Cadillac Plug-In Hybrid Plans In Doubt

One of the more significant auto trends developing in summer 2011 and beyond are the number of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles arriving on the market. Ford and Toyota are getting vehicles to the market first, with Hyundai, Chrysler, Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Nissan and others expected to follow. GM will offer up at least one model, but it won’t be the anticipated Cadillac crossover some had expected. In May 2011, GM canceled the project, citing cost as the main reason.

PHV Technology

Plug-In hybrid electric vehicles are not cheap to build as these models require a significant investment from the automaker without a guarantee that that buyers will embrace these vehicles. The advantage of a PHV — or PHEV as called by some — is that you can plug one in at home via a standard outlet. Some models, including the upcoming Toyota Prius Plug-In can be recharged in as few as three hours with a regular 120v outlet. If you have a 240v outlet, then recharging times are cut in half.

Cadillac had been expected to get some sort of hybrid or electric model to supplement its fleet, and was originally tabbed with getting a lux version of the Chevrolet Volt. That initiative was scrapped, but was followed up with a PHV crossover that would have been based on the SRX. However, GM wasn’t prepared to commit money to a project with no certain upside available. Besides, the Chevrolet Volt itself is a costly endeavor, one that has cost GM hundreds of millions of dollars to launch and maintain.

Buick eAssist

What seems likely for Cadillac is getting some version of the eAssist hybrid technology slated to appear in the Buick Lucerne and Buick Regal later this year. This “partial” hybrid works with a small electric motor that offers part time hybridization, but at a lower cost than a standard hybrid system. The advantage for the consumer is twofold: fuel economy rises by about 25 percent and costs are about half that of what full hybrid owners pay.

This could mean that the current Cadillac SRX model itself will benefit from the Buick hybrid. Installing such a system could bump up fuel economy to 35 mpg on the highway, giving Cadillac a hybrid to compete with the Lexus and one that simply isn’t an Escalade.

Cadillac Choices

In any case, GM will have to come up with a new plan for Cadillac as it faces increasingly stiffer fuel economy requirements courtesy of the federal government. A PHV, electric vehicle or partial hybrid would offset the gas guzzler Cadillac Escalade, but only a partial Buick-inspired hybrid system seems cost effective.