• GM Announces Revolutionary Lithium Ion Hybrid for 2010

Take that, Toyota – and Daimler.

Consider this: a hybrid that provides performance, not just economy. A hybrid that, used in conjunction with a turbocharger, turns a four cylinder engine into the equivalent of a V-6 in power and performance, but beats the four in economy.

That’s what Rick Wagoner is announcing as this is written – giving the speech at the Geneva Auto Show that we got on background last week.

GM says it is serious about lithium ion hybrids – and is going to put 100,000 of them on the street – minimum – beginning in 2010.

(more after the jump)

To this point, a “hybrid” has been a means of marginally increasing the fuel economy of a vehicle which was already designed to be economical. The Prius illustrates the point.

But GM has something else in mind. A hybrid as a means of adding power, making torque, increasing performance.

And, by doing so, making the vehicle more economical.

The “third generation” hybrid is not a derivative of the two-mode hybrid developed by the General for the Tahoe and light truck platforms.

Rather, it is a derivative of the current so-called “conventional” hybrid, but with a huge difference: a lithium ion battery that is three times more powerful than the nickel hydride battery currently used in GM hybrids, such as the Malibu.

General Motors considers this a break through hybrid – one that it could use in every auto that it makes, one that is seamless in its operation and one that makes the concept of a hybrid entirely different than those currently used.

Like other hybrids, the “third generation” hybrid will use regenerative braking and start-stop technology. But the crucial difference is in the battery – a lithium ion battery which is, in size and weight, no different than the current nickel hydride battery. But, in power it is very different. One GM engineer described it as a battery on steroids.

This is not a derivative of the Chevy Volt battery. It is not a battery designed to provide long-term power. Rather, it is a battery designed to augment the power provided by a conventional engine, and – in the process – make the conventional engine far more efficient.

Expect the new “third generation” hybrid in the United States and Europe in 2010 – not model year, but calendar year – and expect it to spread across the GM product line after that.

Ralph Kalal
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