Think of it as the Euro Buick.
General Motors today announced a 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist technology, otherwise known as microhybrid. Microhybrids contain a small electric motor and a fairly small lithium-ion battery pack to help a car go from zero to cruising speed. The batteries then get recharged through braking. The additional motor and batteries increase mileage by 25 percent, according to GM. The LaCrosse, coming out this fall, will get 26 miles per gallon in the city and 37 miles per gallon on the highway.
GM also has a Buick Regal coming out with a microhybrid unit at around the same time.
Microhybrids are already on the road in Europe and Asia, but expect more in all the major markets in the next few years. Various countries have raised their mileage standards and microhybrids, simply put, are a known technology. It's a lot easier to make one of these than to build a car with an opposed piston/opposed cylinder engine. Microhybrids are also far less expensive than full-fledged electric cars.
A microhybrid system can improve gas mileage by 6 percent to 10 percent, Dan Squiller, CEO of battery maker PowerGenix told us last year. The qualification cycle is also quicker than the qualification and testing cycle for batteries for a full-fledged hybrid or regular car. By 2015, 32 percent of the batteries sold to hybrids will be made for microhybrids.