Driving around the DFW area, it’s apparent the ‘bigger is better’ attitude has never been more true when it comes to Texans and their trucks and SUVs – and now, GM is making it possible to have large, capable trucks and SUVs, while conserving energy (and money!) at the same time. The Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and GMC Yukon Hybrid will land in showrooms this winter, and allow drivers to keep the large SUV and lose the environmental guilt.
The vehicles are being showcased starting this weekend at the State Fair of Texas since both hybrids SUVs will be manufactured nearby at the GM assembly plant in Arlington, TX. Yesterday we got a sneak peek and a chance to drive the new hybrids before the opening of the fair with some GM product experts along to explain the new technology.
“The advanced two mode system is designed to optimize fuel efficiency in both city and highway driving, resulting in a 30 percent improvement in overall fuel economy — and a whopping 50 percent improvement in city driving, according to EPA labels, on our two wheel drive model.,” explained Ed Peper, Chevrolet’s general manager. “That’s the same fuel economy as the 2008 Toyota Camry, with its base 4 cylinder engine. The big difference is the Tahoe and Yukon still both deliver the capability that SUV customers are looking for – rated at 332 horsepower these hybrid SUVs provide impressive power and towing capacity”
GM calls the two mode hybrid system ‘Strong Hybrid Technology’ according to Scott Miller, the lead development engineer behind the system. The system switches from electric propulsion and engine power depending on conditions. Electric-only mode can work up to 30 mph. During our test drive, we only got up to 5 mph before Miller let us know we switched to ‘mode two,’ due to us running the air on high in the Texas heat, which requires a little extra power.
One neat tool is a new gauge on the instrument panel that displays how your driving habits affect your efficiency (see image below). The needle goes further to the right during heavy acceleration and further left during heavy braking. Trying to keep the needle in the center will help drivers hone in their driving skills to maximize efficiency.
We’ve heard for a while that Hummer will never be offer a Hybrid due to the off-road requirements the brand possesses – but talking to Miller gave us some hope. He explained the two-mode hybrid system has actually been in place for several years in large city busses, and that there was no reason that a Hummer couldn’t utilize the Hybrid technology. “There’s no reason it couldn’t…whether or not a Hummer duty cycle would benefit a lot – that’s a study that would need to be done. But from a technical standpoint, that’s the great thing about the two-mode technology – we could do it.” However, out of the 16 hybrid vehicles GM is rolling out in the next four years, we don’t expect any of them to bear the Hummer label.