Chicago LIVE: Buick adds eAssist hybrid tech to Regal

GM was rumored to have an eAssist-equipped Regal planned for the Chicago Auto Show, and now the automaker has removed the cover ahead of the show.

In an effort to boost both sales and its line-wide fuel economy, Buick has added its new eAssist hybrid system to its mid-size Regal sedan.

The idea behind eAssist is simple - to provide a substantial boost (in this case 25 percent expected) in fuel economy with the addition of a small electric motor, but without the full premium and added weight associated with a traditional full gas-electric hybrid drivetrain. The 2012 Regal with eAssist marks the second application of the technology, with the larger 2012 LaCrosse being the first to see the benefits of the system.

"Buick's eAssist technology means customers don't have to trade a premium driving experience for efficiency," said Tony DiSalle, vice president of Buick marketing. "We believe Regal and LaCrosse with eAssist provide more logical and affordable choices, compared to other hybrid midsize and full-size luxury sedans."

Although the EPA has yet to officially sign off on fuel economy figures, when the 2012 Regal with eAssist hits dealer showrooms this fall, Buick is expecting fuel economy to come in at 26 city, 37 highway miles per gallon.

Of course, Buick didn't just slap the eAssist system on the Regal and walk away, the fuel economy also benefits from lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in low rolling resistance tires, a driver-selectable fuel economy optimization mode for the air conditioning, an ECO gauge to guide driver behavior and a seven-inch screen that displays information such as the flow of energy, battery charging from regeneration and electric power to the engine.

eAssist in detail
The eAssist system works by mating a 15-kW induction motor-generator unit and a 115 volt lithium-ion battery to the Regal's 2.4-liter Ecotec direct injection four-cylinder engine and next-generation six-speed automatic transmission. The eAssist system then uses power stored in the battery to provide needed electrical boost in various driving scenarios, optimizing engine and transmission operation.

The battery regains its charge from regenerative charging, much like a traditional hybrid would. That power can then provide up to 15 horsepower of electric assistance during acceleration. The system also features engine shut-off while stopped. Buick says it also programmed the vehicle to utilize aggressive fuel cut-off during deceleration all the way down to a dead stop.

A key difference between how the eAssist system is used in comparison to a full hybrid was best said by Steve Poulos, global chief engineer of the eAssist system, "The battery system is designed to provide power assistance to the internal combustion engine, rather than store energy for all-electric propulsion."

Expect Buick to begin gunning for the Acura TSX and Volkswagen CC (which it names its key competitors) this fall. Pricing will be announced closer to the launch, but an eAssist Regal should start at around $26,000 to $28,000, depending on how the automaker decides to equip it. A less-expensive non-turbo, non-eAssist Regal is due out this fall as well.

Live Images