High Investment In Hybrids

Posted on August 11, 2006

A research alliance consisting of General Motors Corp., BMW AG and DaimlerChrysler AG will invest over $1 billion in the development of a new hybrid transmission and related systems that backers say will leapfrog the market-leading technology now offered by Toyota Motor Corp. The three automakers have about 500 engineers who have been working for the past 18 months on the joint development of the next-generation hybrid engine technology, which combines a battery-powered electric motor with a conventional gasoline combustion engine, company representatives said.

The dual-mode hybrid technology that has been under development by the consortium includes an onboard fuel-optimization computer that determines when and at what speeds the two motors will be used for power and how the on-board battery will be recharged. Development of the transmission -- the core of the project -- is expected to cost about $300 million for the partners, said Andreas Truckenbrodt, executive director of DaimlerChrysler's hybrid programs. The remainder of the investment represents the cost of integrating the new hybrid system with other vehicle components, he said. "What's often forgotten about the hybrid technology is that you have to put it into the car," Truckenbrodt said.

Depending on the requirements of the market and the automaker, the system can be adjusted to provide either improved value or high performance, the companies said. DaimlerChrysler plans to use the new hybrid system in its 2008 Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle. GM will use the hybrid in versions of the Tahoe and Yukon SUVs it plans to make available at the end of 2007. BMW has not committed to a timetable for using the new engine system, but has said that it will make vehicles available with the upcoming hybrid engine system over the next three to five years.