Buick today announced pricing information for its 2012 Regal models, one of which will feature General Motors’s new eAssist Belt Alternator Starter system, which provides an estimated 28 percent boost in fuel economy over the standard 2.4-liter model. The 2012 Buick Regal with eAssist will start at $29,530, a $2,000 price premium over the base model, which at current gas prices brings the average estimated time needed to recover that extra cost to around just 3.5 years. That number dwarfs the price premium recovery time of many full hybrids, making eAssist one of the soundest green bangs for your buck on the market.

Fuel economy numbers for the base Regal are 19 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. The eAssist model gets 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, 32 percent and 20 percent improvements, respectively.

General Motors has been purposeful in its refusal to market eAssist as what it essentially is: a hybrid system similar to the one once donned by the much-maligned and shortly-lived Chevy Malibu Hybrid. But where the BAS system employed in the original Malibu Hybrid delivered a 19 percent fuel economy increase and carried a nearly $4,000 price premium, GM’s new eAssist system vastly improves the return on your mild hybrid investment. It’s just never referred to by the company as a mild hybrid.

eAssist replaces the alternator on a standard vehicle with a 20-horsepower electric alternator-generator, which helps to boost the torque output of the engine and save fuel. To run the motor, eAssist employs a 115 volt, 0.5 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack, charged by regenerative breaking—just like numerous other cars that are typically sold as hybrids.

But for many car shoppers, the prospect of paying several thousand dollars more for a car that will take more than half a decade to pay off in the form of gas savings is a non-starter. With eAssist GM has improved that equation considerably—even if cars like the Regal, LaCrosse and forthcoming Malibu with eAssist don’t deliver fuel economy numbers as impressive as a Prius or run briefly in electric-only mode.