2011 Chicago Auto Show: 2012 Buick Regal with eAssist is our kind of hybrid

Article by Christian Andrei, on February 10, 2011

Buick revealed eAssist, its latest technology for the Regal, at a former power plant turned local hot spot called the Illumination Company. This century-old building in Chicago stands for what the brand hopes to be: trendy, urban and electric.

The eAssist is a mild form of electrification that slightly improves the Regal’s fuel-economy ratings to 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. This system was first seen in the LaCrosse at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show.

Both cars are expected to arrive in the summer as 2012 models. Instead of the alternator, this system uses a 15-kilowatt electric generator and it works with a 115-volt lithium-ion battery. What it does is gather energy during regenerative braking and periods of coasting. This is also effective with an aggressive fuel cutoff, which cuts gasoline when the car is decelerating, and an auto start/stop system.

All these augment the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which continues to deliver most of the running power. It goes by the principle of taking basic hybrid tactics and using them to improve the conventional gasoline engine. Stephen Poulos, eAssist global chief engineer, said, “We've kind of boiled down what we've learned.”

The LaCrosse offers eAssist as a base powertrain option but the Regal will position the technology above the entry-level four-cylinder. It’s to be expected that it would be quite expensive; however, Buick officials have yet to discuss its pricing.

Powertrain

The eAssist system, which is manually connected to Regal's 2.4L Ecotec direct injection 4-cylinder engine and the next-generation 6-speed automatic transmission, uses battery stored power to deliver the required electrical boost in different driving situations, to make the best use of the engine and transmission operation.

It includes a new-generation 15-kW induction motor-generator unit and advanced 115V lithium-ion battery to help boost fuel savings.

It features the following: • Regenerative braking that delivers a maximum of 15 kW of electricity for battery charge; • During acceleration, provides up to a maximum of 11 kW or 15 HP of electric power assistance; • When the vehicle stops, the engine automatically shuts-off; • During deceleration, aggressive fuel cut-off is down to 0 vehicle speed, made possible by the torque smoothing that the induction motor-generator unit gives; and • Intelligent high-voltage battery charge/discharge eAssist System global chief engineer Steve Poulos said that the engine and transmission operates more efficiently due to the capacity to provide electric boost to the powertrain system through heavy acceleration and grade driving.

He further adds that full fuel shutoff during stops and deceleration match electric boost as well as regenerative braking with more fuel savings. Also, Regal with eAssist technology includes enhanced underbody aerodynamics plus tires optimized for improved performance and fuel savings.

It also comes with a hill-assist system, which holds on to the brake pressure so the driver can accelerate with ease from a moderate stop or steep grade. This is done by preventing the vehicle from rolling backward when the engine is in a shut-down mode.

The air-cooled 115V lithium-ion battery of the eAssist system boosts the 2.4L Ecotec 4-cylinder engine using about 11 kW, which is equivalent to 15 HP of electric power assist through heavy acceleration plus 15kW of regenerative braking power.

The system lets the Ecotec engine shut down the delivery of fuel in some deceleration situations, saving more fuel. The induction motor-generator unit goes on spinning together with the engine in a fuel shut-off mode to deliver instant and smooth take-off power when the accelerator is pressed. When the vehicle is about to stop, the induction motor-generator unit turns the engine to bring it to a smooth stop, ready for a smooth restart.

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