It appears Volkswagen is copying Toyota’s commitment to offer a hybrid option on every model in its lineup, if the latest comments from the automaker’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn, are to be believed. The German auto giant sees hybrids, more specifically, range-extended plug-in hybrids, as the most viable option going into the future, with even its small cars expected to benefit from the addition of an electric motor and battery.
The information was revealed during an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, where Winterkorn explained that new electric cars like the Nissan Leaf are not suitable for the mass market. He blames battery technology as still being in its infancy, explaining that a 550 pound battery pack that only offers 25 kWh of juice under ideal conditions and is good for just 100 miles of driving is insufficient.
Instead, he sees Volkswagen’s lineup in the next 10 years moving towards the adoption of range-extended plug-in hybrid tech, allowing drivers to use zero-emissions electric power for short trips and an internal combustion range-extender for longer journeys.
In fact, Winterkorn revealed that he had already driven an Audi TT range-extended electric car prototype fitted with a tiny one-cylinder.
Beyond the next 10 years, the Volkswagen boss sees battery technology advancing to the stage where they’ll offer a driving range of up to 500 miles in mainstream cars. The technology he is referring to is the ‘lithium-air’ battery.
Still in development, the lithium-air battery potentially has a much higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries, somewhere on the order of four to five times as much.
While lithium-air batteries are still more than a decade away, we’ve already had a taste of Volkswagen’s hybrid technology in the form of the Touareg Hybrid unveiled last year. The automaker’s electric vehicle onslaught is now set to continue with the launch of a hybrid version of the Jetta in 2012, followed shortly by hybrid versions of the Golf and Passat.