Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on October 25, 2008
Here’s something that I think few people know about hybrids (at least I was oblivious): technology and price can differ significantly based on the engine, not the manufacturer. At this month’s Detroit Auto Show, GM/Saturn showed off its different versions of the Saturn SUV, The Vue.
The Vue currently in production sports the BAS (battery, alternator, starter) hybrid engine which is not much more expensive than full gas power. In this system, the batteries turn a beefed-up fan belt that then turns the pistons in the engine without using gas. The batteries are recharged through braking and the engine shuts off at stoplights, just like other hybrids. The catch is that the efficiency benefits are marginal – only about 5 mpg – yet still significant and one step cleaner.
The other two Vue models are set to start production in late 2008-early 2009 and use more traditional hybrid engines that focus on alternating gas and electric in the transmission. And they will be significantly more expensive. One will offer the driver plug-in technology, an idea that I’m not wild about because it offsets tailpipe pollution with smokestack pollution; there ought to be enough recharge power in the brakes if braking energy is captured efficiently.
All this shows that 35 mpg is not “unattainable” as the big-car companies complained during the debate over the energy bill. It also shows that there are many solutions to the problem, it’s just a matter of removing ourselves from the dominating paradigm for a little while so that we might see the problems (and solutions) from a new perspective.
For more on the Vue, click here.