Road Test: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid)

Road Test: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid)

Cadillac’s Stealth Electrified Full-size Sedan

Waaaay back in 2014 Cadillac offered the short-lived, but very cool looking ELR PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). Based on the Chevrolet Volt platform and technology, the ELR coupe was ahead of its time for the traditional Cadillac buyer, which was too bad. Fast forward to 2018, the CT6 PHEV is the electrified version of Cadillac’s full-size flagship sedan, delivering the expected Cadillac comfort and luxury, but also quick acceleration and impressive fuel economy.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Cadillac’s big move–big car, big MPG

When Clean Fleet Report reviewed the 2014 ELR we noted that Cadillac had created a car unto itself, as there were no other luxury, two-door, plug-in electric hybrids on the market. This time around Cadillac has put its formidable PHEV technology into a full-size sedan, which places it against some of the most recognizable big luxury cars from around the World. The challenge for Cadillac is how to create awareness and interest in an electrified car that happens to be a sedan. With sedan sales in the US declining over the past few years, and SUV and crossover models becoming the vehicles of choice, Cadillac as well as all other auto manufacturers are grappling with how to stabilize or reverse this trend.

Powerplant and Performance

The rear wheel drive 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine and twin 100-horsepower (hp) electric motors mated to an electric variable transmission (EVT). Total system power numbers are impressive at 335 hp and 432 pounds-feet of torque. Clean Fleet Report was able to get consistent zero-to-60 runs at 5.2 seconds. The twin-motor EVT is a wonderful technology as it provides smooth acceleration and seamless ready-when-needed power at any speed.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Smooth power and ride along with a battery boost

The suspension is on the firm side, which is not a bad thing as Cadillacs of years past could get floaty or too soft. The ride, with 18-inch ultra-bright machined aluminum spoked wheels and all-season tires, is oh-so Cadillac smooth, with handling that borders on surprisingly agile. As a full-size sedan, it cannot and should not be compared with midsize sports sedans. Cadillac doesn’t do it, so set your expectations of it being a large sedan that has little body roll or motion, with good feel for the road through the electric-variable steering.

The size and weight of the CT6 PHEV is never a distraction as the car is well-balanced. Cadillac’s iBooster and electronic stability control system, with four-wheel ABS and disc brakes, are parts of the regenerative braking system. Other stopping aides include front pedestrian braking and forward and reverse automatic braking.

How Far and How Efficient

Combined fuel economy for the electric and gasoline propulsion system, which includes being able to drive 31 miles only on electricity, is rated at 62 MPGe. MPGe is a measurement of how far a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline. Once the electric power has been depleted and operating in hybrid mode, the fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg. In 249 miles of 85-percent highway/15-percent city driving, we averaged 41.8 mpg. An impressive number for a car weighing in at 5,511 pounds.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The driver can control the battery regen and use

The 18.4 kWh lithium-ion (li-ion) battery is charged by plugging into a 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) outlet and through regenerative braking. To replenish the li-ion battery’s 31-mile driving range, estimate eight hours for the former and 4.5 hours for the latter. The CT6 PHEV does not come with a 480V (Level 3) option.

The regenerative charging system converts kinetic energy into electric energy when applying the brakes or coasting and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine. The CT6 PHEV has Regen On Demand technology that is activated by pulling on the paddle shifters located on the backside of the steering wheel. Pulling on the paddle shifters applies the brakes and allows for one-pedal driving. Once you get the hang of it, this will be your go-to method of driving.

It is important to note that fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific, representing the reviewer’s driving experience in our reviewer’s city. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

The CT6 PHEV has three drive modes—Tour, Sport and Hold. Tour is for everyday driving, Sport advances the throttle and tightens-up the steering, and Hold forces the car to not use any of the battery charge, therefore saving it for around town where it can deliver the most efficient driving. The transition between battery-only power and when the gasoline engine engages is seamless and only minimally noticeable.

Cadillac Style: Exterior

The exterior styling on the 2018 CT6 PHEV is clean and sophisticated. The evolution from the sharp angles of a few years back to a softer look immediately draws attention among large, luxury sedan aficionados. From the front grille with distinctive cross hatching and the proud Cadillac emblem, and the sharp-looking LED head lamps to the LED tail lamps that extend vertically over the fenders, the look is simple and pure Cadillac.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Large eco-luxury is here

Cadillac Style: Interior

Cadillac says the CT6 can seat five passengers, which technically is true. But anyone sitting in the center rear seat will be grumbling they pulled the short straw. Let’s just agree that the large, roomy and high-quality interior of the CT6 is better suited for four adults.

The interior materials complement each other with soft and supple leather seats and chrome, wood and carbon fiber trim pieces. About that carbon fiber trim: it really does not match well in the side-by-side placement with the wood trim.

The long list of standard equipment on the 2018 CT6 is what is to be expected on a car of this quality and price. Our CT6 had heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats. Both had 16-way power seats and 4-way power lumbar adjustments. The leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel, with power tilt and telescopic adjustments, made finding a comfortable seating position quite easy.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The backseat view will be more common in China

The driver’s seat has a surprise for you if you have not been forewarned: it vibrates as part of the lane departure warning system. If you did not use the turn signal when crossing into an adjoining lane on the highway, the driver’s seat will vibrate to let you know about your lane drift. I found myself changing lanes sans blinker on purpose just for the momentary rush, but after a while it became annoying, but effective, in reminding me to stay in my lane. The true safety impact of this feature is, if the driver is dozing off, the vibration, small as it may be, would wake the driver and hopefully prevent an accident.

The rear leather seats, separated by an armrest with cup holders, are best suited for two adults. On a long driving trip, luggage for four adults might be a stretch for the CT6 PHEV as the battery reduces trunk storage capacity. The power rear sunshade and manual rear side window shades are a nice touch as is heating in the outbound seats. Also worth noting are the 10-inch, pop-up color monitors located in the front seat backs. These come with wireless headphones and remotes.

The CT6 is well-equipped with true convenience features, including a panoramic power sunroof and shade, power rear deck lid, wireless phone charging, remote keyless entry with remote start, power door locks, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, keyless push button on-and-off and three years of OnStar.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader and, after the three-year service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.

The CT6 incorporates an open cockpit design with the center stack separating the front seats. Everything is nicely laid-out and within easy reach. The infotainment system on the CT6 starts with the CUE System, for information and media control, and a 10-inch full-color touchscreen display for the Bose Premium surround sound audio system with 10 speakers. Included are AM/FM HD radio with SiriusXM (90-day trial), Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio with multiple USB ports, 12V charge stations, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

In our opinion, the CT6 PHEV interior is nicer than a Tesla Model S. The CT6 PHEV is luxury, while the Tesla is premium. Go see for yourself.

Safety

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

30+ EV miles per charge, but gas to take you as far as you need to go

The CT6 PHEV comes standard with a tire pressure monitoring system, eight airbags, rear vision camera, surround view camera, forward collision alert and lane departure warning (with the previiously mentioned vibrating driver’s seat), pedestrian safety signal (useful when at a crosswalk and someone walks in front of the car), automatic vehicle hold (nice when stopped on a hill), front and rear park assist, and blind zone alert.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 CT6 PHEV comes in one trim level with an MSRP of $75,095, plus the $995 destination charge. The CT6 PHEV qualifies for federal and (many) state tax credits that could reduce the final purchase price. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a CT6 PHEV. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is that in California the CT6 PHEV qualifies for the coveted car pool lane stickers allowing solo driving in the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State.

The 2018 CT6 PHEV comes with these warranties:

Bumper-to-Bumper                    Four years/50,000 miles

Scheduled Maintenance             Three years/36,000 miles

Battery                                           Eight years/100,000 miles

Powertrain                                    Six years/70,000 miles

Roadside Assistance                    Six years/70,000 miles

Courtesy Transportation            Six years/70,000 miles   

Observations: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The badge is discreet

The 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV is the real deal for luxury, performance and fuel economy. Plus it stacks-up well with standard features, better fuel economy and lower price in an apple-to-apple competition with BMW, Audi and Jaguar.

Here’s the catch. The CTS PHEV probably won’t be a big seller in the United States, which Cadillac most likely isn’t fretting over. Where big sales numbers for the CTS PHEV are vital, and important, are in China, where strict restrictions on air pollution are being implemented. Built in Shanghai China, the CTS PHEV is a prime candidate for the Asian market, where executive cars that are easy on the environment are popular.

It is a shame that more people may not consider the CTS PHEV over a SUV or crossover. This is a very nice car in many ways and it really needs to be promoted as such.

Clean Fleet Report suggests calling ahead to make an appointment with a Cadillac factory-trained hybrid expert. This is important as sometimes the general sales person can get the hybrid technology story wrong. Take the time to learn about and experience this fine car, and it just may end-up in your garage.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

The First Mainstream Electric Car that Can Go the Distance

Ever get the feeling Chevrolet is daring you not to buy an all-electric Bolt? With the average purchase price of a new car in 2017 being about $31,000, you can get into a Bolt with all tax credits and incentives (Federal and State) included, in the high-$20,000 range for the base model. Oh, and of course you will not spend a penny on gasoline or oil, nor will you have the regular maintenance associated with a gasoline-powered car. Sounds pretty good? So what’s not to like? Could it be an unfounded perception that an EV keeps you from going where you want to go? Or maybe it is not accepting the fact that a pure electric car will satisfy 90-percent of your driving needs and lifestyle. If you are like most people and drive solo or with one passenger, under 50 miles daily, the reasons to own a gasoline-powered car are decreasing daily. This is Range Anxiety debunked.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt goes further

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is fun-to-drive and quiet, but why shouldn’t it be? With no internal combustion engine (ICE) or transmission gears, the all-electric Bolt simply whooshes along with smooth efficiency at any speed.

238-Mile Range Technology

It is hard to believe that General Motors, known for big trucks and SUVs, would be the first full-line auto manufacturer to come out with an all-electric car that can travel 238 miles on a single charge. The EPA arrived at this number as the Bolt gets 110 MPGe on the highway and 128 MPGe in the city. MPGe is an EPA measurement of how far a car can travel, electrically, on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline.

Charging and Stopping

The 60-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged by the 7.2-kW onboard charger. A plug-in port offers three charging speeds. The batteries, going from discharged to a full charge, the approximate times would be:

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Charging three ways

  • 120V (Level 1)            20 hours
  • 240V (Level 2)           10 hours                 
  • 480V DC Fast Charging 90 miles of range in 30 minutes

Additional charging is through the regenerative braking system that converts braking or coasting into electricity that is stored in the battery. Driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour freeway traffic or coasting down hills will recharge the battery. The battery charge and mileage range are metered instantly by dash gauges.

The Driving Experience: On the Road

Powered by a 150-kW electric motor driving the front wheels, the 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque zips the Bolt around with great fun. Chevrolet claims a 6.8-second 0-60 time and 91 mph top speed. We matched the former but didn’t even attempt to get anywhere near the latter. At 3,560 pounds, the 2017 Bolt is quiet and smooth. The batteries located under the seats made for a sure-footed driving experience that truly shines in city maneuvers and around tight corners. Considering it comes with all-season, Michelin Energy Saver 17-inch tires that are designed for low rolling-resistance, Chevrolet designed the Bolt with a very good road feel. The electric power steering was not too light, and body roll, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, was predictable and minor. Highway 65+ mph cruising was solid and confident.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The batteries create road-hugging weight

There is a choice of driving modes that affects the regenerative braking. Selecting the Drive mode, the brake pedal is used as normal for slowing and stopping. But using the Low mode, you can control braking with your fingertips, which is a very cool and useful technology. Found on the left side behind the steering wheel is a paddle “shifter” that, when blipped, initiates regenerative braking. What is cool about this is, once you get the hang of it, driving around without using the brake pedal—even coming to a complete stop. This technique, called “one-pedal driving,” lends itself to getting the most electricity from regenerated braking, as fingertips are far more sensitive than a foot tromping on the brake pedal. It is an especially fun technique to master when driving on curvy roads as it gives the ability to slow with your fingers and accelerate with your foot.

A good handling car is nothing without good brakes. The Bolt comes standard with an anti-lock braking system, power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was aided by dynamic rear brake proportioning and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Chevrolet likes to say the Bolt is a small crossover. The EPA (which classifies all vehicles into categories) says the Bolt is a small wagon. Does the difference matter? To Chevrolet it does, as crossovers are hot sellers and wagons not so much. But if Chevrolet really wanted the Bolt to be a true crossover size, why didn’t they design it as such and eliminate any confusion?

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Non-stand-out styling

The Bolt has a very common hatchback design, a sloping roof-to-windshield-to-bumper profile, that has slim LED projector headlamps wrapping onto the fender, with LED daytime running lights in the lower fascia. The roof, with rack and side rails, never finds a flat surface as it gently arcs to an integrated spoiler over the rear hatch window. Large LED tail lamps wrap onto the fenders. From the side view, the window design is eye-catching and unique, with blacked-out B-pillars and just the lightest touch of a chrome accent strip. The Bolt is clean and looks smaller than it is, partly because of the visual perception from the wide-set wheel placement and the roof height.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Bolt interior gives a feeling of spaciousness, with four full-size adults fitting comfortably, or two adults upfront and three children in the rear. The big issue with the Bolt interior is the materials. There is an abundance of hard plastics and surfaces that should be soft, like the armrests and seats, which were, well, to be kind–hard. Recaro racing seats are firm: Bolt seats are hard. We even noticed the “leather appointed seats” were covered in a leather we had never seen before. For a $43,000 car (the top-of-the-line Bolt Premier model tested by Clean Fleet Report), the interior fit and finish was a disappointment. Also, the seven-shape shifting pattern of the console-mounted gear shifter made getting into reverse a stop-and-think-about-it process.

Now, onto what is good about the interior. The front seating position is higher than would be expected for what looks like a compact car. Sight lines are excellent. This is how Chevrolet came to the conclusion that the Bolt is a crossover, as all vehicles in this class raise the front seats to a road-commanding view height.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

An interior not quite up to its price range

All controls are within easy reach of the driver, including the 8.0-inch instrument cluster, viewed through the steering wheel, with a white background on the gauges making them easy to read. The 10.2-inch color touchscreen housed Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system (information and entertainment) that featured navigation and a Bose, six speaker AM/FM/HD radio and CD player, with USB slots. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (90-day trial included), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from Google. Other nice features are wireless device charging, assuming your device has this ability, rear charge-only USB ports, and a front storage area that can swallow a tablet or laptop.

The heated front seats are manually adjustable for height, sliding and lumbar. When combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, a comfortable driver position could be found. Especially noticeable was how far back the driver’s seat slides: no circus contorting for the six-foot plus crowd. The rear seats are heated in the outboard positions. Exterior road and wind noise were very low.

Storage space with the rear seat up, accessed through the rear hatch, is ample, but not as much as others in this class of EVs such as the Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen e-Golf and Toyota Prius Prime. If the driver and front-seat passenger are on a long weekender, the rear seat back splits 60/40 and lays flat, providing 56.6 cu. ft. of cargo capacity – large enough for a full-size bicycle. Additional storage comes in the guise of a false floor, that when removed, allows for the hauling taller objects.

Other features are a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, power windows with one-touch operation down/driver one-touch up, remote start, power adjustable and manual folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, and a multi-function car analytics and trip computer display.

Safety and Convenience

The Bolt Premier is well equipped with convenience features including power door locks, adaptive cruise control, automatic HVAC, heated outboard rear seats, wireless charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Maybe not sport, but utility

Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the one-year service plan expires it is well worth renewing.

The Bolt EV has 10 airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, forward collision alert, front automatic braking, lane assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist and rear parking distance control sensors.

Pricing, Warranties and Safety

There are two 2017 Chevrolet Bolt models.

  • LT                   $37,495
  • Premier         $41,780

Clean Fleet Report tested a Bolt Premier with option packages of DC Fast Charging, Driver Confidence II and Infotainment. That added $1,730. The MSRP of our test Bolt Premier was $42,635. All prices do not include the $875 destination charge.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt has not been rated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The 2017 Bolt comes with these warranties:

  • Complete Care – Two years/24,000 miles
  • Bumper-to-Bumper – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Electric Propulsion Components – Eight years/100,000 miles    

Observations: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier

New in 2017 and with few changes for the 2018 model year, Chevrolet says the Bolt EV is “every reason to drive electric.”  Clean Fleet Report agrees.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Leader of the pack

The Bolt has made it possible to go 238 miles on a single charge in a car costing about $30,000 after incentives are applied. Before December 2016, when the Bolt debuted, you would need to spend at least twice that amount for a vehicle with comparable range.

The Bolt is a comfortable and well-designed car, with good handling in a spirited all-electric driving experience. It is also practical in many ways, starting with the ability to handle a full week’s worth of 40-mile per day commuting without recharging. Notice we didn’t say using any gasoline? Well, that also drives home another practical point that zero dollars will ever be spent on gasoline or the usual maintenance that comes with an internal combustion engine.

Other mass market, five seat all-electric compacts that sell against the Chevrolet Bolt are the Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf, with only the Leaf joining the Bolt as a car that can be purchased in all 50 states. The Fiat 500e says it can seat five adults, but we have tried and it is more like four. The Tesla Model 3 can also seat five, but it will cost more than $50,000 when optioned equally to the Bolt Premier—and is still trying to deliver vehicles promised to those on the waiting list who have put down deposits.

With our only negatives on the Bolt being the interior, we are confident you can easily overlook these quirks to enjoy miles and miles of silent running, non-polluting electric driving.

All major auto manufacturers are announcing plans for electrifying their models, with an impressive number being released before the year 2025. In eight short years it will be nearly impossible to find a mainstream manufacturer that does not have a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV or hydrogen fuel cell. So, getting a Bolt EV now will set you up for that next generation of electrified cars that will cost around $35,000, but go 400+ miles on a charge. It is an exciting time to be a car buyer.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

 

News: GM Shows Autonomous Fuel Cell EV Platform

News: GM Shows Autonomous Fuel Cell EV Platform

U.S. Army Takes a Look at New Technology

General Motors presented its Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS), a flexible fuel cell electric platform with autonomous capabilities, at this week’s meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). It is not to be mistaken for a truck; it’s a platform capable of carrying large loads. SURUS is designed to assist in “some of the toughest transportation challenges,” such as natural disasters and global conflicts, according to GM.

GM fuel cell

GM’s fuel cell platform could have a variety of uses

SURUS uses the company’s newest Hydrotec fuel cell powertrain, giving it zero-emissions green cred and impressive performance. Furthermore, SURUS will incorporate autonomous capability, increasing its attractiveness to the military; drone-style operation could make deliveries in dangerous areas much safer for the operator.

“SURUS redefines fuel cell electric technology for both highway and off-road environments,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Business. “General Motors is committed to bringing new high-performance, zero-emission systems to solve complex challenges for a variety of customers.”

There are a variety of other uses that can be accommodated with SURUS, as revealed by several illustrations. It can underpin light- to medium-duty utility and service trucks, serve as a self-driving cargo hauler or double as a mobile medical unit or power generator. As an open platform not obstructed by a driver’s cabin or other ancillary structure, and with an appearance resembling a skateboard, SURUS’ potential uses are nearly endless.

Tech Specs

SURUS is about 16.5 feet long and 7.5 feet wide. With two electric drive units, four-wheel steering, a lithium-ion battery, 400 miles worth of hydrogen storage, and an advanced suspension, SURUS is packed with technology. Some of the benefits of the Hydrotec fuel cell include quiet and odor-free operation, high instantaneous torque and quick refueling time. It is also capable of providing an exportable power source and generating water.

GM fuel cell

The Army likes the quiet operation of SURUS

This isn’t GM’s first foray into fuel cell vehicles for the military. In 2005, the auto and truck maker supplied a fuel cell-powered Chevrolet half-ton pickup for testing at the U.S. Army base in Ft. Belvoir, VA, outside of Washington D.C. And last April, GM released the Colorado ZH2, an off-road 4×4 truck considered the first ground-mobility combat vehicle using hydrogen fuel-cell technology. Military testing has shown the ZH2 reduced acoustic non-detection distance by 90 percent compared to current military vehicles in operation. This means the ZH2 can get 10 times closer before being detected. Testing will continue through spring 2018.

The SURUS prototype is just a work-in-progress platform, and GM hasn’t actually committed to any official timetable for series production.

GM’s Maven Moves into the Gig Economy with Bolt EVs

GM’s Maven Moves into the Gig Economy with Bolt EVs

Turning Cars as a Service into an Auto Business

General Motors has rebounded nicely from its brush with bankruptcy less than a decade ago, but new challenges outside the traditional automotive industry are putting new stresses on GM and the rest of the automakers. The challenge is to the fundamentals of the car business. Where it used to be good enough to create a popular model and market it successfully, the basics appear to be shifting. The younger generation doesn’t seem to have the same attachment to cars as its parents. Driver’s licenses are being obtained at later dates. Car purchases are delayed as car sharing programs and ride-hailing services fill the gap for short trips and air travel and discounted bus services take the place of what used to longer car trips. It may not be a groundswell, but a shift has definitely been registered as companies like Lyft go from giving one million trips a year to one million a week in a few years’ time.

GM Maven Features Bolt

GM tries selling cars by the week

Every car company that expects to continue to be around is crafting a response to these changes, but GM appears to be forging new ground. It has launched a subsidiary (it’s first since Saturn) called Maven, which has the three-pronged mission of creating a car-sharing service (for cities, residential communities or commercial entities) while also developing what it calls a “mobility platform” (Maven Gig) that provides short-term car rentals to individuals engaged in the new gig economy.

The Maven on-demand car sharing service operates in 17 cities. Maven Gig is launched in three West Coast cities with more coming later this year.

Interview with the Chief Growth Officer

Rachel Bhattacharya, chief growth officer for Maven, in a recent interview with Clean Fleet Report, said her portion of the company (Maven Gig) is a business-to-business operation that includes:

  • Lyft Express Drive,
  • an Uber partnership and
  • future business cases.

She characterizes her business unit as “a start-up inside a major corporation.” She adds that Maven in integrated to GM where it needs to be, but not anywhere “where it slows down our business.”

GM Maven Features Bolt

The Bolt EV in its natural habitat, the city

Unlike short-term Silicon Valley investors, GM is looking at a 10-year investment horizon, giving Maven time and room to grow and find its way to provide a new revenue stream for the corporation. “There’s no substitute for real world experience,” Bhattacharya added.

Maven is “distinct from the core (GM) business,” Bhattacharya said, “very, very different.” That helps explain how a self-proclaimed non car person (“I am a mobility person,” she clarified) with experience at Starbucks and Bain & Co could end up here.

The trends are clear. Estimates quoted by Maven have 43 percent of the U.S. workforce as freelance workers by 2020. While the car-sharing side of Maven may provide a car for an hour to go to a meeting for those freelancers, Maven Gig aims to rent cars (five models initially with inclusive packages that include insurance and maintenance and, in the case of the Bolt, free fast-charging) to those gigging for GrubHub, Instacart, Roadie or ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber (or, more likely, those engaging in multiple services).

Bolt EV Gets Big Push

The big push at Maven Gig has been with the new Bolt EV. With a 238-mile range and free charging, unlimited miles, maintenance and insurance thrown into the mix for $229 a week, the new business is getting regular takers. The Maven Gig program started with 150 Bolts in San Diego and just launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles and expands to other urban areas soon.

Maybe hitting on one of the other hallmarks of the new economy, Maven Gig emphasizes flexibility and the lack of commitment and the ability to try out something with its weekly rentals. By letting drivers have that flexibility, GM gets several things in return:

  • Revenue from the weekly rentals
  • Exposure of the vehicles to new potential customers (both the renters and riders)
  • Rapid real-world feedback on vehicle performance (particularly critical for a new model like the Bolt and may play a significant role in future models)
  • Avenue to increase revenue on vehicles coming back from leases or daily rental use
GM Maven Features Bolt

Free charging comes with the Maven Gig Bolt

Bhattacharya said that while she sees a desire in cities to be “autonomous ready,” she doesn’t see it as a big Maven push. “Our (current) customers are drivers,” she noted. As autonomous cars become part of the mix, she looks to integrate with mass transit, using Maven as a learning experience with autonomous in the same way its’ been with electric cars (Bolt).

This software-based business is on a 12-18-month update cycle compared to the two and four-year (or more of the traditional auto industry, but it also syncs up with the traditional industry. Maven drivers and cars provide a quick feedback loop to GM product development, something not seen in traditional daily car rental services.

Maven also is driving infrastructure development. It has a partnership with EVgo for fast-charging and is giving input into where to expand infrastructure based on Gig users.

As for future expansion—Bhattacharya said Maven is city-oriented, but looking to pursue a partnership model with universities and employers, working on a case-by-case basis to deliver “what kind of solution is needed, finding where is there value for Maven to add.” The Maven business case is based on volume, Bhattacharya said (much like the larger auto industry), “but it’s easy to meet.”

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Tech: 2018 Chevrolet Equinox Ecotec 1.6L Turbodiesel

GM Doubles Down on Diesel for MPG and Torque

At a time when many auto manufacturers are leaning away from diesel, General Motors seems to be all in. General Motors is rightfully proud of the Duramax turbocharged diesel truck engines, with the 6.6L found in its full-size heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups and the 2.8L in the mid-size trucks—Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Clean Fleet Report tested the 2016 Colorado Diesel and was impressed with the engine’s smooth and torquey power and the 30+ mpg fuel economy.

Ecotec 1.6L Turbo Diesel illustration

In inside view of the newest diesel in GM’s lineup

But what about drivers that don’t want or need a truck, but still want the fuel economy of a diesel? Chevrolet has you covered with the Cruze Diesel that gets in excess of 50 miles per gallon on the highway. With Volkswagen no longer offering a diesel power plant, the Cruze Diesel should satisfy drivers with long commutes who want efficiency in a sedan or hatchback.

This is all good for truck and compact car diesel enthusiasts, but what about the fastest growing and largest sales segment of the auto industry—crossovers and sport utility vehicles? Chevrolet hasn’t left you wanting as the 2018 Equinox comes in a gasoline and diesel variant, with the diesel engine accomplishing a notable feat.

Ecotec 1.6L Turbodiesel

The Ecotec 1.6L turbodiesel, currently available in the Equinox compact SUV, has just been EPA rated at a best-in-class 39 mpg highway, with a 28 mpg in the city. Combine this with the 14.8 gallon fuel tank, and the 577 miles of driving range is also best-in-class. Horsepower is rated at 137 with 240 pounds-feet of torque.

This “best-in-class” designation includes topping the hybrid versions of the compact SUVs: Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan Rogue. It is no small accomplishment to reach these fuel economy numbers in a 4,000+ pound SUV available in two- and four-wheel drive. Clean Fleet Report will have a full review of the Equinox with the 1.6L turbo-diesel soon.

General Motors Has a Diesel Plan

General Motor’s engine and transmission engineers are now part of the Propulsion Systems team. The new terminology recognizes that engines can be powered by the conventional gasoline and diesel fuels, but also battery electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, natural gas and hydrogen fuel cells. GM designers and engineers must now be aware of a diverse universe of power plants to satisfy the needs of customers worldwide.

Gm diesel lineup

GM now has a full lineup of diesels for a variety of applications–covering compact sedans through heavy-duty pickups–and now crossovers

Worldwide, General Motors has 34 diesel models—12 of those being sold in the United States—including five diesel engines ranging from a 1.0L three-cylinder to the 6.6L V8.

The most recent new diesel engine on the scene is the Ecotec 1.6L, found in the 2018 Equinox. Designed in Torino, Italy; built in Hungary; and with engineering teams from the United States and Germany working on the five-year project, this is a prime example of GM’s ability to work on a global scale. Tom Read, GM Global Propulsion Systems Communications, said that “General Motors gives customers a choice in vehicles and propulsion systems, along with efficiency, premium torque and high fuel economy.”

The estimated 2020 compact SUV market will be somewhere around three million vehicles, with 16-percent of these buyers considering diesel. These 480,000 potential consumers for diesel-powered compact SUVs, the category the Equinox lives in, means GM is anticipating strong sales for the Equinox diesel.

Observations: General Motors is All In with Diesel

General Motors has stated its goals of offering multiple vehicle and engine options for customers. Its diesel program offers outstanding fuel economy, great torque and a good variety of models to meet driver’s lifestyles. With diesel power currently in full and mid-size trucks, a compact sedan and hatchback and now a small SUV, consumers should be able to find something that meets their needs.

Clean Fleet Report is a fan of diesel and hopes that GM broadens the model availability with this economical power option.

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