After a brisk run-through of new models from all of its many brands, Volkswagen Group closed last night's preview event before the Paris Auto Show with a few words on its plans for plug-in hybrids.

"Many companies are reducing their plans for electric vehicles," said VW Group chief Martin Winterkorn.

"We at Volkswagen don't have to do that; we have always looked rationally at this transition."

"The new powertrain [that is] taking shape as very promising," he said, "is the best of electric and engine power: the plug-in hybrid."

VW Group believes this gives the best flexibilities for drivers and families who need the range of gasoline vehicles to drive on holiday, but want zero-emission capability for a range up to 50 kilometers (31 miles).

"On holiday, there is no alternative to the internal combustion engine," Winterkorn said.

To provide green vehicles that are "economical, refined, comfortable, and flexible," the plug-in hybrid system offers the best blend of capabilities.

"This technology is not pie in the sky," Winterkorn said confidently. "It will soon become a reality on our roads," and he promised that the executives and reporters in the audience would soon be driving them.

Then he dove into a detailed listing of the plug-in cars that would emerge from the group's Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche brands over the next few years.

The list he gave consists of cars that will be introduced in European markets; VW Group's U.S. operations will have to decide which, if any, of them to offer.

Indeed, the first hybrid in a volume segment will be the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, which will arrive in U.S. dealerships later this year.

For Europe, the Audi R8 e-tron and Volkswagen e-Up and e-Golf are already in the works and will hit the roads this year or next, Winterkorn said.

Next year, he continued, will come a Porsche Panamera plug-in hybrid--using the system shown in the Panamera Sport Turismo Concept first unveiled at his event--and also the limited-edition Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid sports car.

Then for 2014, the group will show plug-in hybrid versions of the following vehicles:

  • Audi: A3, Q7
  • Porsche: Cayenne
  • Volkswagen: Golf, Passat

And the Audi A5 and A6 will follow shortly thereafter, plus "numerous other derivatives" to fill out the rest of the decade.

"We will take this pioneering technology out of its niche," Winterkorn concluded, "and make it accessible to as many people as possible."

As for the U.S. market, further details emerged during a technical roundtable this morning with Ulrich Hackenberg, head of development for the Volkswagen brand.

Volkswagen Golf Blue e-Motion

Volkswagen Golf Blue e-Motion

The one plug-in vehicle already confirmed is the Volkswagen e-Golf, a battery electric version of the new Golf that was just introduced this month.

Prototypes of the e-Golf have been tested, using the current generation of Golf, for several years now.

The Volkswagen e-Golf will arrive in the U.S. in 2014, most likely as a 2015 model-year car to comply with an expanded set of California Zero-Emission Vehicle requirements.

Asked whether VW would attempt to sell high volumes of the e-Golf in the States--or whether it was merely a "compliance car" to meet the California rules--Hackenberg said, in effect, "Well, we'll see if people want to buy them."

The Audi A3 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid version of the same hybrid system to be used in the upcoming Jetta Hybrid, may be Audi's first foray into selling plug-in vehicles in the States.

No firm plans for that vehicle have been announced, although dozens of prototypes are now being tested by Audi employees across the country.

The group's MQB architecture--which underlies the new VW Golf, the new Audi A3, and a large number of vehicles to come--has been designed to accommodate a wide range of different energy sources and motive power.

Those include gasoline, diesel, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid models, as well as battery electric and, perhaps surprisingly, even hydrogen fuel-cell powertrains.

Volkswagen provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to cover the Paris Auto Show.


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