Report: GM Drops Cadillac Converj to Focus on Cheaper Plug-In Hybrids

Bloomberg is reporting that General Motors stopped work on the Cadillac Converj, a sleek electric-drive coupe, to focus on cheaper plug-in hybrids for its luxury brand. The report is based on comments from two GM executives who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public.

The decision, if verified by GM, represents an acknowledgement of the high cost of producing plug-in hybrids that run for long distances without using any gasoline—rather than the type of plug-in hybrids that can use smaller and therefore less expensive battery packs. The Cadillac Converj was intended to follow the design of the Chevy Volt—referred to as an extended-range electric vehicle or plug-in series hybrid—which runs up to 40 miles before the gas engine is used to maintain the vehicle’s range.

“The future lies in plug-in hybrids with smaller electric range,” Eric Noble, president of CarLab, an Orange, California-based automotive consultant, told Bloomberg. Dropping the Converj is “a tacit admission from GM that they over-batteried the Volt.”

Right-Sizing Plug-in Hybrid Batteries

The three major categories of electric-drive vehicles are conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and pure electric cars. Conventional hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, will continue to use relatively small battery packs—while pure electric cars require much larger batteries in order to deliver approximately 100 miles of range between charges.

The decision to drop the Cadillac Converj underscores the debate about the optimal size of the battery pack for a plug-in hybrid, which offers many of the benefits of an electric car—such as using energy pulled from the electric grid or rooftop solar panels—while providing a driving range which matches or exceeds a gas-powered vehicles.

Cost is a major factor. GM has insisted that 40 miles of range, without using a single drop of gasoline, is critical. However, Toyota plans to offer a plug-in version of the Prius with about 13 miles of all-electric range, and Ford’s Escape Plug-in Hybrid will provide around 30 electric miles—with both vehicles expected to put the internal combustion engine to some use throughout the drive cycle, if it means overall greater efficiency. This approach is sometimes called a “blended” strategy. GM’s own plug-in hybrid SUV in the works is reportedly aiming for approximately 10 miles of electric-only range.

One of the key questions that auto engineers hope to answer with plug-in hybrid pilot programs is how small they can make the battery pack—to reduce cost—while daily driving remains gas-free.

According to executives quoted on the Bloomberg story, the extra cost of pushing the Cadillac Converj’s electric-only range even to 20 miles would be $30,000. Pat Morrissey, a GM spokesman, declined to comment on the future of the Converj.

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  • Sam65

    Here is another example of GMs inability to do anything that makes them a car company that stands out. They wll be in bankruptcy again…They cannot get out of there own way and ask the real question of what people want to drive…Tell GM to call me and I ll straighten them out…They dont want to do the right thing…do they? Someone needs to smack these guys in the head. Tired of hearing them make bold claims and then retract them. To worried about politics! I want to support them but they dont want to do anything to make you to support them. What next retract the VOLT. I guess I will buy a BMW thanks GM

  • Shines

    Well I don’t get GM’s logic. If the hybrid costs more to make then why not make it a luxury vehicle where the customer base is more likely to have the extra money to pay for it?!?
    Just based on the looks of the Converge compared to the Volt it would sell at least as well.
    They could spend even more extra for slightly larger electric motors = quicker; and sacrifice the electric only mileage say 20 miles in all electric. The Volt will have to compete against a lot more vehicles (Prius, Fusion, Camry, Altima, Insight). TheConverge might be competing aginst the Fiskar and Tesla…

  • Nicolaas

    I agree completely!!!

  • Charles

    There are a lot of compromises to make between all electric range, all electric speed and cost. GM went with no limit on all electric speed, a long all electric range (40 miles) and forget about cost. Toyota is aiming at the other end of the spectrum. The plug in Prius with about a 13 mile range and an all electric top speed of only 62 MPH. Looks to me like Toyota is just replacing the NiMH battery with a Lithium Ion battery. This gives Toyota the low cost solution. Ford and others think the sweet spot is 30 mile all electric range with a top all electric speed of 70 MPH or a bit more.

    I think GM and Toyota are both wrong. The GM Volt’s cost is going to be too high or the profit margin too small for a successful run. I think people wanting a plug in hybrid will want to be able to drive gas free for most of their trips. 62 MPH will not cut it for anybody with a freeway commute. 13 miles is really short and not sufficient for a very large part of the US population.

    A 25-30 mile range and a high all electric speed seems to be a good compromise to me. It is one I would make. Being gas free for most of my driving, and good MPG when going past the all electric range seems like a winning combination.

  • Giant

    13 mile range is a good start. 62 MPH would work for me – just punch it in at 60 and watch the maniacs drive by. These specs are coming pretty close to matching an ICE’s performance. People will line up to buy it. Watch for park and plug businesses to flourish.

    Ford’s 30 mile range with 70 MPH top speed is almost good enough to call it a replacement for business as usual (BAU).

    All are better than today’s hybrids. Bring it on.

  • AP

    If GM “over-batteried the Volt,” what did Nissan do with the Leaf?

  • pat

    Volt is just a creation to make people feel GM is ahead of Toyota.
    In reality
    Volt is a dream, Prius is real….
    Financially- GM is behind, Toyota is ahead.
    Sales volumne- GM is behind, Toyota is ahead.
    Wake up!!!!!
    Volt will be a limited production car that GM can never make money out of it.
    At the moment, nobody can make long lasting lithium ion battery pack yet. Would you like to own a car need new battery every 2 years? That is why one of the Japanese company try to sell you a car but lease you the battery.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Idiots. GM is just trying to prove that EVs won’t work again.
    This seems to be what they do with anything new such as the EV1, hybrids, Pontiac, and the Saturn Corporation.
    The Converj actually made sense as a place to start. They actually could make money off of it much earlier than with a low-priced car, just as Tesla is making money off of their Roadster. I guess they wouldn’t want that to happen, it might indicate that they’ve been wrong all along.
    One thing that everyone misses about Plug-In vehicles is a fact of Li-ion batteries. A Li-ion battery’s life is limited to a certain amount of Watt-hours that can pass through it – cycle life. It takes a certain amount of Watt-hours to go a certain distance. This means that a battery can only go a certain distance in its lifetime. You either buy a big battery pack initially or buy a lot of smaller battery packs throughout the life of the vehicle.
    As an example: The Tesla Roadster’s battery pack is expected to handle about 500 full cycles, each of which will propel it about 200 miles. This means it will last for 500*200 = 100,000 miles (unless the 5 – 10 year calendar life hits it first). If you gave it a smaller battery pack that would only allow it to go 50 miles, it would give up in 500*50 = 25,000 miles, after which you have to buy another pack. You’ll need to buy 4 more batteries before your car gets to 100,000 miles. Until battery technology is developed which can handle more cycles, cheaper, the cost of batteries to go 100,000 miles is going to remain about the same, irregardless of how many batteries you put in the car.
    As far as those who think you can save the battery by making it run slower: this depends on the power that the battery can put out, something also better as you carry more batteries. Both the power and battery life of the battery can be helped by having better battery cooling and management technology. By not running the battery all the way down or charging it all the way up, you can improve the life somewhat.

  • usbseawolf2000

    13 miles EV would cover majority (51%) of the US commutes. That’s a very good start and most cost effective. It seems to be the only realistic solution without any compromise.

  • Anonymous

    it’s not a surprise really when the man at the helm does not really believe in hybrids/EVs etc. If leadership is known in public as a non-believer, it’s hard for the company culture to say “yes we can do it”. GM stands for a lot of things, one of them is greenwashing machine.

  • tw8s

    The Devil is in the nagging variables: uphill, rain/snow, wind, aero drag, night, comfort, big audio system, etc. None of these electric only range numbers will be absolute. If yours gets 25mi @70, it will get 40mi @45, AND 30mi @15 in heavy traffic because the longer you are in the vehicle the greater the need for horn, lights, heat, A/C, wipers, and entertainment. Increasing all-electric range, acceleration, or both penalizes overall fuel efficiency by having to carry around the extra weight of bigger motors and batteries. My sense of the sweet spot is around 10-12 all-electric miles at a steady, level 40-45mph. This is based on my 4 years of Prius experience, in which I have wished for more battery when driving the hills and canyons east of San Diego, and the long uphill pulls to cross high mountain ranges of the west.

  • Anonymous

    yeah….wat did they do..

  • Stefano

    Well, to me it looks very easy to solve, but is may be too easy for GM…

    Why don’t they make a minimum range in all electric mode (5-10 miles?) with a low cost battery, providing the space and connections for upgrade the battery pack? Customer will than decide which is the right battery pack size for them.

    Too easy?

    But the reasons I guess are other…may be they are owned by oil producers…

  • Mr. Fusion

    Stefano, you hit the nail on the head.
    Make the electrical connections between car and battery universal, like our electrical outlets in the house.
    Battery shapes, sizes and capacities may change, but the connections won’t.

  • usbseawolf2000

    The can’t due to the limitation of series hybrid architecture. There is no “cheap” battery that can power 160hp with a range of 5 miles. You need big battery to have more power and energy.

    Volt’s concept is to drive on pure electricity until it run out of juice. If you were to have battery pack with 5 miles only, then you will end up with 20 hp (1/8) output.

  • John K.

    1) Ford made the right choice: go for what benefits the majority, rather than “almost all”, to keep costs down. Lower cost will increase sales, which will then increase demand, which will then increase production, which will then increase supply, which will then drive down the price of Li ion batteries, which will then increase sales . . . .

    2) Ford really needs to get a plug-in version of its Fusion ready for production.

    3) Use Li ion batteries as a fast charging/discharging “power buffer” for a NiMH main battery pack (cheaper).

    4) Pray that EEStor finally delivers a product that lives up to its hype. . . .

  • sheckyvegas

    Yup, it’s that brilliant dinosaur-thinking that’s driven GM all the up to the very bottom.

  • AP

    It’s very interesting that the consensus on the site used to be to have a longer electric range than 15 miles or so. Now that GM has chosen that strategy, it’s obviously wrong? This knee-jerk response to people/corporations you don’t like explains our political process pretty well.

    And if 40 miles range is too much, then 200 is way too much, so I guess the Leaf and Tesla are bad by that logic (funny, the comments don’t line up with that).

    Where did the comment about oil companies owning GM come from? That was bizarre!

  • Shines

    AP I don’t see that the consensus on this site has changed. Sure other hybrid manufacturers are going with shorter all electric ranges – their vehicles aren’t designed like the Volt and they would have to comprimize on space and cost to compete with the Volt. But the Volt’s ~$40000 price may be an issue.
    I can see GMs logic might be – If we can sell a few (produce enough) Volts that get 320 MPG then we can sell more less expensive conventional vehicles and meet the CAFE quotas.
    My comment on a shorter range on the Converj was meant as an alternative to set it apart from the Volt (sportier performance luxury 2 (or 4) seater). But alas, I don’t think GM really wants to sell hybrids as much as feels forced to. I know CAFE is forcing their hand, but it seems change is coming and GM might be better to embrace it.

  • James Roger

    It was really a sad news that this amazing car was canceled that moment. I am, not worried for what they have build inside. The look was awesome and I liked it –
    Work Accident Lawyer

  • Jack White

    This is a really nice car, sad it was cancelled. Hopefully, when time comes, they will put it back to production. Jack @ TV Brackets

  • tapra1

    The Cadillac Converj was intended to follow the design of the Chevy Volt—referred to as an extended-range electric vehicle or plug-in series hybrid—which runs up to 40 miles before the gas engine is used to maintain the vehicle’s range.Calmsa

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