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Meet the Cadillac ELR, General Motors’ luxury extended-range electric car

General Motors today unveiled its first luxury extended-range electric vehicle, the Cadillac ELR Coupe. It’s the company’s second extended-range electric car and the third extended-range car unveiled in the past 30 days.

The new high-end vehicle features an electric motor that will travel for about 35 miles when the car’s battery is fully charged. When the battery runs out, the car uses gasoline to power a generator that recharges the battery, extending the distance the car can drive. The owner can plug the car in at any time to recharge the battery and save gasoline. The Cadillac ELR will feature a Voltec powertrain — the same powertrain used in its other extended-range electric vehicle, the Volt.

Purely electric cars can take several hours to charge and require drivers to plan out their days or change their driving habits. Owners of range-extending cars do not technically ever have to plug the car in, but if they choose to do so they can save on fuel costs and don’t have to drastically alter their daily driving routines. General Motors’ Chevy Volt uses the same technology, as does the Fisker Karma.

“The extended range is a lot more likely to be a mainstream vehicle in the U.S. than a battery electric,” Pike Research analyst Dave Hurst told VentureBeat. “A lot of Americans, regardless of their actual range, they think they need the range of 300 or 400 miles — whether they need it or not is beside the point.”

Car manufacturer BMW unveiled its own extended-range electric vehicles last month. GM is likely to face stiffer competition from the BMW i8, a sporty electric hybrid that can go from 0 to 62 miles per hour in less than 5 seconds, Hurst said. The Fisker Karma, another luxury sedan, likely won’t pose as much of a threat because it’s made by a smaller and much newer company, he said. BMW also unveiled the more practical i3 mini last month, which it will sell as both a battery-powered and range-extended model.

General Motors has had some trouble shipping its first extended-range electric vehicle, the Volt, due to a number of production delays. The company only sold 125 Volts after shutting down its Detroit-based plant to retool it, bringing its total vehicles shipped to 2,870. General Motors expects to sell around 16,000 Volts by the end of the year now that the plant has re-opened.

“GM definitely sees that there’s a market for the luxury side of things,” Hurst said. “With their strength with the Cadillac brand, I’m sure they’re feeling like they’re stepping into a market that’s pretty wide open.”