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GM developing diesel hybrids

by Drew Johnson
GM developing diesel hybrids

Peugeot is currently the only automaker with production plans for a diesel-hybrid powertrain, but that could change is the coming years as General Motors is now working on its own version of the super efficient drivetrain.

GM is now working on a range of diesel-electric powertrains, with production tentatively slated to begin by the middle of the decade. Engineering of the new powertrains is currently ongoing at GM's diesel headquarters in Turin.

GM's engineering staff is experimenting with a number of diesel-hybrid combinations, ranging from mild hybrid systems to diesel versions of the Voltec system to be used in the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera. Most of GM's diesel-electric engineering centers on the company's new 1.6L diesel engine.

Although costly, the diesel-electric powertrains hold the most promise as hybrids are most efficient in city use while diesel are most adapt to highway cruising. "If you want the best fuel consumption, you have to go with the diesel-electric hybrid," GM Europe's advanced technology chief engineer, Maurizio Cisternino, told Autocar.

GM is hoping to have some version of a diesel hybrid in production within the next 5 years, but that will depend on the cost of the technology. GM is hoping to cap the added premium of a diesel hybrid to about $1,400 over a gas-electric vehicle, but Cisternino admits that pricing structure "does not work at the moment".

GM's diesel hybrid technology is currently being developed for its Opel and Vauxhall brands, but that doesn't mean it won't eventually surface in the U.S. However, we suspect any U.S. applications would be several years behind the technology's European launch.