Where Will GM's Two-Mode Plug-In Hybrid System Land?

In the last day or so, numerous sources have reported that an upcoming Buick Crossover due out in 2011 would be the first application of GM’s two-mode plug-in hybrid system – technology that was originally intended for the Saturn Vue. “Those reports are pure speculation,” GM spokesperson, Dayna Hart, told Hybridcars.com. “There are plans to implement the system into a future vehicle, but the specific brand has not yet been decided.”

Regardless, the Buick in question remains a strong candidate on a roster which includes Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC. The unnamed Buick CUV, as well as the all-new GMC Terrain, and Chevrolet Equinox all share the Saturn Vue’s Theta platform. This means the two-mode hybrid system could be easily installed into any of these vehicles without any major technical modifications. Cost-effectiveness is obviously a major concern to automakers these days. Especially since even minor changes to a system like this could cost between 50 and 150 million dollars.

But not utilizing the system altogether could prove to be far more costly; the total tab for research and development of this technology is reported to be in excess of 1.2 billion dollars.

The two-mode plug-in hybrid system is expected to maximize efficiency while giving solid performance both on- and off-road. It will utilize a lithium ion battery that can be recharged by simply plugging into a household outlet.

GM killed plans for the Saturn Vue two-mode plug-in hybrid due to financial troubles last year. Now, the car manufacturer has struck a deal to sell the entire Saturn unit to Penske Automotive. The Saturn Vue is now officially off the table as a future GM hybrid.

The new small to mid-size crossover from Buick was seen on CBS during an interview with GM’s design chief, Ed Welburn. Shown as a full-size clay model, the vehicle seems to take styling cues from Buick’s large crossover, the Enclave.

Two-mode hybrid versions of GM’s large SUVs have been suffering from lackluster sales.