Hot on the heels of the announcement that Mercedes will produce electric cars, comes the news that fellow German manufacturer Volkswagen plans to produce a test fleet of plug-in hybrid electric cars by 2010.
A few months ago, to much excitement from the automotive press, the company unveiled a diesel-electric Golf but, according to VW chief Martin Winterkorn, “the future belongs to electric cars.” To help in mapping out the road to this electric future, the company have unveiled a plug-in hybrid powertrain, called the Twin-Drive, which will make its first appearance in a Golf kitted out with a 122-horsepower diesel engine, twinned with an 82-horsepower electric motor.
A key difference between the VW approach and typical hybrids is that instead of the battery providing supplemental power to the combustion engine, the Twin-Drive will work the other way around. According to Winterkorn, “here the diesel or gasoline engine supplements the e-motor.”
The car will use lithium-ion batteries and have a range of 31 miles on purely electric power. Over the last few months, Volkswagen has invested heavily in li-ion battery technology. In addition to teaming up with Sanyo in a $769 million dollar development project, the company has also formed the Lithium-Ion Battery 2015 Alliance (LIB2015) with Bosch, BASF, Evonik and others, backed up by a €60 million investment from the German government.
Volkwagen says it will have a test-fleet of twenty Twin-Drive Golf’s on the road in 2010, but there is still no news on plans to ramp-up commercial production. Given the level of investment being ploughed into the technology, I have a hunch that such an announcement won’t be too long in coming.