Home / Auto News / News article: Buick LaCrosse eAssist Gets 37-MPG Highway Thanks to Low-Tech Hybrid Powertrain - AutoGuide.com News
 |  Nov 15 2010, 8:55 AM

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Perhaps groundbreaking new technology isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, General Motors has the new Volt electric car/hybrid thingy, but the company has also just announced the eAssist version of its Buick LaCrosse luxury car.

Taking a page out of Honda’s playbook, the LaCrosse eAssist uses a relatively low-tech hybrid setup, combined with a rather advanced lithium-ion battery, to achieve 25-mpg city and 37-mpg on the highway. Those are very impressive numbers for a full-size luxury sedan.

This isn’t a two-mode hybrid system so the eAssist LaCrosse can’t operate on electric power alone, but it is a simple, compact and less expensive powertrain.

Using a 115-volt lithium ion battery and 15-kilowatt electric motor, the eAssist LaCrosse gets 25 percent better fuel economy, with an electric bump of 15-hp and 79 ft-lbs of torque helping out the 182-hp and 172 ft-lbs 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. The car also makes used of a 6-speed automatic transmission, rather than a CVT. Like Honda’s IMA setup, the eAssist uses regenerative braking and a start/stop system.

Additional upgrades are also used to bump-up fuel economy, namely added underbody panels to help make the car more aerodynamic, as well as shutters inside the front grille than can close of at highway speeds.

Inside the car gets funky hybrid dash that shows the operation of the hybrid system and an eco-meter to display how “green” your driving is. The system itself is light weight, tipping the scales at just 65 lbs and thanks to its compact size, there’s still a passthrough from the trunk to the rear seats.

All 4-cylinder 2012 LaCrosse models will get the eAssist technology standard, with pricing set to start at close to $30,000.

GALLERY: 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist

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Official release after the jump:

2012 LACROSSE COMES STANDARD WITH NEW eASSIST™ FUEL-SAVING TECHNOLOGY, FOR 37 MPG HIGHWAY FUEL ECONOMY IN A FULL-SIZE SEDAN

• The eAssist “smart electrification” system produces 25-percent increase in fuel economy
• eAssist technology is standard on all 2012 models with the 2.4L four-cylinder engine
• Provides customers with a full-size luxury sedan featuring 37 mpg highway and 25 mpg city for about $30,000 (exact pricing has not yet been set)
• Boost in fuel economy comes with no compromises in the driving experience

LOS ANGELES – Buick unveils the 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist,™ a new fuel-saving technology that increases fuel economy by 25 percent compared to the four-cylinder/six-speed powertrain in the 2011 LaCrosse. The eAssist technology provides class-leading highway fuel economy of 37 mpg, while maintaining the luxury, performance and value expected from Buick’s flagship sedan.

The eAssist system becomes the standard powertrain on LaCrosse starting next summer. The system uses a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery system and electric motor-generator to enable regenerative braking capability to improve LaCrosse fuel economy by an estimated 25 percent.

“The LaCrosse with eAssist technology is the latest example of how this successful car – with sales up more than 200 percent for the year – is shaking up the segment and reinventing Buick,” said John Schwegman, vice president of Buick marketing. “It is the smart choice for those who want great fuel economy and performance in a luxury vehicle, with excellent value – the LaCrosse with eAssist will cost thousands less than competitors with similar technologies.”

Mated to a 2.4L Ecotec direct injection four-cylinder engine and next-generation six-speed automatic transmission, the eAssist system uses power stored in the battery to provide needed electrical boost in various driving scenarios, optimizing engine and transmission operation. An advanced 115V lithium-ion battery and latest-generation 15-kW motor-generator unit help increase fuel economy through:

• Regenerative braking, which provides up to 15 kW of electricity to charge the battery
• Providing up to 11 kW (15 hp) of electric power assistance during acceleration
• Automatic engine shut-off when the vehicle is stopped
• Aggressive fuel cut-off during deceleration down to zero vehicle speed, enabled by the torque smoothing provided by the motor-generator unit
• Intelligent charge/discharge of the high-voltage battery.

Buick LaCrosse with eAssist technology also features improved underbody aerodynamics and tires optimized for performance and fuel economy, as well as active control of front-end airflow that improves aerodynamics and engine warm-up. Electronically controlled shutters in the lower grille close at higher speeds to push more air over the vehicle, which increases aerodynamic efficiency to enhance fuel economy. All of these technologies increase the eAssist system’s regenerative braking capability, while also improving the vehicle’s efficiency while driving.

“LaCrosse was the first in its segment with a four-cylinder/six-speed powertrain, the first with HiPer Strut and is now is leading the way with the new standard eAssist technology,” said Schwegman. “Importantly, LaCrosse with eAssist is the standard powertrain for four-cylinder-equipped models and there isn’t a cost premium.”

LaCrosse with eAssist includes an ECO gauge on the instrument panel that continuously responds to driving behavior, enabling the driver to drive with maximum efficiency. It also features a hill-assist system that captures brake pressure to help the driver more comfortably accelerate from a stop on a moderate or steep grade. It does this by greatly reducing the tendency of the vehicle to roll backward with the engine in shut-down mode.

eAssist details

While the eAssist system shares the same basic belt-alternator-starter configuration of previous BAS designs, it delivers more than three times the power and is much more capable than the previous-generation BAS system.

“The eAssist system is more than just the next-generation BAS system. The ability to integrate regenerative braking with the latest lithium-ion battery technology creates a system that delivers significant fuel-efficiency gains that customers will enjoy,” said Steve Poulos, global chief engineer of the eAssist system. “Being able to provide electric boost to the powertrain system during heavy acceleration and grade driving enables the LaCrosse transmission to operate more efficiently, while the added functionality of engine start-stop and fuel shut-off during deceleration provides added fuel savings.”

The eAssist system’s 115V air-cooled lithium-ion battery bolsters the 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder engine with approximately 11 kW (15 horsepower) of electric power assist during heavy acceleration and 15 kW of regenerative braking power. That compares with only 2 kW of power assist and 5 kW of regenerative power on the previous BAS system. The greater power capability enables greater energy capture during regenerative braking for improved fuel economy.

The system also enables the Ecotec engine to shut down fuel delivery in certain deceleration conditions, which saves additional fuel. While in fuel shut-off mode, the motor-generator unit continues spinning along with the engine to provide immediate and smooth take-off power when the driver presses on the accelerator. Then, as the vehicle comes to a stop, the motor-generator unit spins the engine, bringing it to a smooth stop – properly positioned for a smooth restart.

“The battery system is designed to provide power assistance to the internal combustion engine, rather than storing energy for all-electric propulsion,” said Poulos. “It’s really an extension of the conventional internal combustion engine, not a replacement for it.”

The eAssist power pack contains the lithium-ion battery pack, the integrated power inverter and 12V power supply. It is located in a compartment between the rear seat and trunk; and it is surprisingly compact and lightweight, weighing only about 65 pounds (29 kg). It still allows rear access to the trunk via the split-folding rear seat – an attribute not shared with other hybrid competitors. Trunk space is slightly reduced when compared with 2011 models with the four-cylinder/six-speed powertrain, but still offers 10.9 cubic feet (307 liters) of storage. An electric fan cools the power pack, drawing air from a vent located in the package tray, behind the rear seat. The fans are designed to be quiet from the cabin.

The eAssist system’s electric motor-generator is mounted to the engine in place of the alternator to provide both motor assist and electric-generating functions through a new engine belt-drive system. The motor-generator is a high-performance, compact induction motor that is liquid-cooled for increased performance and efficiency.

Next-generation six-speed

The eAssist system works with LaCrosse’s direct injected 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder and next-generation six-speed automatic powertrain combination. In the LaCrosse with eAssist, the engine is rated at approximately 180 horsepower (134 kW) and the next-generation Hydra-Matic 6T40 takes transmission technology to the next level with features designed to enhance powertrain efficiency.

Significant internal transmission changes to clutch controls and hardware provide reduced spin losses while improving shift response and time. The added electric power provided by the eAssist system allows for higher gearing to improve steady state efficiency without impacting acceleration performance or driveability. The system’s capability of providing some electric assistance at cruising speeds allows the driver to accelerate lightly or ascend mild grades without the transmission downshifting.

An auxiliary, electric-driven transmission oil pump is added to the 6T40, which keeps the transmission primed and the fluid flowing when the engine shuts down at a stop. That keeps the transmission ready to perform when the driver accelerates, for a seamless, uncompromised driving experience.
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“It’s a very integrated powertrain system, with no compromises in driving performance, shift quality or ride and handling,” said Daryl Wilson, LaCrosse lead development engineer. “We believe this combination points to the future of vehicles powered primarily by an internal combustion engine.”

2012 BUICK LACROSSE WITH eASSIST™ SPECIFICATIONS

Overview

Model: 2012 LaCrosse with eAssist technology
Body style / driveline: front-drive, front-engine, four-door, five- passenger sedan
Construction: integral
EPA vehicle class: midsize sedan
Manufacturing location: Kansas City, Kan.
Key competitors: Acura TL, Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES350

Engine

Type: Ecotec 2.4L DOHC I-4
Displacement (cu in / cc): 145 / 2384
Bore & stroke (in / mm): 3.46 x 3.85 / 88 x 98
Block material: precision sand cast aluminum
Cylinder head material: SPM cast aluminum
Valvetrain: overhead camshafts, four-valves per cylinder, continuous variable valve timing for intake and exhaust
Ignition system: individual coil-on-plug
Fuel delivery: direct injection and electronic throttle control
Compression ratio: 11.2:1
Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm): 182 / 136 @ 6700 rpm*
Torque (lb.-ft. / Nm @ rpm): 172 / 233 @ 4900 rpm*
Recommended fuel: regular unleaded
Emissions controls: close-coupled, catalytic converter; variable valve timing; positive crankcase ventilation evaporative system
Estimated fuel economy (city / hwy): 25 / 37

Transmission

Type: Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic
Gear ratios: (:1):
First: 4.58
Second: 2.96
Third: 1.91
Fourth: 1.45
Fifth: 1.00
Sixth: 0.75
Reverse: 2.84
Final drive ratio: 2.64:1

Electric Drive System

Type: belt-driven, liquid-cooled motor/generator unit and lithium-ion battery system; air-cooled power electronics and battery pack
Maximum electric generating power 15 kW @ 1570-3180 rpm
Maximum electric motor torque (cranking) 110 lb.-ft. / 150 Nm
Maximum electric motor torque (electric assist) 79 lb.-ft. / 107 Nm @ 1,000 rpm
Maximum electric motor power (electric assist) 15 hp / 11.2 kW @ 1,000-2,200 rpm
Lithium-ion battery 115V, 0.5-kWh, 15 kW peak power

Chassis/Suspension

Suspension (front): MacPherson strut coil-over-spring; twin-tube dampers with gas-charged valving; hollow direct-acting stabilizer bar
Suspension (rear): four-link
Steering type: electric variable-ratio, rack-and-pinion
Steering ratio: 15.2:1
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock: 2.75
Turning circle (ft / m): 38.8 / 11.75

Brakes

Type: split, dual-circuit four-wheel-disc with power assist
Rotor diameter x thickness (in / mm): front: 12.6 x 1.2 / 321 x 30 (vented)

rear: 12.4 x 0.9 / 315 x 23 (solid)

Total swept area (cu in / mm): TBD

Wheels/Tires

Wheel size and type: 17-inch steel with cover
Tires: P245/50R17 all-season blackwall

Exterior

Wheelbase (in / mm): 111.7 / 2837
Overall length (in / mm): 197 / 5003
Overall width (in / mm): 73.1 / 1858
Overall height (in / mm): 59.2 / 1503
Track (in / mm): front: 61.7 / 1567

rear: 62 / 1576

Curb weight (lb / kg): 3835 / 1739

Interior

Seating capacity: 5 (2 front / 3 rear)
Headroom (in / mm): front: 38 / 965

rear: 37.3 / 948

Legroom (in / mm): front: 41.7 / 1058

rear: 40.5 / 1029

Shoulder room (in / mm): front: 57.4 / 1459

rear: 56 / 1423

Hip room (in / mm): front: 55.2 / 1402

rear: 53.9 / 1368

Capacities

EPA interior volume (cu ft / L): 99 / 2805
Passenger volume (cu ft / L): 101.7 / 2878
Cargo volume (cu ft / L): 10.9 / 307
Trailer towing maximum (lb / kg): TBD
Fuel capacity (gal / L): 15.7 / 59.4
Engine oil (qt / L): 5 / 4.7
Cooling system ( qt / L): TBD

*SAE certified.

Note: Information shown is current at time of publication.

  • Elliot

    GM took nothing from Honda’s playbook. Research the technology before assigning credit.