GM’s Hybrid Battery Story Called Into Question

A General Motors spokesperson told Automotive News that the company planned to sell 27,000 mild hybrid vehicles this year, but is falling short because its supplier, Cobasys, provided faulty batteries. In an exclusive interview with, a Cobasys executive—who asked not to be named—responded to GM statements and press reports, saying, “A lot of it is not correct,” but declined to elaborate further.

The GM spokesman, who was not clearly identified in the Automotive News article, said the company voluntarily recalled about 9,000 hybrid vehicles beginning in December 2007. GM said the problem involved an internal leak in the battery pack that caused the hybrid system to fail. The vehicle could still be driven, although without the benefits of the hybrid system.

The news about the battery-related recall comes at a time when GM is trying to ramp up its green image—despite hybrid sales numbers which remain significantly lower than those reported by Toyota, Honda, and cross-town rival Ford. It’s unlikely that the recent introduction of GM’s first hybrid sedan, the Chevy Malibu Hybrid—one of the vehicles affected by the battery problems—will reverse the trend.

The battery problems affected the Saturn Vue Green Line, Saturn Aura Green Line, and Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. Through May, combined 2008 sales for the three vehicles were approximately 1,000 units. The company uses a different supplier for the hybrid system found in the company’s full-size SUV hybrids, which account for approximately several hundred sales so far this year.

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  • Indigo

    Isn’t Chevron the company that GM sold the EV1 patents to right before they crushed all the EV1 cars? Note to Bob Lutz: Karma is real.

    It’s also hard to get excited over a hybrid system that only boosts efficiency by 1-3 MPG but costs $3,000. If it sold for a grand, they’d have more takers.

  • steved28

    With the relative ease of incorporating an IP interface into just about anything nowadays. Perhaps hybrids should include an interface for obtaining SW updates via the web.

  • ecd4me

    I’ll bet the mild hybrid system becomes standard across their lineup once the logistics are in place. I agree, a thousand is more like it. More improvement in mpg could be had too with better tires and a better tranny.

  • papudo

    i agree that the mild hybrid might become standard..
    the interesting thing is that cobasys jv partner energy conversion devices ( ener)
    holds the patent on the nimh batteries.. so why wouldnt GM just buy them if they on sale?

  • JimW

    I’m waiting for a plug in hybrid on full sized SUVs.

    Has anyone successfully mod the GM’s hybrids?

  • jak42

    For around $100 you can get the about same mpg improvement that GM’s mild hybrid system gets for $3000 with the Enerpulse spark plugs. I got four for my 2002 Prius and it increased my gas milage by around 2 mpg and greatly improved the acceleration and torque. The 2002 Prius, unlike the post 2004 model, is a real dog when it comes to acceleration, but with the new plugs, it accelerates like a real car.

  • hybridguy

    Will you people let the EV1 die. It was a POS. And which patent pray tell did they sell? The patent on the whole car? Give me a break. Why would any struggling automotive company bow to an oil company who is making billions by tanking a gem electic car? I know I know, it’s the on going conspiracy that American automotive manufactures have with the Arab oil empire. I forgot.

    If GM can not find a 48 V NiMH battery system works, what makes you think that they can find a 300 V lead acid system that works? And for a record, an electric vehicle is not a cure all. It is still a dirty process. Pretty much making anything is. But I guess if the factory isn’t in your backyard there’s no problem. But is it ok if they dump the used batteries in your yard?

    The only real solid cure for our transportation pollution problems is driving less and walking more. Stop hiding in the burbs and buying giant SUVs made for 8 that only carries 1. Get on a bus. A HYBRID bus. Do more of that and less blaming giant inanimate organizations and do something yourself.

  • JJ

    It would be nice if it was that easy

  • Bryce

    Coincedentally……GM is the company that makes those Hybrid busses. Just a little fun factoid that might make u hate them less. : )

  • Robert Ritchie

    Yes, Indigo that is correct about Chevron — the information was actually featured within the documentary motion picture “Who Killed The Electric Car?”

    However, “Who Killed The Electric Car?” failed to track the corporate “pedigree” ownership of Chevron:

    1) Chevron (and Texaco) controlled in large part by Motiva Enterprises;

    2) Motiva Enterprises controlled by Saudi Aramco.

    Upshot: GM sold this then advanced hybrid/plugin battery technology to the Saudi Royal Family.

    I am so pissed at GM management…

  • Robert Ritchie

    The Tennessean recently reported that Nissan manufactures a hybrid verison of one its cars but they are only sold acroos the U.S in those states that have very strict environmental/air quality laws such as California and some of the northeastern United States — residents of Tennessee (you might also include the many local and state governments across the Volunteer State) cannot purchase the Niissan hybrid that is being manufactured within their own state!!!

  • Tagamet

    Robert Ritchie
    For God’s sake Get OVER it! Life’s too short and hanging onto anger forEVER will eat you up from the inside.
    Buy a Volt when it comes out (g)

  • LR

    Be careful with facts:
    Motiva is a 50/50 joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Aramco. Motiva owns 3 refineries in the US and markets fuels. Chevron does not own Motiva and Motiva has no ownership in Chevron. Texaco used to be a 35% owner of Motiva before Chevron bought Texaco in 2003.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Thanks for your sharing your clearly enlightened information about the EV1. I drove ‘mine’ for 3 years and never realized it was a POS.
    I believe that the patents that were sold to GM were the patents on the NiMH batteries only.
    GM’s apathy and indifference towards hybrids clearly has paid off with an inferior product. They proved that hybrids are just as bad as EVs. Funny, it’s only GM hybrids that seem to be having battery problems.
    Too bad for GM that Ford, Honda, and Toyota didn’t realize that hybrids were a bad idea.

  • carLover

    Problems usually arises when new models are already out especially to things like these with just limited research. One manufacturer release this kind of concept then the other will have their own too. I’ve heard this one in some Ford News before. But be sure these manufacturers will get the best solution for this problems because people really make a way to get this hybrids.