GM Mild Hybrids To Return For 2011

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
gm mild hybrids to return for 2011

Prior to going on television on Monday, I spoke to a GM spokesman in hopes of better understanding the business case for the Volt. Perhaps the most interesting thing he told me was that a major impetus for developing the Volt as an Extended-Range Electric concept was GM’s failure to achieve success with three alt-energy concepts (EV-1, Hydrogen, and yes, E-85 ethanol) due to their need for fueling infrastructure. As we talked, it occurred to me that three other less-than-entirely-successful GM “green car” projects might have helped lead The General down the primrose path to the Volt: GM’s BAS “Mild Hybrid,” the Parallel Hybrid Truck system (PHT), and the V8-based “Two-Mode” hybrid drivetrains. He admitted (somewhat grudgingly) that GM’s hybrid sales had been “disappointing” and that the ambitious Volt project was to some extent motivated by this lack of market success. What he didn’t tell me: GM is bringing back the discontinued mild-hybrid BAS system for 2011.

GM executive director of hybrid and electric powertrain engineering Larry Nitz tells Automotive News [sub] that the BAS or “Belt-Alternator-Starter” hybrid system will become available again starting in the 3rd Quarter of 2011, on one Chinese-market sedan and one US-market mid-size car. The system had previously been available on the Saturn Aura and Vue “Green Line” and the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. And though Nitz refused to confirm which models would receive the system, his announcement confirms an earlier report that had the Buick Regal receiving the BAS system in late 2011, and rumors of a BAS revival date back to the Wagoner era.

Nitz also told AN [sub] that the first-generation of BAS drivetrain is currently available in China on the Buick LaCrosse, but made it clear that the US-market revival of BAS would be an improved version of the original system.

Nitz said the electric motor is improved and the electronics and controllers are fully integrated with the conventional gasoline engine. The system will be wedded to GM’s Ecotech engine and a six-speed transmission capable of maximizing performance and fuel savings, he said.

When the mild hybrid was introduced in the Saturn Vue in 2006, it was bolted onto a four-cylinder engine and four-speed transmission not designed for regenerative braking. That mild hybrid produced a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy.

Said Nitz: “It was a forced execution before.”

The new system should offer 20 percent better fuel economy than the Ecotec on which it’s based, and will be one of the early applications of GM’s in-house electric motors. It will still not be able to run on full-electric power, however, which leaves one of the most common criticisms of the system unaddressed. Nitz didn’t give price premium details, but the BAS system previously added $1,600-$1,700 to the price of an equipped car. If the premium remains the same, an improvement in efficiency might help its chances… but the revival of BAS also highlights GM’s hybrid struggles. With the Volt and Mild Hybrids likely to bookend the Prius, GM may just be missing the sweet spot of the green-car market.

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  • Kurt Darden Kurt Darden on Aug 04, 2010

    I have a Malibu Hybrid as a compmany car for the last 43K miles. I watch mpg closely and consistently get 34mpg HWY and avg 31.5mpg overall. The start/stop technology works well going from light to light in traffic. Worst downside, the AC stops working unless you over-ride it manually.

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    • Kurt Darden Kurt Darden on Aug 04, 2010

      My sales area is the entire southeastern US, so a typical week will have three or four jaunts on the interstate of 400 miles or so, which might be skewing my results. Usually, I run around 72 or so. Using cruise control loses a couple mpg because the car can't seem to pick a gear even on the slightest incline. I wouldn't have bought the car myself, but it doesn't make a bad company car, and they pay for my gas anyway. Frankly, I'd have expected better mpg from a the Hybrid (if you want to call it that) and I am not sure how much better it does than the standard 4cyl Malibu. Not much, I expect.

  • Carlson Fan Carlson Fan on Aug 04, 2010

    I agree that GM should have never called them "Hybrids". They should be adapting the two-mode system they had in the Tahoe/Yukon to their cars. That's a better much better, more effcient design than that goofy synergy drive Toyota uses. I suspect the Tahoe/Yukon Hybrids would have been a lot more succesful if they hadn't come out just in time for the economy to fall flat on its face.

  • Jamie Electric cars and their planet stripping unsustainable mineral needs. Nothing is perfect.....
  • Tom Kenney Wondering the same. It's getting late for 2024....I should scoop up a 2023 3.3t now.
  • Ja-GTI My father bought one of these new in '75, when I was an inquisitive lad of six with a younger sister of four. I showed her how to open the rear hatch, and then I noticed a convenient pull-down handle on the bottom of the rear parcel shelf. I couldn't reach it from the ground, so I climbed in the back, pulled on the handle, and quite suddenly shut the hatch on top of me. The four year-old sister couldn't follow my frantic instruction on how to open the hatch - she eventually left to go to our neighbor's house to "get some cookies", and I spent the next several hours having a very bad time.Finally, the older nine year-old sister came home from school and was showing the new car to a friend when she heard me yelling and freed me from my VW prison. Thankfully, I overcame my childhood PTSD and ended up owning an '07 GTI for fourteen years - which gave me another type of PTSD. And my VW circle of life is now complete. Well, except for the '15 Jetta TDI manual I bought for my son...
  • Inside Looking Out In America non-violent crime is legalized in 2020 but in England not. That guy in America would be considered as the pillar of society. Wild west you know,
  • El scotto Having really bad SATO flashbacks. Someone from Alamo would stop by the SATO office and stuff some display rack with 10$ off at Alamo! coupons. Off on another mission for Truth, Justice, and the American Way of Life! Well OK, I was off to talk to some tech reps. Riding the shuttle bus to Alamo I inwardly prayed please, oh please may there be a Neon and not a damn Sebring! Neons were by and far one of the best cheap rental cars.