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.
In 2011, Porsche, one of the most prestigious automobile brands, unveiled the Panamera S Hybrid. This is a sleek, versatile, and luxurious rear-wheel driving car that top-dollar can buy. Driven by the same engine combination as its predecessor, the Cayenne S Hybrid, the Panamera’s main power comes from a three-litre V6 compressor engine that can deliver a whopping 333 horsepower (245 kilowatt-hour) and is supported by a 34 kilowatt-hour (47 horsepower) electric motor. In addition, Panamera’s maximum torque of up to 300 Nm will remain constant even if speed drops below 1,150 rpm.
What’s more, the Panamera S Hybrid comes with the standard eight-speed Tiptronic S power transmission comparable to the Cayenne models. Thanks to the eight-speed Tiptronic S, the consumers can be guaranteed that their Panameras have a low fuel consumption (designed in a way that reduces revs by about 20 percent in the seventh and eight gear, with top speed reached in the sixth gear) without compromising driving comfort and dynamic agility.
Engineered for pure driving pleasure, the Panamera’s electric motor is hooked to a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery that can store electrical energy while braking and driving. The battery, placed under the luggage compartment floor, has a capacity of 1.7 kilowatt-hour supplying an electromotive force of 288 volts.
Astonishingly, the Panamera’s electric motor can propel the vehicle all by itself or can support the internal combustion engine. If you were not impressed by that, the Panamera also has an auto start/stop function which automatically shuts down the internal combustion engine even when the car is stationary. Plus it can also be used as a generator or as a starter! Now that is what I call awe-inspiring!