Overview: Plug-in Car Roadmap for German Carmakers
The BMW i3 was unveiled last week, and the Volkswagen e-up! will get its first auto show next month. So, what's next? Here's an overview of German manufacturers' EV projects, brand by brand.
The world will discover the production version of the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid next month at the Frankfurt motor show. German deliveries should begin before the end of 2013. The same propulsion system—75-kW motor and 30 miles of electric range—will find its way to the next generation of the A4, which should be unveiled next year. Audi could also easily build an all-electric version of both models, using the powertrain from the E-Golf which uses the same platform. But there are no plans for this. Audi already killed its little A2 city car, and its R8 e-tron as well. The world should not expect a battery-electric Audi in the next five years.
The i8 plug-in hybrid sports car will be unveiled in production form in Frankfurt, with first deliveries expected in the second half of 2014. Besides the i3, we should not expect any other plug-ins from BMW for a while. The company invested a lot of money in those two cars, and the manufacturer needs to find out how successful they will be, before making any further commitment towards electric mobility.
A B-class Electric Drive will be launched in 2014, but there are conflicting reports about its availability in Europe. Could this car only be sold in the United States? Another big unanswered question regards its production, because it will be made with Tesla technology, just like the Toyota RAV4 EV. The problem is in the B-class factory's location, in Germany. Speculation is that Tesla will ship motors and batteries from California to Germany, and then Mercedes will ship complete cars to America. This is not the cheapest or greenest way of doing things.
A plug-in hybrid S-class will also appear in Frankfurt, but this might be a bit early, as deliveries are not expected for a year. We will also learn about a plug-in hybrid C-class in late 2014, a few months after the introduction of a new generation of that vehicle. The S-class will get a V6 engine while the C-class will have a four-cylinder, but both cars should share some hybrid components. Mercedes designed a modular plug-in hybrid architecture—eventually all rear drive Mercedes cars will use it.
Of course, Mini is a British brand, but it's owned by BMW, with all decisions made in Munich. BMW started its EV development program with the Mini-E a few years ago, and many wonder about a possible successor, but there won't be any. There will not be an electric nor a plug-in hybrid Mini in this decade. People who enjoyed a Mini-E will be routed to a BMW dealership to check out the i3.
Porsche currently sells two hybrids without a plug, the Cayenne and the Panamera. The sports cars maker unveiled a plug-in hybrid version of its Panamera sedan last spring, but there will not be a plug-in version of the hybrid Cayenne, since that car has not sold well. Porsche has already built a few electric Boxster roadsters, and it will keep on building some more, but they are not likely toleave the prototype stage in the next five years.
The largest German manufacturer will unveil its E-Golf next year. Unlike the e-Up! which is only for Europe, the E-Golf will be a regular production model, sold wherever there is demand for it. Like the E-Up!, which will have sister models at Seat and Skoda, the E-Golf could bring electric versions of the Skoda Octavia and the Seat Altea, but those models will not be sold everywhere—only in their respective home markets, Spain and the Czech Republic.
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