By on November 15, 2010

According to a GM press release, the 2012 model-year version of the Buick LaCrosse is dragging a skeleton out of the GM marketing closet: the mild hybrid. But don’t you dare use the “m” word… it’s the eAssist.

Mated to a 2.4L Ecotec direct injection four-cylinder engine and next-generation six-speed automatic transmission, the eAssist system uses power stored in the battery to provide needed electrical boost in various driving scenarios, optimizing engine and transmission operation. An advanced 115V lithium-ion battery and latest-generation 15-kW motor-generator unit help increase fuel economy through:

  • Regenerative braking, which provides up to 15 kW of electricity to charge the battery
  • Providing up to 11 kW (15 hp) of electric power assistance during acceleration
  • Automatic engine shut-off when the vehicle is stopped
  • Aggressive fuel cut-off during deceleration down to zero vehicle speed, enabled by the torque smoothing provided by the motor-generator unit
  • Intelligent charge/discharge of the high-voltage battery.

But most importantly:

While the eAssist system shares the same basic belt-alternator-starter configuration of previous BAS designs, it delivers more than three times the power and is much more capable than the previous-generation BAS system.

Buick says this will be the standard powertrain option for the LaCrosse starting in 2012, and along with aero and tire tweaks will loft the model’s mileage to (shout it) 37 MPG highway and (whisper it) 25 city. The price: 65 lbs and a $2k-$3k sticker increase to “about $30,000”.  The Lacrosse has sold well this year (by recent Buick standards… 52k sales year-to-date), and the LaCrosse’s average transaction price is reportedly sitting at $32k… but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a gamble. The question now: will GM also drop a two-mode hybrid in the LaCrosse as threatened?

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29 Comments on “The Mild Hybrid Is Back… At Buick...”

  • avatar

    25/37 mpg? How can you use a mild hybrid, 6-speed AT, and DI and still only be slightly better than Camcord, which doesn’t use any of those technologies?
    I’m sure Camcord could get equal numbers with Aero and tire tweaks.
    I’m all for using those simple steps to gradually improve fuel economy. but the improvement seems marginal.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The Ecotec 2.4 makes 180 hp, so it’s a match for the base Accord. Add a few hp of electric boost, and it’s a fair match for the EX, which is rated 23/34.

      So the BAS bumping mileage to 25/37 gives a measurable 10% improvement over the Accord. It’s better.

    • 0 avatar

      How can you use a mild hybrid, 6-speed AT, and DI and still only be slightly better than Camcord

      Both the Camry and Accord are much lighter cars.

    • 0 avatar

      2 to 3 mpg city and 3 to 4 mpg highway isn’t slightly better.  It is measurably better.  The LaCrosse is also much heavier.  It is a pretty good feat for GM to pull off.  If they could put the platform on a diet, it would be much better.

    • 0 avatar

      2 to 3 mpg city and 3 to 4 mpg highway isn’t slightly better.  It is measurably better.
      But we are talking about GM…on TTAC.  Even if the Lacrosse Got 37 city and 50 highway from this technology, GM would be doing the wrong thing, it would be stupid, blah, blah, blah.
      But if this same technology was in the Taurus, it would be the best thing ever.

    • 0 avatar

      You all are right.  The Lacrosse is much heavier than the Accord despite being the same size–this makes it worse, not better.  Like other GM abominations (and unlike the Accord), the Lacrosse also has gargantuan A-pillars that will easily obscure pedestrians, cross traffic, and even oncoming vehicles.

  • avatar

    Yeah, the 25 MPG city rating is the killer here. According to the EPA, the MKZ and HS250h are its prime competition…and they are 16 and 10 MPG better respectively in the city. Camry and Altima Hybrids earned 31 and 33 MPG city respectively.

    But I’m sure “Buick makes a luxury sedan that gets 37 miles per gallon” makes a great line for the IPO pitch.

    • 0 avatar

      This isn’t surprising: BAS (and Honda’s IMA) are not that good at urban grind as they can’t shut down the engine and go electric-only at modest speeds.

    • 0 avatar

      LOL, the EPA thinks the HS250h and the LaCrosse are in competition with each other?  That is laughable.
      One important question when making these comparisons, what is the hybrid premium of the Camry, Altima, MKZ etc?  I am assuming it is more than 3k.
      Interestingly enough, none of the models that you listed beat the LaCrosse on highway mileage.

    • 0 avatar

      @ psarhjinian
      GM’s BAS is a belt alternator starter system and is very different from Honda’s IMA.  Previous GM BAS models were mere start-stop systems, this “e-assist” is still retains the belt-drive system but is merely more powerful.  Honda’s system by contrast has an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission.
      Both are ‘mild’ hybrids,   Honda’s IMA however is slightly less ‘mild’ in comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      I know they’re different, but the end result is similar: both systems are good for incremental gains and start/stop, not the kind of high-use city numbers that HSD or the Volt allow.

  • avatar

    I wonder if GM is seeing what I’m seeing. I think start/stop systems will eventually be mandated in the US, probably within 10 years. Besides which, even without that they have to make the new CAFE numbers, which GM probably is not really all that ready for in comparison to Honda, Hyundai, or Toyota.
    Personally, I hope the tweaked system does well. There just isn’t the room to pretend that oil conservation isn’t neccessary.

  • avatar

    I thought the two-mode only was available in the longish packaging that fits an RWD car or truck (and the car must be big). If they ever make a big RWD Caddy again, it might work. But an FWD car can’t take it. I may be wrong about it, of course.

    P.S. Oh wait, just read the linked article about the VUE. Well, that’s pretty cool.

  • avatar

    It is interesting that this is going to be standard equipment on LaCrosse coming soon.  Hopefully the fuel economy improvements are good in real life and not just on paper.  It is a big jump to go from 19/30 to 25/37.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with this. I’m happy that GM’s not trying to pass this off as a special hybrid model. They’re making the existing one a lot more efficient than it otherwise was. Sure, there are other cars with non hybrid drivetrains getting mileage as good, but this really does seem to be an improvement. Of course it’s not free, and it adds some weight to an already heavy car but I just don’t think this is all negative. The city gain alone is impressive (>25% improvement).

  • avatar

    Better an “eAssist” ecotec than the current base four-banger. Aside from being a totally inappropriate base engine for a car that size, the current 184hp mill undermines Buick’s near-luxury pretensions; higher cost-of-entry will serve them better in the long run.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I think we are going to see more and more of this kind of mild hybrid technology used as an efficiency improver, and we can also expect that the cost/price premium will come down over time as the technology is more widely used. Automatic transmissions, air conditioning and stability control are but of few of the technologies which were once rather costly options and which are now commonplace.

    Pricing the vehicle at around $30k sticker means that it will be in competition with vehicles like the Acura TSX or Lexus ESxxx. Besting those two bellweathers on fuel economy is something worth doing for Buick.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    By the way, for those following the GM IPO story:
    “NEW YORK (Reuters) – Strong investor demand has driven the price range of GM’s IPO to between $32 and $33 per share, taking the U.S. government closer to breakeven on its controversial investment in the top U.S. automaker, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday.
    In addition, the U.S. government could opt to sell more shares than first planned in the initial public offering while GM could offer additional preferred shares, the sources said.
    The prospect for a higher GM share price and an increased offering size mean that the initial loss to U.S. taxpayers from the bailout of General Motors (GM.UL) will be more limited than initially thought.
    GM had earlier filed to sell common shares for $26 to $29 each. The move to the higher range would represent an 18 percent increase at the midpoint.”
    Imagine that, the GM IPO might turn out to be a big success! Shhhhh, don’t tell everyone, some don’t want to consider it possible.

    • 0 avatar

      @John Horner….Oh yeah, I’m following the IPO story. Thanks for the link.

      Yeah, I’m thinking a few folks might want to google….”Ten ways to cook crow”

    • 0 avatar

      I was waiting for a story on the subscription/valuation and general events regarding the IPO of GM.

    • 0 avatar

      of course it’ll be a big success – the gov’t gave $50 bn to put a dumpster in the driveway and throw away all the junk – non-core brands and businesses and dealers. They bought out the mortgage and let them stay in the house – $93 bn in debt written off. And they are on the way to getting the maid, landscaper and chef to work for half their former pay. How could it not be a success? Any kid with a calculator can figure the EBIT run rate divided by the number of shares and see the multiple is favorable and there’s money to be made. I own GM products and want them to succeed – but let’s not act like GM accomplished anything other than sucking so good they got to visit the nice people in bankruptcy and start over with none of those bad nasty things like debt and expenses.

  • avatar
    M 1

    Am I the only car guy left who objects to these infinitesimal “gains” coupled with massive increases in complexity? Did the clueless ricer era kill off every single car guy who actually works on cars? Or at least chase the remaining few into a corner where they only dare come out in daylight long enough to buy a beater to enter into Lemons?

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      I personally maintain both modern cars and old cars and have recently worked on everything from a 2006 Acura to a 1930 Model A. Sure the modern stuff is more complex, but it is all good fun just the same. Electronics add some complexity, but they also give you things like OBDII scan ports with which to grok what is going on.

      Any modern vehicle is vastly more complex than a Model A, and is also vastly more pleasing to drive, goes better, stops better, is more comfortable, and is safer and less polluting. I don’t mind complexity as long as it serves a purpose.

    • 0 avatar

      Aren’t cars infinitely more reliable than they were 20 years ago?  It is withing living memory that it was a remarkable thing for a car to 100k miles.  Use of electronic rather than mechanical systems is part of what makes cars so much more efficient, durable and reliable.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with John Horner here. I’ve worked on all of my cars for as long as I’ve been driving and while the technology is adding complexity, it’s not stopping me from working on my vehicles. Nowadays it just means that you need to know a little more than just “righty tighty”/”lefty loosey”.

    • 0 avatar

      This is hardly a “massive gain in complexity”.  It’s a big starter motor, some electrically-driven accessories and a battery in the trunk.
      Never mind that bastions of simplicity like the carburettor actually made your driving life worse, not better, than the “massively complex” fuel injection systems that replaced them curiously need much less fiddling.  How about the hand-crank starter?  The manual choke?  Acetylene headlamps?

  • avatar

    No, you are not alone M1. It has gotten a lot more difficult, as you know, but some of us still do it.

  • avatar

    (Old) GM’s mistake was sticking BAS into everything they could, then actually adding weight (and hype) with waaaay too many flashy hybrid badges.

    This time, it would seem (New) GM has actually learned a lesson: This isn’t the Lacrosse Hybird. It isn’t even going to be marketed as such. If a fat pig like the Lacrosse can actually do 37 on the highway, that’s definitely an improvement.

    Just don’t call it a hybrid!

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly.  It’s not a hybrid, but it still is a damn good idea and at least on paper, it returns a good bang for the buck.  GM, restrain the marketing guys to keep the hybrid name off.  BTW I have to add that GM’s hybrid badges are awful.  I like the circuit board thing, but all those arrows and huge text, yuk.
      Next up:  GM cars go to the Jillian Michaels school and drop to 10 percent bodyfat..

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