GM's hybrid launch delayed

Published: 15 January 2008

The launch of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid could be delayed by at least a year, GM has hinted.  It showed the latest version of the radical E-flex plug-in hybrid technology that will underpin the Volt in the Cadillac Provoq (main image), a concept car that also hinted strongly at how Caddy’s new small SUV will look.

But it also launched the US-only Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid, which uses GM’s existing, simpler two-mode hybrid technology with the addition of a battery that can be charged overnight. It said that the Vue’s launch date of 2010 would make it the first plug-in hybrid to go on sale. That was the date set for the launch of the Volt, which will have an electric-only range of 40 miles to the Vue’s ten.

Volt now on sale by 2011

‘We gave ourselves a window of 2010 to 2011,’ said one GM insider. ‘And it’s looking more like 2011.’ GM product chief Bob Lutz admitted that development was proving difficult. ‘The batteries are the least of our worries. It’s everything else that’s causing the headaches. There has to be whole mass of radiators up front, so this car has nightmare plumbing. You really don’t want to be fixing it on your drive. We’ll simplify it in the second generation. We will still be first to market, but by 2015 there’ll be a whole bunch out there. Every major manufacturer is now working on this.’

Provoq shows how Saab’s Caddy sister will look

The Cadillac Provoq concept was first unveiled at the Consumer Electronics show in Vegas a week in advance of Detroit. It uses a fuel cell to charge the E-flex system’s battery. It carries 6kg of hydrogen, giving a 280-mile range with another 20 miles from the battery alone, less than previous E-flex concepts.

Small petrol or diesel engines can also be used, and the first production Volt will use a petrol. The Provoq also hints strongly at the look of the new Cadillac BRX, a small SUV to be built alongside the Saab 9-4X in Mexico from 2009. Unlike most concepts its cabin looks almost production-ready, drawing strongly on the CTS saloon’s.

They say: ‘We’ll still be first’
We say: Just don’t make us wait any longer
CAR verdict: 3/5 (Provoq)

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features