German Hybrids: Coming Thick And Fast

Just five years ago, only Toyota and Honda offered hybrid gas-electric vehicles—the Prius and Insight, respectively. Now, there are more than a dozen carmakers—including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen—that offer, or have plans for, hybrids. Here’s a roundup of news just over the last few days about hybrids coming from the homeland of Rudolph Diesel.

Audi Q5 Hybrid (2010)

At last month’s Detroit Auto Show, Audi announced that it would offer a Q5 Hybrid. Hybrid versions of the Q5 and Q7 have been on and off the table several times in the past year. Now, it’s back on. The new small sport utility goes on sale in the US next month with a gasoline engine; the hybrid will follow for 2011. Audi still strongly prefers diesels to cut consumption and emissions, since they cost less to develop and build than hybrids. Its lukewarm attitude surfaces in a quote from Wolfgang Hatz, head of powertrain development for the VW group. “We have to do hybrids to show people that we are able to do them,” he said, noting the Q5 would compete with the Lexus RX450h. We’ll see if Audi takes its hybrids seriously.

BMW 7-Series ActiveHybrid

The maker of “ultimate driving machines” will offer a mild hybrid sedan, the