Volkswagen AG is priming up for the plug-in hybrid market by introducing more vehicles that don the environment-friendly powertrain. Porsche AG, whose sports car operations are 49.9%-owned by VW, will commence producing a plug-in hybrid version of its Panamera sedan in 2014, sources privy to the situation told Automotive News last week.
Another source told Automotive News that Porsche will also market the Panamera plug-in hybrid in the United States but the date is still not known. VW will also start selling in the US its plug-in hybrid versions of the Audi Q7 crossover and European-sold VW Passat in 2014 or 2015, according to a source. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler recently told reporters at the Geneva auto show that his company will build a plug-in hybrid variant of the Audi A3 in 2014.
As to why VW is focusing on plug-in hybrids, Rudolf Krebs, the group’s chief officer for electric traction, said that they are convinced that the future of hybrids won't be pure hybrids, but instead, it will be plug-in hybrids.
Hybrid vehicles, like the Toyota Prius, make use of two thrusting systems, like a gasoline or diesel engine and electric motor. However, a pure hybrid cannot be plugged in to charge its electric motor. Plug-in hybrids, meanwhile, are powered by an electric motor with a battery pack, supported by a gasoline or diesel engine that extends driving range and recharges the battery. A good example of the plug-in hybrid is the Chevrolet Volt.
According to Krebs, plug-in hybrids could use electric power for short distances and retain the same range as that of a gasoline- or diesel-powered engine. Krebs said the company plans to launch plug-in hybrid versions of its luxury cars first because owners of these vehicles tend to drive longer distances. VW is also planning to build electric versions of its Up! city car and Golf starting in 2013.