In Detail: More on Buick's eAssist
Under the hood is an electric motor/generator that's connected to the Buick's 2.4L, direct injection gasoline engine. It's connected to the engine's crankshaft via a drive belt and it can give the engine a boost under hard acceleration - that's where the "assist" comes in. Nick Richards with Buick says the "eAssist system will deliver up to 15 addition horsepower between about 1,000 - 2,200 rpm and up to 79 lb-ft at 1000 rpm." Total output is listed as 182 hp but that does not include the electric motor/generator because it only kicks in sometimes.
To save fuel, the gas engine shuts off when the vehicle is stopped, say at a red light, then starts back up again once the driver lifts his foot off the brake pedal. This is accomplished with the help of the electric motor, which also keeps the car's accessories running. Power for the electric motor comes from a 115v, air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack which can recapture lost energy through a regenerative braking system.
The new LaCrosse also has an electric transmission oil pump that keeps the fluid flowing even when the engine is off, meaning the transmission is ready to put power to the front wheels as soon as the driver steps on the gas. The transmission is a six-speed Hydramatic which also helps the car use less gas.
Aside from the electric enhancements, the 2012 LaCrosse uses a few other tricks to get 25 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. To make the car more aerodynamic, the underside of the LaCrosse has smooth panels that reduce drag and wind resistance. The lower part of the grille also has electronically controlled shutters that close at high speed, further improving aerodynamics.
Whether Buick wants to call the 2012 LaCrosse a hybrid or not is largely a marketing and advertising decision. The truth is that this car gets its power from a combination (or a hybrid) of a gasoline and electricity. The best part is the LaCrosse's fuel sipping tech won't cost extra. Buyers can pick between the efficient LaCrosse eAssist or opt for a more performance oriented gas-only model with a 280 hp V6 – both have the same price, about $30,000.
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