14 January 2005

General Motors’ march towards the hybrid revolution continued at the Detroit Motor Show with the unveiling of a very European concept. GM claims its system, mated to the 1.7-litre CDTi diesel engine, offers a 25 per cent fuel economy advantage over a normal diesel engine, which means just under 60mpg while still completing the 0-60mph dash in eight seconds.

GM chose Detroit to launch the Astra Diesel Hybrid concept car, despite the American apathy for the small hatchbacks and oil-burners that are so popular over here. The car maker is, in Europe at least, bypassing the petrol-electric hybrid route pioneered by Toyota and Honda. GM claims that it can’t see a demand on this side of the Atlantic in the ‘mid-term’ because the pace of development means diesels can almost match petrol-electric hybrids for economy. It will continue with petrol-electric hybrid development for the American market, though, where massive fuel savings can be made on 4x4s.

Although the concept car’s hybrid technology – being developed in partnership with DaimlerChrysler – is housed in the new three-door Astra Sport Hatch launched this spring, a production Vauxhall hybrid is unlikely to appear before the current Astra is replaced towards the end of the decade.

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