14 December 2004

DaimlerChrysler and General Motors Corporation (GM) intend to work together to develop a “two-mode” full hybrid propulsion architecture for applications in GM, Chrysler Group and Mercedes Car Group vehicles. Variants planned include rear- and front-wheel-drive versions for cars, trucks and other vehicles. GM and DaimlerChrysler have signed a memorandum of understanding, and intend to enter into a definitive agreement in early 2005.

While no technical details were given, the “two-mode” hybrid technology represents a more advanced design compared to today’s hybrids, according to the companies. The two-mode hybrid utilizes smaller motors than today’s single-mode designs, and can provide performance and fuel economy improvements at highway speeds. Packaging was said to be more efficient as the system’s compact electric motors can fit within the approximate space of a conventional automatic transmission.

“The two-mode design is the optimal merging of full hybrid and state-of-the-art automatic transmission technologies,” said Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM Powertrain. “Together we will jointly develop what is essentially an electrically variable transmission with two hybrid drive modes. This system will reduce fuel consumption at highway speeds much more effectively than available single mode systems and achieve at least a 25 percent improvement in composite fuel economy in full-size truck applications.”

Each company will integrate the two-mode full hybrid into its own vehicles. GM plans to have the system in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon by late 2007. DaimlerChrysler will put it in the Dodge Durango by 2008.

This cooperation is a response to the projected increase in the hybrid vehicle sales in North America. In 2004, Americans will buy an estimated 80,000 hybrids—out of the 16 million total vehicle market—but the number may grow to a few millions within the decade. The major players have been Toyota, with its Prius sedan, and Honda, with the Civic hybrid and the new Accord hybrid. More recently, the Japanese suppliers have been joined by Ford, who launched a hybrid version of its Escape SUV. DaimlerChrysler has been favoring diesels as a solution for better fuel economy, and has been building advanced diesel cars in Europe, while GM has been pushing for the development of hydrogen fuel cells.

Source: DaimlerChrysler (press release)