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Detroit Plant Will Build New Cadillac ELR Plug-In

Luxury version will get better performance, more features.

by on Oct.16, 2012

Cadillac will get an upscale cousin of the Chevy Volt with next year's launch of the new ELR plug-in.

General Motors will invest $35 million in a Detroit assembly plant so it can begin production of the new Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid about this time next year.

The ELR will be a luxury version of the more mainstream Chevrolet Volt and the European Opel Ampera. Though the maker didn’t reveal specific details, the Cadillac plug-in is expected to not only feature a more luxurious interior but also an upgrade to its battery-based driveline that will deliver improved performance and possibly enhanced range.

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“The ELR will be in a class by itself, further proof of our commitment to electric vehicles and advanced technology,” Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, said during an industry trade conference. “People will instantly recognize it as a Cadillac by its distinctive, signature look and true-to-concept exterior design.”

Unlike the Volt and Ampera, the new Cadillac ELR will go with a 2-door body that clearly carries some of the edgy Art & Science design cues also seen on the conventionally powered Caddy CTS Coupe.  It will also become the first 2-door produced at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, colloquially known as Poletown, since assembly of the old Cadillac Eldorado was halted in 1999.

GM has so far invested $561 million since late 2009 in the factory, including a major plant changeover last summer and the 2010 launch of Volt production.  Another $35 million will get things set for the ELR.

Like the Volt, it will officially be known as an “extended-range electric vehicle,” meaning that, under most circumstances, the ELR’s wheels will be driven by the vehicle’s electric motor.  That, in turn, will draw power from a lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged from a conventional 110-volt line or a higher-speed charging system.

The EPA has rated the Volt’s 16-kilowatt-hour pack as capable of delivering 35 mpg per charge. Once that runs down, the vehicle can continue operating indefinitely using its backup gasoline engine.  The Chevy version is rated at 93 MPG. So though, it has a longer range than competitors such as the Toyota Prius Plug-in and Ford Fusion Energi it has a lower overall fuel economy.

GM officials were conservative when designing the electric driveline of the Volt, allowing the system to actually draw down only about half the energy actually contained in the T-shaped battery pack.  Inside sources tell that as they have become more confident about the long-term durability of the LIon pack the Caddy plug-in will likely be able to draw more of that power.

It is not clear if the pack will also be larger than the roughly 16 kWh battery assembly found in the Volt – though they suggest the ELR will all but certainly top the performance, and possibly the range of its Chevrolet sibling.

The addition of the Cadillac ELR follows extensive debate within GM – the new model taking its shape from a popular concept called the Caddy Converj.

GM is betting heavily on the underlying “Voltic” driveline used for the ELR, Volt, and Ampera and likely will have future variants, company officials have hinted.  But they’re also working up pure battery-electric vehicles that include a version of the new Chevrolet Spark minicar.

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