2011 Buick plug-in hybrid crossover SUV

It has just been reported that, in about 18 months General Motors (GM) will possibly start selling a plug-in hybrid mid-size crossover SUV under their Buick entry-level luxury brand. Probably set to compete against hybrid-powered Lexus RX series of medium-sized luxury cars, the vehicle may become a serious weapon in the American brand’s fight against Japanese domination on the Chinese market. But, even if you happen to live in Shanghai with its air poisoned by millions of gas-powered cars, don’t hold your breath yet: lots of things can happen in eighteen months and the concept may be scrapped altogether.

Please, note: the picture above represents the 2011 Buick Envision Concept that GM is currently working on and the real car may look radically different from this render including a normal set of doors, less aggressive body panels, and more traditional interior.

Although the price of oil has significantly plunged during the last year’s financial meltdown, it is fairly evident that the level of consumption per capita didn’t change a lot and, as soon as cash starts flowing back to financial markets, we will see a significant rebound in gasoline prices. That, and the fact that many congested, overpopulated cities around the world are gradually becoming dangerous places to live in due to health hazards arising from all sorts of pollutants excreted on a daily basis by millions of traditional ICE-powered vehicles presses for decisive and firm action in order to make the air breathable again.

While hybrid vehicles do not solve the problem, they can at least make it not as acute by (1) reducing the total amount of gas burned by an average car and (2) actually making your neighborhood’s air cleaner because of their ability to run on purely electric power while moving on speeds below 25mph (and sometimes even faster.) This means less car’s idling in front of you bedroom windows while warming up their engines, less fumes and, well, less noise!

According to the company, the yet to be named SUV will be motivated by a 3.6-liter V6 flex-fuel engine working together with GM’s advanced Two-Mode Hybrid system.

The engine in question will probably be a close relative of the 275 horsepower, 251 lb-ft VVT job powering their current GMC Acadia crossover SUV.

GM readies 2011 Buick plug-in hybrid crossover SUV
GM readies 2011 Buick plug-in hybrid crossover SUV

Its lithium-ion batteries, produced by LG Chem, will be fully recharged in about five hours using a standard 110V outlet using the Voltec technology developed for the upcoming Chevy Volt / Opel Ampera hybrids.

The 8 kwh battery will be hidden in a box “under the cargo floor,” probably, taking the place of a full-size spare wheel.

In its press release, GM says that current working prototypes of the PHEV SUV can travel up to 10 miles on a single charge, but only when moving at low speeds, say, in a major traffic jam in a city like, say, New York.

It is safe to assume that the Buick model will take place of the doomed Saturn Vue PHEV that was originally scheduled for the next year but was effectively written off together with the whole Saturn brand.

I truly hope that GM will not run out of brands before the actual “green” crossover will hit the streets.

Photo: GM/Buick

See also: 2008 Toyota Highlander hybrid