, and now it’s apparently dead.

According to Reuters, General Motors has canceled work on the planned plug-in hybrid version of its Cadillac SRX crossover sport utility.

The canceled SRX plug-in would have been the second GM car, after the 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car, to plug into grid electricity to recharge a lithium-ion battery pack that provides all-electric running.

Too costly, too late?

Unnamed sources gave several reasons, among them that the SRX plug-in would have lost money, that the changes it required would have come late in the SRX’s life cycle, and that consumers may have become more interested in fully electric cars with range-extending engines.

The current SRX crossover was unveiled in January 2009 and went on sale as a 2010 model.

Saturn Vue Two-Mode Hybrid

The SRX plug-in hybrid, however, would not have used an electric motor as the sole source of power to drive its wheels, as the 2011 Chevy Volt does (with a very minor exception).

Instead, like Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, it combines torque from the gasoline engine and a pair of motor-generators. It can use one, the other, or both.

The all-electric range of the SRX plug-in would have been about 10 miles. And the engine would still have come on whenever the vehicle felt it was needed–just as it does in the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid that Toyota expects to be the cheapest plug-in in the U.S. when it launches by June 2012..

From Vue to Vuick to SRX

The plug-in hybrid is an adaptation of GM’s Two-Mode Hybrid system now sold in small numbers on versions of the Chrevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade full-size sport utility vehicles, as well as the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

Originally, the plug-in Two-Mode system was intended to launch in a version of the Saturn Vue crossover that was to go on sale in 2010. GM’s bankruptcy and the subsequent termination of the Saturn brand killed that program.

Then the Vue was briefly proposed to be re-badged as a Buick in a widely derided program nicknamed the “Vu-ick,” mercifully killed after several weeks. (The Vue is now back on the U.S. market, but only for fleet purchases, as the 2012 Chevrolet Captiva.)

2009 teaser shot of Buick crossover plug-in hybrid, a rebadged Saturn Vue quickly dubbed the 'Vuick'

In January 2010, former GM product czar Bob Lutz told reporters the company’s first plug-in hybrid would be a small crossover. That meant the GMC Terrain, Cadillac SRX, or even the Chevrolet Equinox.

Late last year, rumors pointed instead to the Cadillac SRX, based on–among other things–comments by CEO Dan Akerson.

RIP? Maybe not

Now, the SRX Plug-In Hybrid is apparently dead.

But is that the end of Cadillac’s plug-in hybrid hopes?

Perhaps not.

Given GM’s policy of greater distinction among its brands, Chevrolet will have the Volt electric car. Buick will launch the eAssist mild-hybrid system in its 2012 Buick Lacrosse, though the word “hybrid” will appear nowhere in the marketing or promotion.

That leaves Cadillac as the company’s home for hybrids, which makes sense, since its larger, high-performance, more luxurious vehicles will require additional effort to meet upcoming U.S. gas-mileage standards.

Remember the XTS

Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept

What’s not at all clear, however, is whether the Plug-In Two-Mode Hybrid will appear in the forthcoming 2013 Cadillac XTS full-size sedan, which replaces the Cadillac DTS and STS sedans whose production ended this summer.

The XTS is the production version of a rapturously received design study from the 2010 Detroit Auto Show, known as the Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept. That model included a plug-in hybrid system, and the 2012 XTS will be a brand-new vehicle when manufacturing starts next year.

A version of the XTS with 10 or more miles of low-speed electric running would match up neatly against the upcoming new Mercedes-Benz S-Class Plug-In Hybrid, which the company will launch next year.

Any bets on, say, a 2014 Cadillac XTS Plug-In Hybrid, anyone?

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This story originally appeared at Green Car Repor

  Comments | By - May 31, 2011

2012 Toyota Prius V Station Wagon: First Drive Review

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

Toyota executives will go to extraordinary, absurd lengths to avoid defining the body style of the new 2012 Toyota Prius V.

Bob Carter, brand sales chief for Toyota Motors in the U.S., first responded with confusion over the question.

Presented with a list of alternatives–sedan, hatchback, minivan, station wagon, sport utility vehicle?–he said, hesitantly, “Well, the government would define it as a station wagon.”

So let’s get one thing straight: The 2012 Toyota Prius V is a station wagon. It’s not a minivan (no sliding doors, no third row) and it’s certainly not a sport utility vehicle or crossover (no all-wheel-drive, no jacked-up ride height).

As such, it’s a smart addition to the Toyota Prius hybrid lineup, the first of several vehicles that will expand the iconic Prius label beyond the current five-door hatchback model into different body styles and sizes

Just like a Prius, but less weird

Every body panel on the 2012 Toyota Prius V is different from the hatchback, but there’s absolutely no mistaking it for anything other than a Toyota Prius hybrid.

From most angles, it looks more like a tall hatchback than a station wagon, perhaps deliberately. It’s only with the tailgate open, looking at it from the back or side, that the squared-up rear end and vertical cargo opening become apparent.

The general consensus at the media preview was that the 2012 Prius V looks “just like a regular Prius … but a little less weird.”

2012 Toyota Prius V launch press conference, 2011 Detroit Auto Show

Two prominent features highlight the difference: First, there’s no secondary rear window below the main glass in the tailgate, as there is on the hatchback.

Then, inside, the hatchback’s “flying buttress” interior console has thankfully been replaced with a more traditional separate elbow bin and dashboard center stack that allows easy access to the cupholders, tray, and so forth mounted on the tunnel.

The dashboard again resembles the standard Prius, with the high-level central display offering a somewhat confusing array of numbers, icons, diagrams, and symbols in a handful of colors.

Little difference in performance

There’s no question that the 2012 Prius V drives and handles like the “regular” Prius hatchback. While it’s considerably larger in wheelbase and length, as well as slightly taller and wider, it’s not notably different to drive.

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

The driver sits higher than in the 2011 Prius hatchback, but it’s hardly the command seating position of a sport utility wannabe.

The Prius V uses the same 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and Toyota Hybrid Synergy drive system as the hatchback, along with a very slightly reshaped nickel-metal-hydride battery pack mounted under the front of the load-deck floor.

Toyota discussed some very minor tweaks to its hybrid hardware, including the addition of liquid cooling to the second motor-generator, but on the whole, the Prius V accelerates, drives, and brakes just like any other current Prius.

42 mpg combined

The fuel economy, however, is not as good as the 2011 Prius hatchback’s EPA combined rating of 50 mpg, which breaks down into 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway.

Toyota managed to better its original gas mileage estimates, with the final figures coming in at 44 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 42 mpg. (At the January Detroit Auto Show launch, it had estimated 42 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, giving an initial estimate for the combined rating of 40 mpg.)

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

(At a gas price of $4 per gallon, the difference between 42 and 50 mpg will cost just $15.25 every 1,000 miles, so it’s not a huge penalty to upsize to the Prius station wagon model.)

With a curb weight of 3,274 pounds, the Prius V is roughly 300 pounds heavier than the Prius hatchback.

The extra avoirdupois, combined with the greater aerodynamic drag from the larger frontal area of a taller, wider car, is what consumes more fuel.

Wide load bay, sliding rear seat

But for a station wagon meant to haul people and stuff, the significant figures are capacities and measurements. The EPA says the Prius V has 34.3 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seat up in its rearmost position, and 40.2 cubic feet if it’s slid as far forward as it’ll go. Folding the rear seat takes cargo volume to 67.3 cubic feet.

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

 

Perhaps as important is the load floor. The Prius V had an admirable 39 inches between the insides of the wheel wells, ensuring that side boxes, dog carriers, and who-knows-what-else can slide in and sit flat on the floor.

The depth of the cargo bay with the seat up, was 36 inches from tailgate to seat back, and ranged from 68 to 72 inches with the rear seat folded down,depending on how far forward the front seats were pushed.

We did notice that once the rear seat slid all the way forward, an awkward trough opened up at the front of the load floor into which small toys, food particles, and other effluvia would undoubtedly fall.

Our one big quibble, however, was with the location of the rear seat-back releases.

They were at the sides of the seat, meaning that if you put a box into the load bay that was too large, then decided to flip down half the seat back so it would fit, you had to walk around the car, open the door, and bend over–versus other wagons that have a button right on top of the seat back itself, easily accessible from inside the load bay.

Seven airbags, usual safety stuff

The 2012 Toyota Prius V hybrid has seven airbags as standard: front driver and passenger, front-seat side airbags, side air curtains, and a driver’s knee airbag.

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

It comes with the usual set of mandated safety equipment, including anti-lock brakes, traction control, and the newly mandatory tire-pressure monitoring system.

It has not yet been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The IIHS rates the standard 2011 Toyota Prius as Good (its highest rating) for both frontal offset and side impact crashes and rear crash protection. The NHTSA gives the 2011 Prius hatchback 5 stars overall, with 5 stars for side-crash protection and 4 stars for frontal crash and rollover safety.

Three trim levels: Two, Three, and Five ?!?!?

The 2012 Toyota Prius V comes standard with fabric trimmed seats, automatic climate control, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, and–still rare in wagons–a rear seat that not only folds down and splits 60/40 but also slides fore and aft and reclines from 15 to 40 degrees.

There are three trim levels for the Prius V, confusing labeled Prius V Two, Prius V Four, and Prius V Five. Toyota explains that this mirrors three of the four trim levels on the hatchback, known respectively as Prius II, Prius IV, and Prius V (which is different from the Prius V station wagon, which technically uses a lower-case “v”).

Got that?

In any case, the Prius V Two is the base model.

Upgrading to the Prius V Four adds a tilting-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio, Bluetooth, and climate controls in the steering wheel, plus voice-activated navigation controls.

It also builds in a display audio and navigation system with a 6.1-inch screen in the center console, and Toyota’s Entune cloud-based infotainment system.

Top of the line

The Prius V Five adds 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support, and a four-way adjustable front passenger seat, both of them heated and trimmed in SofTex fabric (lighter than leather). Also included: LED head lamps, integrated fog lamps, and a smart-key system.

The Advanced Technology Package, which can only be added to the Prius V Five, adds on top of all that an HDD navigation system, a panoramic view moonroof with electrically powered sunshades, and dynamic radar cruise control.

It also includes one free year’s worth of the Safety Connect system, which provides emergency assistance, roadside assistance, automatic notification of emergency services in the event of a collision, and a stolen-vehicle location function.

The basic warranty on the 2012 Prius V is 3 years/36,000 miles, with 5 years/60,000 miles on all powertrain components except the hybrid system, which is warranted for 8 years/100,000 miles.

Pricing will be released closer to the car’s arrival in dealerships, which will occur this fall.

Toyota provided airfare, lodging, and meals to allow High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.

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This story originally appeared at Green Car Repor

  Comments | By - May 27, 2011

2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid First Drive Report

When Volvo announced its plans to produce a plug-in hybrid station wagon capable of comfortably seating five, providing reasonable luggage space, a combined fuel economy of 150 miles per gallon, and the ability to tow just under 4,000lbs, many of you told us that you couldn’t wait to find out more.  

So when Volvo invited us to be among the first in the world to sit behind the wheel of one of Volvo’s early V60 PHEV engineering cars at the 2011 Challenge Bibendum in Berlin, Germany, we had to say yes. 

First Glance

Based on the 2011 Volvo V60 station wagon, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid looks no different from its gasoline-engined counterpart at first glance, apart from specially designed lightweight alloy wheels rolling on specially designed eco tires from Pirelli, and the more obvious inclusion of a charging port located near the driver’s door.  Like its rival Chevrolet, Volvo is obviously keen to encourage the driver to use electric rather than fossil fuel power where possible. 

2012 Volvo V60 PHEV

Internally too there is little to differentiate the V60 PHEV from the standard V60 except from a few additional switches mounted to the center console, a specially-designed leather upholstery and a slightly higher load bay floor, raised to accommodate the V60 PHEV’s 12 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack underneath. 

Familiarity

Sitting behind the wheel of the Volvo V60 PHEV feels reassuringly familiar and dare we say it, normal.  Unlike many other plug-in vehicles where a noticeable nod to over-complicated dash instrumentation seems de rigueur, the V60 PHEV dash is cleaner and more straight-forward. 

In front of the driver is a digital faux-analogue display detailing speed, battery charge and fuel gauge, estimated range and the usual driver safety information we’ve come to expect from Volvo over the years. 

2012 Volvo V60 PHEV

Gear selection is also reassuringly simple and free from gimmicks. Instead of console-mounted selectors shaped like hockey pucks or weird dog-leg maneuvers to chose direction, Volvo has chosen the age-old floor-mounted automatic shifter that requires no special explanation. 

Choose your driving style

Sitting behind the wheel of the V60 PHEV you’re given three main operational modes, each selectable by push-buttons on the center console: Pure, Hybrid and Power. The three modes allow the car to perform at its peak as a pure electric car, a fuel efficient hybrid and a sporty long-distance cruiser.

2012 Volvo V60 PHEV

Pure

Engaging the ‘Pure’ mode puts the car into its all-electric mode.  Utilizing a 50 kilowatt electric motor powering the rear axle, the V60 PHEV can travel for up to 30 miles in all-electric mode at speeds up to 62 mph from a full charge. 

To let you know it is in pure electric mode the dashboard turns a shade of blue, providing an at-a-glance indication that no diesel is being burnt. 

In this all-electric mode we found the V60 capable of providing more than adequate acceleration and performance for an average commute, although for freeway commuting we recommend using one of the two hybrid drive modes for increased acceleration at higher speeds. 

Hybrid

2012 Volvo V60 PHEV

The default mode and the one which is automatically selected on startup by the car is ‘hybrid’, turning the dash illumination green

In this mode, the V60 PHEV works to blend the power demand between both powertrains, using which ever is most appropriate at any given time. 

Although in this mode the engine may start at any time the car tries to use electric-only propulsion first, provided the battery has sufficient charge and the power supplied by the 50 kilowatt rear-wheel drive motor is enough to satisfy the driver’s demands. 

Demand more power and Volvo’s legendary 2.4 liter diesel engine kicks in to provide additional power through the car’s traditional automatic front-wheel drive system, making the V60 PHEV a ‘through the road hybrid’.

Fuel economy at this point is remarkably low, giving the V60 PHEV a combined cycle fuel economy of 150 mpg using the European test cycles. However, the car has yet to receive official economy figures, so expect a potential for this figure to change nearer production. 

As with most hybrid drivetrains there is a perceptible lag as the internal combustion engine spins up to meet power demand when undertaking the kind of hard acceleration you might require when overtaking, but when a less harsh approach was taken with the right foot the V60 PHEV seamlessly moved between electric and hybrid modes without creating any judder or momentary loss of power. 

Power

2012 Volvo V60 PHEV

Switching into ‘power’ combines both the 215 horsepower of the diesel front-wheel drive system and the 50 kilowatts of the rear wheel drive motor, giving an all-wheel drive through-the-road hybrid capable of accelerating from 0-62 mph in 6.9 seconds. 

Obviously, this performance comes at a cost – namely lower fuel economy. To remind you, the dash turns a shade of orange, giving the information display a more sporty feel. Gone too is the display informing you of which powertrain you’re using and in its place a linear tachometer. 

Sadly we were unable to spend much time in this mode during the test drive as our car – an engineering pre-production model – had a few software glitches which meant that high power performance was limited. Volvo have assured us this is being addressed at the moment and showed us another engineering pre-production model which certainly exhibited all the characteristics of the promised sub 7 second 0-60 time.

Electronic AWD

Volvo’s conventional gasoline and diesel ranges feature all-wheel drive systems capable of transferring power to the rear wheels when a low-traction situation is detected by the cars on-board computer. 

In such systems, a conventional prop shaft is used, but in the V60 PHEV this is not needed thanks to the rear-wheel drive electric motor. 

Volvo’s new electronic AWD system works in a similar way to its mechanically connected AWD system, but benefits from the ability to engage far quicker to ensure that even in low friction environments such as icy roads the highest level of traction is maintained at all times. 

While Volvo briefed us on this feature we were
unable to test it fully due to lack of suitable conditions, but we were told the system successfully endured its first winter of cold winter testing in Northern Sweden. 

2012 Volvo V60 PHEV

Handling

Although Volvo may have some tweaking to do to the drivetrain before the V60 PHEV is ready for prime-time, the ride and handling seems production ready. 

Based on the gasoline V60, the V60 PHEV shares the same steering and suspension geometry, but with uprated components designed to take the car’s additional weight.

The hard work has paid off. With no discernible bad manners in ride or handling, the V60 PHEV provides a smooth ride and positive steering. 

In fact, thanks to the increased weight from the additional battery pack and a 50/50 weight distribution the car is more pleasant to drive than a gasoline V60.

Verdict

The example of the Volvo V60 PHEV we drove may still be an engineering pre-production vehicle, but it already has excellent promise. 

The software flaws we witnessed in the car’s drivetrain system are ones which we believe Volvo has time to sort out well before it reaches production in 2012. 

2012 Volvo V60 PHEV

Sadly though, the the V60 PHEV isn’t due to come to the U.S. Volvo claims there isn’t enough interest yet in diesels in the U.S. to justify bringing the V60 PHEV to the U.S. market. 

So why examine a car which isn’t even coming to the U.S? 

Volvo has told us that the V60 PHEV will be a gateway vehicle to more models, which will most likely include a plug-in hybrid suitable for the U.S. market. 

Think of the V60 PHEV as Volvo’s missing link between a gasoline past and an electric future – one we think will be extremely interesting.

 


This story originally appeared at All Cars Electr

  Comments | By - May 23, 2011

BMW i3 Electric Car Coming with 100-Mile Range and $35,000 Sticker

The upcoming BMW i3, the car formerly known as the Megacity Vehicle and the first production all-electric car from BMW, is set to revolutionize the way mainstream cars are engineered and built, with most of its internal structure and body being composed of lightweight composite materials such as reinforced carbon-fiber plastic.

Sadly, buyers won’t get to hop behind the wheel until at least 2013 and even then the U.S. may not see the car until a later date.

However, to keep us enticed, some important new details have spilled onto the web. Though yet to be confirmed by BMW, the guys at Car and Driver are reporting the i3 will have a pricetag of about $35,000.

This makes sense considering the amount of technology expected to be featured, not to mention that BMW is launching the i3 under its new ‘i’ sub-division just like its high-performance M cars.

Other crucial details revealed in the report include a 112 kW (150 horsepower) output for the i3’s rear-mounted electric motor, which should be able to carry the car a distance of 99 miles (160 km)–and at speeds of up to 100 mph–on a single charge of its lithium-ion batteries.

The i3 will still be able to carry four people in relative luxury–it’s still a BMW after all.

And if 100 miles is still too short for you, note that a range-extended version complete with a compact internal combustion engine acting as a generator may also be launched.

For more details, check out our previous post on the upcoming BMW i3 by clicking here.

UPDATE and CORRECTION: The original version of this article cited Car and Driver’s reported driving range of 160 miles. C/D later corrected the figure to 160 km, and we have since updated the title and story to reflect that. 

[Car and Driver via MotorAuthority]


This story originally appeared at All Cars Electr

  Comments | By - May 20, 2011

Solar Field to Power Chevrolet Volt Assembly Plant

The largest photovoltaic solar array in Southeast Michigan will be built at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, turning sunlight into electricity to help power the home of the Chevrolet Volt electric car. The 516-kilowatt project, announced by GM and DTE Energy, will generate electricity capable of charging 150 of the electric cars with extended-range […] More »

  Comments | By - May 16, 2011

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