Thursday, September 15, 2005


Hybrids have been the talk of the auto industry here in the States and in Asia (where Toyota and other Japanese and Korean car manufacturers have taken the lead in offering hybrids). But the concept is finally becoming more of a reality in Europe, according this Deutsche Welle article:

At this year's IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt, words like "hybrid" and "biodiesel" were almost as sexy as "convertible" or "super-sport." Still, you wouldn't notice it by driving down the autobahn or checking out the cars on the streets of Wolfsburg or Munich, but sales of hybrid vehicles -- especially in North America -- are starting to raise a few eyebrows among German carmakers.
In order to enter the market as quickly as possible, German auto manufacturers have been establishing partnerships to reduce the significant development costs of installing these new component systems. In early September, BMW announced its plan to partner with DaimlerChrysler and General Motors to manufacture a hybrid drivetrain. Shortly thereafter, Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche also formed a partnership to develop a hybrid system for their SUV lines -- namely the VW Touareg, the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne.

It also has some interesting thoughts on why hybrids haven't yet been embraced fully by the German car-makers:

One obvious explanation for the reluctance of the German's to immediately jump on the hybrid bandwagon is that European car buyers already have a fuel-efficient alternative on the market -- the good old diesel engine.

"Hybrid and diesel, we don't really see a difference between them," explained Marius Lehne, project manager for Audis' new Q7 Hybrid Concept Car. "I believe that there will be different solutions for different regions of the world. We believe that the diesel engine will continue to be the best solution for the European market, but the hybrid could be the alternative to the straight gasoline engine in North America."

Another reason Europeans are wary of pushing hybrids for their domestic market stems from infrastructural differences between American and European cities. Since hybrid cars are designed for low speed stop-and-go city traffic, they might not be popular in European cities where people tend to rely on public transportation rather than driving.


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