While the high-horsepower seventh generation Corvette pointed one future direction for General Motors at the recent Detroit Auto Show, the company had another car that could be as significant for what GM hopes to become in the 21st century. That car is the Cadillac ELR, the company’s second foray into range-extended EVs (after the Chevy Volt).
The ELR is a two-door (unlike the four-door Volt), four-passenger car that features luxury that GM says will not be found in a Chevrolet such as cut-and-sew accented leather incorporating sueded microfiber, chrome, wood and available carbon fiber finishes throughout. Styling is much more striking than the Volt, picking up from the Cadillac signature Art & Science styling of the Converj concept car of 2009. Unlike the Volt, which went through a significant redesign between the concept and production versions, the Cadillac will carry many of the styling themes into production because they are aerodynamic. The final version of the ELR is expected to carry a slippery .305 coefficient of drag.
The company also tweaked the power output slightly (even though it uses the same batteries and electric motors as the Volt) so that in production the 300-pound heavier ELR will out accelerate its more pedestrian sibling. The power will come from deeper draws on the LG Chem lithium-ion battery system, which features 288 prismatic cells putting out 16.5 kWh of power through the 117-135 kW drive motors on the front wheels. The 435-pound battery pack pushes the total weight of the car over 4,000 pounds.
Like the Volt, the ELR will have an approximately 35-mile all-electric range, at which point the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine will kick in and charge up the batteries, allowing an approximate 300-mile driving range. Also similar are the recharge times–about 12 hours on 120-volt system and 4.5 hours on a 240-volt one.
Sales Expectations Lowered for Luxury Electric Car
Where the ELR also departs from the Volt is in its sales targets. GM launched the Volt with lofty goals for high-volume sales; it had predicted the car would sell 40,000 units in 2012. As a result of sales less than half that, it has had the car called a failure. In contrast, the ELR was presented to media as a limited edition vehicle with sales expected to be in the low 1000s. Prices were not announced, but speculation was that the ELR would retail in the $50-60,000 range, probably closer to the actual cost of the Volt, so less of a financial risk for GM. When it’s introducing in 2014 it will offer California buyers the potential to have single-occupancy access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
It will not be the first luxury plug-in on the market, of course, since it follows the Tesla Model S and Fisker Karma, but it will be one the first from an established manufacturer. If it comes in at the expected price, it could undercut prices of both of those vehicles. But, depending on when it actually hits showrooms in 2014, it also could be completing with the BMW i8 and the Infiniti LE – and possibly others from Mercedes or Audi.
Posted Feb. 2, 2013