System stays in background

While I only got to drive the 2012 LaCrosse for a little over an hour, I was impressed at how utterly unimpressive the eAssist was.

Everything works in the background. There's no electric motor whirl at takeoff. There's no pull of the re-gen motor when the brakes are applied. There is only the slightest of vibrations, hardly noticeable when the engine restarts after pausing at a stoplight.

The system works so smoothly few will notice. When the LaCrosse eAssist arrives, there will be customers who never realize exactly how gasoline frugal their car is or that this car is acting like a hybrid in many ways — and in some ways, more sophisticated than a traditional hybrid.

See, what really smart engineers have done is connect a 15-horsepower electric motor to the engine to assist it whenever there's a need. The electric assist (eAssist. Get it?) will add some power at different moments. Whether pushing up a slight grade of road or starting the LaCrosse from a standstill, the electric motor can keep the car in a higher gear longer, or just help move it without using any additional fuel. The motor is not strong enough to drive the car through a parking lot like most hybrids today, but it doesn't need to — it actually provides better mileage than a number of gas-electric hybrids on the road today.

It also uses the motor as a generator to collect energy when the LaCrosse is coasting or slowing down. By now, most people understand regenerative braking, which turns energy once lost as heat on the brake pads into electricity that is sent to a small lithium-ion battery pack in the truck. That energy is then later used to seamlessly assist the engine.

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