Plugged In Down Under
Technically, GM calls the Volt a “range-extended electric vehicle” as the electric motors are solely responsible for powering the car. Meanwhile, a plug-in hybrid shares driving duties between the electric motor and gas engine, which seems to be the plan for a Chevy Cruze plug-in hybrid. After running for a short time on a small battery pack, the gas engine would take over, allowing for a smaller battery pack and giving consumers a cheaper option over the $40,000 Chevy Volt.
Seeing as how the Volt is lambasted over its high cost-of-entry, a plug-in Cruze, if done right, could easily come in under $30,000 before tax credits are applied. A plug-in hybrid system would help turn an already-efficient compact car into a possible Prius-beater. The thing is, GM has to build it…and build it right.
Details are scarce, and it is too soon to say for sure if a plug-in Cruze is really in the works. More likely to me is an e-Assist model like those found in the Buick lineup. If GM could apply the same 25% improvement in gas mileage seen in Buicks to the Cruze, 50 mpg highway would not be out of the question. GM just has to do it, and keep the cost low, which shouldn’t be difficult with a smaller battery pack. Toyota thinks the Prius plug-in can get by with just 13 miles of EV range. I’d be happy with 10 miles in the Cruze, if the car returned 50 mpg after the battery was drained and the price was right.
Still, it all seems like a stretch right now. I have no doubt GM is working on some sort of Cruze hybrid, just as I have no idea what form it will take. Plug-in hybrid? Regular hybrid? Volt-lite? I just hope the General doesn’t disappoint with a high price, like they did with the Volt. In Australia, the Holden Volt will cost over $60,000, so a plug-in Cruze has a lot of wiggle room in terms of cheaper prices.