Is what’s good for GM also good for the environment?
We asked last year if the new GM would be a cleantech play. It’s looking more and more like that’s the case. Today, the company announced it would be rolling out a hybrid technology system called eAssist in the Buick Regal 2012 that will boost fuel economy by 25 percent. The system uses regenerative braking, power stored in a 115-volt lithium-ion battery and an induction motor generator unit to get 26 miles per gallon in city driving and 37 miles per gallon on the highway. The car is a four-door midsize “luxury” vehicle and is the second GM car (after the Buick LaCrosse) to use the technology, which is being called “mild hybrid“.
This marks yet another move by GM to push into environmentally friendly cars and brands.
Just a few years ago, GM was saddled with losses and on the receiving end of a much-maligned public bailout. It has since turned around, re-entering public markets with a record $20 billion IPO and is now riding high on the success of the Chevrolet Volt, a partially electric car that won several accolades last year and got kudos for its range-extending hybrid technology. GM is ramping up production and expanding the Volt’s availability to nationwide this year, ahead of schedule. Chevy also announced last year, ahead of the Volt’s release, that it would donate $40 million to programs that would offset carbon emissions of the cars Chevy plans to sell in 2011.
Still, hybrid and electric offerings are a part of every major automaker’s plans, so GM has more competition on the way. And it hasn’t committed to green cars in such a big way that it matches Nissan’s lofty goals, but it is approaching hybrid technology and greening its brand in interesting ways. Nissan is arguably the most aggressive automaker out there on this front with its all-electric Leaf and chief executive Carlos Ghosn’s push for electric and hybrid sales to make up 20 percent of Nissan’s sales by 2020 (assuming it can sort out all the production delays). Toyota has the Prius, arguably the best-known hybrid in the U.S., and plans to roll out a plug-in electric Prius in 2012. Ford, Volkswagen, Mazda, Honda and others have all announced plans for electric cars. There are also offerings from startups: Tesla, Fisker and Coda.
With Obama’s push for electric vehicle adoption (one million on the roads by 2015) and major companies reporting that electric trucks can be a good business investment, it looks like green is simply becoming good business for auto makers.