Buick Goes Bonkers Over Electrified Cars (in China)
For more than a decade China has been Buick’s largest marke, with more than 1.18 million vehicles sold in 2017 compared to just 219,231 in North America: Four out of five Buicks sold globally are purchased by Chinese buyers. China is witnessing a boom in sales of electrified cars, known locally as “new energy vehicles,” and Buick is keen to tap this.
General Motors has stated it has plans to add 20 new battery electric and fuel-cell electric vehicles globally by 2023. Buick is showing it wants to take the lead in China by unveiling three electrified cars at last month’s Auto China 2018 in Beijing.
Enspire Electric Crossover SUV Concept
Buick began its assault on electrication the week before the Beijing auto show by revealing the battery-electric all-wheel drive Enspire crossover SUV concept vehicle. Buick didn’t give away too many details, but the sleek electric crossover features the company’s eMotion electric propulsion technology.
Its conceptual power output of 550 horsepower courses through all four wheels to scoot the vehicle from stop to 60 mph in four seconds flat. Battery capacity in kilowatt-hours is not stated (it could be more than 400 kWh based on the horsepower rating), but Buick pins a 370=mile range on a full charge. An 80 percent charge can be attained within 40 minutes on a fast charger, and wireless charging features are
Styling-wise, the Enspire has smooth, elegant curves draped on a body with a very wide, aggressive stance. The front wears sharp headlights with LED accents highlighting the creases, while Buick’s winged-element grille exaggerates the current crossbar into large wings that spread into the lights. At the rear, taillights span the entire rear in a thin LED strip and, also bear Buick’s winged-element look.
Inside, all the typical luxury car touches are there: wood and leather, touchscreen for infotainment along with fast 5G internet connectivity. An augmented reality head-up display projects information on to the windshield and the steering wheel has a screen in it.
The Enspire is bound for China, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have a future in the U.S. If it launches here, it would very likely come from the Orion assembly plant in Michigan where the Bolt EV is built, especially since the Sonic (also built at Orion) is going out of production.
Velite 6 Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Hatchback
Showing the importance of the Chinese market and that country’s emphasis on electrified vehicles, Buick unveiled the China-only Velite 6 at the Beijing show. It will be offered with either a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or pure electric powertrain. Arriving this year will be the plug-in hybrid. It will feature a 1.5-liter gasoline engine, two AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors and a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack. Buick says the Velite 6 plug-in has an estimated combined electric and gasoline range of about 434 miles.
The Velite 6 PHEV will incorporate a new-generation modular high-performance lithium-ion battery pack that will be manufactured at SAIC-GM Power Battery Development Center in Shanghai. Buick says the battery features liquid leading cooling battery heat management technology to provide independent and uniform temperature control ensuring better performance and battery life.
Less is known about the battery-electric Velite 6, which will likely arrive in Chinese Buick showrooms sometime in 2019. But the automaker did say it will use a larger version of the new battery pack. It will also be the first General Motors vehicle to feature the next generation of pure electric drive system, which Buick believes will offer customers a smooth, quiet and natural driving experience.
In addition to the electric drive systems, Velite 6 will offer Buick eConnect technology with over-the-air update capability and apps that provide services ranging from OnStar to navigation. Buick says music and destinations can be sent to the car display screen via China’s WeChat in real time for one-button navigation and listening.
The Velite 6 wouldn’t stand out from the crowd in the U.S., but its low, relatively aerodynamic five-door hatchback styling with a few subtle crossover cues will fit well in the Chinese market.
While neither of the Velite 6s will see U.S. roads, expect GM to borrow the new battery and the next generation electric drive system in U.S. PHEVs and electric vehicles.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy: Buick EV News