Chevy Orlando hybrid test mule - front three-quarter view, disguised spy shot

Chevy Orlando hybrid mule - paperwork closeup - spy shotChevrolet is testing a very peculiar MPV, one that isn't sold in the US but is wearing Michigan plates. On top of that, riveted bodywork aside, it sure looks suspicious with a bunch of Chevy Volts and a Ford Fusion Hybrid buzzing around it like flies. Upon closer inspection, our spy photographers say it's actually a test mule for a yet unannounced hybrid vehicle from General Motors, which will probably end up competing with the Ford C-Max Hybrid and Toyota Prius V.

After the swarm of GM engineers finally left the car alone, our photographers were able to move in and snap some shots up close. What they found was a heavily modified Chevrolet Orlando (which is sold in North America, but not the US) with tons of gas-electric hybrid components and testing gear scattered about the interior. The cargo area, for one, is stuffed with a battery and rudimentary cooling system comprised of tubes, and the battery's casing has a "High-Voltage" warning sticker affixed to it. No plug-in port is visible, leading us to suspect it's a straight-up hybrid. Our spy photographers were wondering if it was the Volt MPV5 concept testbed, which debuted at the Beijing Auto Show in 2010, but they have heard the MPV5 was cancelled to divert resources to the Cadillac ELR. No Voltec powertrain is suspected in this Orlando mule.

One of the telltale signs of a test mule for a new model – and not a new variant of an existing model – is body modification. From the riveted front end with Chevy Spark headlights to the lengthened cargo area, it's clear from the outside that major modifications have been done to the Orlando's body. After analyzing the pieced-together door panels, our spy photographers also believe the front doors were lengthened and the rear doors were shortened.

These Orlandos have been seen testing since early this year, buy they've been shrouded in mystery until now. They're still quite mysterious (is GM trying to fool us by testing them alongside a Fusion Hybrid instead of a C-Max Hybrid?), but the hybrid battery found in the cargo bay is our biggest clue yet.