General Motors is bringing plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) back to North America, reviving a segment it pioneered but abruptly walked away from in favor of a more aggressive shift toward fully electric vehicles. That's great news for anyone who can't quite commit to a full-blown EV but still wants some of the best benefits of going electric. 

Still, lots of questions remain about how exactly this new (old?) strategy will play out. 

GM CEO Mary Barra announced the shift during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call on Tuesday, positioning PHEVs as a way to keep meeting tightening fuel efficiency regulations while recognizing that America's charging infrastructure is still a work in progress.  

"GM remains committed to eliminating tailpipe emissions from our light-duty vehicles by 2035, but, in the interim, deploying plug-in technology in strategic segments will deliver some of the environmental benefits of EVs as the nation continues to build this charging infrastructure,” Barra told investors.

The automaker has also said appetite for EVs is slowing down, which surely played into this decision. But that's debatable, given that electric sales are booming on the whole.  

PHEVs can travel a substantial distance on electricity alone, but still have a gasoline powertrain that can kick in for longer journeys. Something like a cross between a conventional hybrid and an EV, they offer the best of both worlds for lots of buyers. Owners can charge at home and make short trips cheaply and cleanly. For longer journeys, they don't have to worry about finding a charging station. 

Launched in 2010, GM's Chevrolet Volt was the first PHEV to hit the U.S. market. But it was axed in 2019 after just two generations. Today, GM's only hybrid is the six-figure Corvette E-Ray sports car.  

What's still unclear is when GM's new PHEVs will hit North American shores, or what they'll look like. Will the automaker launch an all-new PHEV? Will it capitalize on the Volt's enduring fandom and launch a third generation? 

GM said it would deliver PHEVs in a cost-effective way by using technology already deployed in other markets. Does that mean it'll import a version of the Wuling Starlight, a PHEV it produces through a joint venture in China?

Or will it painstakingly hybridize an existing model like the Tahoe, Silverado, or Yukon?

Imagine for a moment you're a GM executive tasked with bringing strategy to life. What PHEV model do the people want? How much range are you giving it? Let us know in the comments below. 

Contact the author: tim.levin@insideevs.com

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