For some years, Toyota and their own luxury brand Lexus have dominated the hybrid market in Europe and the US. Whilst sales volume is not enormous, the numbers may be about to increase as European demands for ever lower CO2 emissions get ever more draconian. In addition, fuel consumption figures are weighted to any mileage that a car can do under the power of battery alone, so that the day-to-day averages of hybrids are turning out to be lower than those quoted
Lexus will add a four door saloon to the CT model range but not until 2015/16 model year. In the mean time though we will see the launch of the Mercedes-Benz CLA and rumoured Audi A3 hybrid. What we know about the Mercedes is that the technology will be lifted straight out of the E300 BlueTEC which uses the 2.1 litre diesel harnessed to a 27bhp electric motor. Expect better than the E-Class 65 mpg and even better acceleration than the 7.5 seconds to 60mph of the E Hybrid
We know more about the Audi A3 e-tron than the Merc. The Audi uses the 148 bhp 1.4 litre petrol engine, but they have added a scary 101bhp in the form of an electric motor. The approach from Audi is to give it the ability to travel on electric only rather than the Mercedes-Benz hybrid set up of some assistance
The Audi electric motor output is reduced as output from the petrol engine is increased. Flat out, the electric motor is reduced to 55bhp, but combined they propel the A3 to 60mph in just 7.6 seconds. The battery only range is 50km, or just over 30 miles. This increased battery only range is what allows Audi to public extraordinary fuel consumption figures. In reality though, many people could live with that range ability for their commute and the fact that this car has been designed to charge in four hours at home without the need for a commercial charge point
Audi have introduced some more clever tech with this car, for example, it uses the electric motor to start the engine as Audi have positioned the motor at the flywheel and have been running a natural Gas version . The car can cover just over 600 miles on one tank full. You could leave Manchester and drive to Cologne without refuelling, ok that would be taking your time but that is the point of this car as its onboard computer acts as a nanny to constantly achieve your maximum fuel consumption with dashboard indicators and reminders of how you are doing.
In recent tests in a German magazine, in real use the A3 e-tron averaged over 100mpg according to the on-board computer. This car really is going to be a class leader. An on-board system, which will not function in the UK yet, is a traffic light count down system, it tells you when the lights that you are approaching are going to change. In Germany it is being heralded as a safety breakthrough as an advanced warning of a red light with the added benefit of increased economy if you really don’t need to slow down. In the UK, the idea is being doubted by road safety campaigners, citing the negative aspects of it such as red light running. The UK is many years away from all traffic lights with radio signal outputs, so it is unlikely that the system will come to the UK.
As an aside, Audi have been running an A3 g-tron on methane or even synthetic methane. At 20g/km emissions, this car is simply the cleanest car on the road and if the methane is created using solar power, then nothing can compete.