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GM Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid

General Motor's new Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid concept car shows off the scalability of the hybrid system developed by the GM-DaimlerChrysler collaboration. The Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid concept is based on the production version of the gasoline-only Opel Astra GTC.

Developed in Russelsheim, Germany, the Astra Hybrid was built at the European International Technical Development Center. The diesel hybrid is a two-mode full hybrid and the 1.7-liter CDTI engine delivers up to 25 percent improved fuel economy (in the 60-70 mpg range).

The two-mode, full hybrid architecture can be scaled to fit FWD, RWD and AWD vehicles and adapted for both gasoline and diesel engines. Two electric motors (30-kw and 40-kw) interact with the variable drive system automatic transmission for smooth acceleration and fuel savings.

The hybrid components are integrated into the compact Astra Hybrid design, so that passenger comfort and functionality is not compromised. For instance, the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack is located in the spare tire well. Where the spare tire will eventually reside, however is open to debate.


The car pictured is an Opel Astra Hybrid.


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According to Hans H. Demant, GM's European engineering vice president and Opel's managing director, "We decided to use a diesel-powered car as a starting point because in the mid-term, we don't see a demand for gasoline hybrids in Europe. Our state-of-the-art CDTI engines already deliver impressive dynamics and low fuel consumption. The Astra concept demonstrates that fuel efficiency and vehicle dynamics can be significantly improved by hybrid technology."

The Astra Diesel Hybrid is powered by a 92-kw (125-horsepower) 1.7-liter CDTI engine with a maintenance-free particulate filter. Two electric motors, rated at 30 kw and 40 kw, also add oomph delivering extra power as needed to that of the turbo-diesel engine or operating by themselves in less demanding conditions. The electric motors also power the Astra Hybrid when accelerating from a full stop. When idling at a full stop the electric motor will turn off in order to save energy. The electric motors are also used as generators when decelerating or when the brakes are applied. The regenerative braking system, recharges the battery pack so that the vehicle never needs to be plugged in.

The Astra Diesel Hybrid also incorporates two separate electrical systems within the same vehicle. The drive system uses high-voltage power for most of the driving demands. A separate 12-volt system powers safety and convenience items such as inside lights, HVAC and the audio system.

The Astra Diesel Hybrid may see the light on day one day in Europe where diesel fuel in more prevalent. The exciting part is that the Astra Diesel Hybrid technology, being fully scalable, serves as a springboard for GM to use in other vehicles such as trucks, SUV's, larger automobiles as well as the compacts.

Robert Lutz, GM's vice chairman of product development once said in 2004 that it didn't make sense to put hybrid systems into less expensive cars that already get good gas mileage. Lutz said, "Hybrids are an interesting curiosity and we will do some. But, do they make sense at $1.50 a gallon? No, they do not."

Well, things have changed since then and its good to see GM getting on board in the hybrid car arena.