The Next Wave of Plug-in Hybrids in 2015 or Beyond

By · January 21, 2014

Ford Focus Electric

The Focus Electric runs purely on electrons. Making hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions is a probably next step for Ford.

There are at least half a dozen relatively high-profile new plug-in electric cars expected to hit the market in 2014. The list for this year includes confirmed new pure electric cars from BMW, Mercedes, Tesla and Volkswagen—and plug-in hybrids from BMW, Cadillac and Porsche. That could bring the U.S. plug-in market to about 20 vehicles.

What is less certain is the list of vehicles that will follow in 2015 and beyond—unless you believe a recent spate of web reports of new electric-drive vehicles, specifically plug-in hybrids, heading into production in about a year or two.

Here’s a quick round-up of, maybe, possible, previously unannounced plug-in hybrids in the works:

Perhaps there is some credence to rumors that Ford is working on hybrid versions of the Focus—one with a plug and one as a conventional (no-plug) hybrid. That’s because sales of the pure electric version of the Focus lag way behind electric-drive versions of the Fusion and C-Max. It would be a logical step for Ford to electrify the Focus next. The apparent launch target is 2015. The all-electric range for a Focus Energi would be similar to Ford’s other plug-in hybrids, which is rumored to be expanding from about 21 miles to 25 miles.

Daimler first unveiled a plug-in concept version of its S-Class flagship sedan more than four years ago. At the time, the company promised a plug-in hybrid by 2012. Daimler is apparently not giving up. The latest word, coming from Daimler technologist and board member Thomas Weber at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, is that a plug-in S500 will go on sale in Europe in late 2014 and in the U.S. in 2015. The specs, if reporting proves true, are a 328-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 gasoline engine, 80-kW electric motor and enough lithium ion batteries to provide nearly 20 miles of all-electric range.

Bentley is developing an ultra-luxury SUV to go on sale in 2016. Bentley is part of the Volkswagen Group—which has about nine plug-in hybrids on its roadmap for Audi, Porsche and VW brands—so there is speculation that Bentley will offer a plug-in hybrid variant of the new swank SUV. (An Audi PHEV will likely be first.) All of these models appear to follow the same script: 31 miles of all-electric capability via an 8.8 kilowatt-hour battery pack, so perhaps a Bentley PHEV, if it materializes, will do the same.

The Chinese car company that was supposed to take the U.S. market by storm has been quiet in recent years. Big promises and aggressive launch dates have failed to produce a single entrant. There’s no solid evidence that BYD’s talk is now backed up by action. But 2015 is apparently its new target for the BYD Qin, a model promised to provide an all-electric range of 31 miles—just shy of what the Chevy Volt can deliver.

That’s not all. The web rumor mill—mostly fueled by innuendo from company executives—is also creating expectations for plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW X5; Volvo V60 sedan; Volvo XC90 SUV; and some form of a Mitsubishi plug-in SUV, which may or may not take the form of an Outlander.

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