If 2012 was the year that several companies realised the importance of hybrid and electric vehicles, 2013 will be the year that we see the fruits of their labor.

Volkswagen, initially reluctant to dabble in the plug-in market, is set to launch at least two new high-volume plug-in hybrids over the next few years, and subsidiary Porsche will do likewise, with sporty plug-ins aimed at wealthier customers.

"[Plug-in hybrids are] a long-term trend that can no longer be reversed," said VW electric car chief Rudolf Krebs to Reuters.

The company will set aside a "considerable" amount of its $9.2 billion annual budget researching and developing hybrid, plug-in and electric mobility.

While the Volkswagen empire concentrated on its diesel technology, rivals like Toyota leapt ahead with hybrids--the first Prius arriving thirteen years before VW's first hybrid, the 2010 VW Touareg hybrid SUV.

Latest projections suggest that plug-in hybrids, the arena into which VW is climbing, are set to grow eight-fold by 2018. Research firm IHS Automotive says sales could be just shy of a million units per annum by 2018, up from a projected 119,000 in 2013.

In contrast, pure electric vehicles, as backed by the Renault-Nissan Alliance, may be only two thirds of that figure.

VW's ultimate aim is to spread plug-in hybrid technology across a wide range of models.

Speaking at the 2012 Paris Auto Show, VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn said, "We will take this pioneering technology out of its niche and make it accessible to as many customers as possible."

"This technology is not pie in the sky," he told reporters at the show, before promising the audience that they would soon be driving VW's efforts.

Porsche will launch two significant plug-in hybrids next year--the 918 Spyder supercar, and a plug-in hybrid variant of the Porsche Panamera, previewed by the recent Sport Turismo concept.

Those will be joined by a plug-in Cayenne SUV a year later, while VW will offer a plug-in hybrid Golf and Passat in 2014. In the Audi range, the A3 compact, Q7 SUV, A6 sedan and A8 luxury sedan will all gain plugs over the next few years.

Currently, VW's most significant hybrid model is the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. With an EPA rating of 45 mpg combined, it beats the equivalent diesel Jetta by 11 mpg.

Audi offers the 2013 Q5 hybrid, with a 26 mpg combined rating, while Porsche buyers can choose between the 25 mpg Panamera S Hybrid, and the 21 mpg Cayenne S Hybrid.


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