Audi will launch a plug-in version of its all-new small car, dubbed the Audi A3 e-tron, in 2014 in favour of a pure electric version, with Volkswagen Group engineers agreeing the hybrid technology is the best current solution for reducing fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions.

Audi-A3-Sportback-1

According to Dr Horst Glaser, general manager of development chassis at Audi, “electric technology is not far enough advanced to extend beyond a range of 150km without being very expensive”.

As a result, Glaser says plug-in hybrid – a best-of-both-worlds combination of combustion-engine and pure-electric propulsion – will be the way to go for the Audi A3 fuel miser.

In markets like the US and Japan, the relative unpopularity of diesel engines means plug-in hybrids will become the favoured ‘enviro’ technology. But in Europe (and Australia), where diesel is much more dominant – even with the strict Euro 6 emissions standard looming (due in 2015) – diesel would beat plug-in hybrid on a cost-effective basis.

But come Euro 7 and beyond, the cost of developing diesel to meet emissions regulations could be prohibitive – tipping the favour towards the plug-in hybrid.

Currently, almost all Audi models are available as clean diesel (Euro 6 standard), but the larger cars need AdBlue injection to remove the NOx out of the exhaust gases – requiring an extra tank, pump, fuel and exhaust mods. The smaller Volkswagen Group cars achieve Euro 6 without all the extras, but this may not be the case under future vehicle-emissions legislation.

The Ingolstadt-based brand’s Paris show concept, the Audi Crosslane Coupe (above), showed what a future plug-in hybrid could look like – combining a super-efficient, small-capacity petrol-turbo engine with a pair of lithium-ion batteries.

2Porsche’sPanamera Sport Turismo2

Porsche claims it can also travel on pure electric propulsion at 130km/h for a distance of over 30km.