While most manufacturers efforts with hybrid vehicles have
been limited to compact or mid-sized cars, there have been production hybrid
vehicles available in larger packages. Ford has the Escape Hybrid,
while GM has the Saturn
Vue Green Line. For those looking for an even larger vehicle, Toyota offers
the mid-sized Highlander
Hybrid crossover complete with third-row seating.
General Motors is taking its new dual-mode
hybrid technology to an even larger class of vehicle: full-size SUVs. GM
will make its new hybrid system available on the Chevrolet
Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs in 2008.
GM is currently gearing up for pilot production of its
hybrid SUVs at its Arlington plant. These pilot runs will give GM a chance to
work out any kinks before regular production takes place in the summer.
"We'll do a
block of 12 [vehicles] starting at 6 a.m. on Tuesday," said Arlington plant manager John Dansby. "We'll
have them spaced out over two days. We'll do a few during the day and
some at night so both shifts get a chance to work on them."
The dual-mode hybrid Tahoe and Yukon are estimated to get a
25% boost in fuel economy over their traditional internal combustion engine
(ICE) counterparts. That would put their fuel economy at roughly 20/25
GM expects the price premium for the dual-mode system to be
in the $2,000 to $5,000 price range. Given that the average transaction price for
a Chevrolet Tahoe is already
over $42,000, an extra few thousand bucks might be worth it to customers
looking for a few extra MPG.