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    While GM may have come late to the hybrid party, they’re storming onto the scene with the announcement of dual-mode and plug-in hybrid vehicles for 2008 and 2009.

    General Motors’ Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid SUV was unveiled at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show today, fully equipped with some innovations that could make GM a serious hybrid contender in the near future. The Vue Green Line, which will debut in 2008, will pack a punch with a standard 3.6 liter V6 while also improving fuel efficiency as much as 45 percent with a unique dual-mode hybrid system. The dual-mode hybrids will include direct injection and variable valve timing, a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and two active cooled permanent magnet motors. Said Tom Stevens, GM’s group president of its powertrains division:
    This will be the auto industry’s first front-wheel-drive vehicle to use a 2-mode hybrid system, which improves fuel economy while maintaining performance and capability.

    The dual modes in question allow for adjustment between highway and city driving. While its unclear as to whether the dual-mode hybrid system will be user-controlled or automatic, the hybrid system will actually operate differently depending on the type of driving being done. GM’s dual-mode hybrid improves upon previous single-mode systems from Toyota and Ford that don’t adjust due to usage.

    GM has also begun production on a plug-in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid, although the exact production dates are hazy on this one. Due out some time in 2009, the plug-in version of the dual-mode hybrid will use a Lithium-Ion battery pack in place of the current nickel-metal hydride standard, and can be charged at any standard 110-volt electrical outlet (the voltage standard will likely differ for foreign versions of the vehicle).
    GM has begun work on a Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid production vehicle, said GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner. The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable. I can’t give you a production date for our plug-in hybrid today. But I can tell you that this is a top priority program for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement.

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