Headlines like Auto Express’ ‘Latest diesel cars emit almost no NOx according to new research’ and Fleet News’ ‘New diesels proven to be as clean as petrol models’ will undoubtedly leave some fleet managers and personal contract hire customers scratching their heads – but manufacturers or ‘OEMs’, with the exception of clever Mercedes, seemingly have a one-track mind.
Audi, starting alphabetically, will use the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, a mere 7 sleeps away, as the showcase for its debut plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) variants of the A6, A7, A8 and Q5, which it says are aimed at ‘sustainable mobility’, the hot topic nowadays.
Sticking a lowercase ‘e’ onto the end of the firm’s 2.0 and 3.0 TFSI petrol engine badges, an electric motor and 14.1kWh lithum-ion battery join the 385V mix to provide what Audi reckons will be a zero-emissions electric driving range of 25 miles as rated by the latest and much more realistic WLTP tests.
Slightly confusingly, 50 TFSI e comfort and 55 TFSI e performance versions will be offered, each benefitting from the instant acceleration that electricity makes possible. Pledging to enable around a third of a driver’s daily route to be driven in electric-only mode, regenerative braking will be able to recover up to 80kW of energy, and Audi’s new plug-in petrol-electric hybrid models will impressively be able to generate as much as 3kW of heat using just 1kW of re-harvested electric energy, essentially meaning that heavy use of their climate control systems won’t dent their battery ranges as harshly.
Additionally, alongside Audi’s traditional auto, comfort, dynamic and efficiency modes, its TFSI e plug-in variants will come with selectable auto, EV and hold modes, which is hardly revolutionary but will help their drivers to eke out maximum efficiency, ruined only by a heavy right foot. Talking of feet, the accelerator pedal in these models will provide haptic feedback rather like a mobile phone, nudging the driver to coast when possible and use the brakes sparingly. A 7.2kW EV charging point will be able to recharge a TFSI e Audi A6, A7, A8 or Q5 within a couple of hours or so, but expect much longer from a home electricity socket.
An electric range of 25 miles may well be nicely suited for company car and PCH drivers who live 10-to-12 miles from their places of work, while Audi’s vision of a third of either a 36 or a 75-mile commute being doable on electricity is still admittedly a worthwhile step forwards, but as with all PHEVs and pure EVs, provision of fast charging points at home and work is instrumental if leasing such a car over its petrol or diesel equivalent is to really make sense. After all, Audi’s new creations won’t be eligible for the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant, which stipulates at least a 70-mile electric range.
Audi hasn’t yet released ‘mpg’ fuel economy figures for its TFSI e variants and it’s slightly disappointing to see its new plug-in hybrid tech’ limited to the marque’s larger models, as the A4 would surely have been a welcome recipient. A battery, electric motor and other gubbins add weight and extra cost to a car, though, not to mention eating into boot space, so we can somewhat appreciate why Audi has focussed on its luxury models first of all. Incorporating a larger battery than 14.1kWh would admittedly increase these vehicles’ list prices and monthly leasing rentals, but would endow them with much more impressive ranges commensurate with their prestigious image, and would put them in line for the federal EV tax credit of $7,500 offered in the U.S for EVs with a battery of at least 16kWh. It seems likely that they’re primarily aimed at appeasing European emissions standards, which is understandable if not particularly forward-thinking. These PHEV versions of the Audi A6, A7, A8 and Q5 will undoubtedly prove popular amongst company car fleet drivers due to their likely tax advantages, though, and they are certainly a step in the right direction.
Audi has also announced that its new twin-turbo SQ5 TDI SUV will incorporate 48V mild-hybrid technology in its powertrain, which we were rather impressed with when we spent a week road-testing the new A7. Defying the incredible 700Nm torque it will pump out, the new SQ5 is set to be Euro 6d-temp compliant in the emissions stakes and Audi reckons it’ll be good for up to 34.4mpg under WLTP.
Peugeot will surely be onto a winner in the electric hatchback leasing market when the all-new e-208 appears. As with the majority of new models from French manufacturers these days, the fresh 208 looks part-cute, part-sporty with some downright edgy styling plus some lovely details like Peugeot’s 3-claw light signature at the front and rear and, in the case of the battery-powered e-208, a body-coloured chequered grille and a Lion emblem that changes colour depending on the angle.
Inside, it’ll get those classy-looking toggle switches, Peugeot’s new 3D i-Cockpit, oodles of other technology and equipment plus plenty of storage, which is a hallmark of French design. Unveiled at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, just like Audi’s PHEVs, the electric e-208 is built around a 100kW electric motor and a 50kWh battery, which should translate into a real-world WLTP range of up to 211 miles and has been positioned by Peugeot to minimise its impact on boot and general interior space. At-home charging using a UK 3-pin plug is inevitably cited at a snail’s pace at over 20 hours, and it’ll even need around 8 hours using a dedicated wall box, so trips to public charge points will be the order of the day for many e-208 drivers, with 100kW rapid chargers providing up to 80% charge in about half an hour – sufficient time for a quick bit of shopping and a sneaky latte.
Peugeot’s electric family hatchback also incorporates a clever heat pump designed to preserve battery range, features a high-power 5kW heater and comes with a fancy smartphone app’ enabling various features to be controlled remotely, including setting the interior to make itself nice and toasty on winter’s mornings in readiness for the day’s first journey.
Volvo has just announced some new electrified model variants, too, with novel badges to accompany them. The mid-size XC60 SUV will be offered as a B4 diesel-electric mild hybrid model, a B5 mild hybrid with its battery and motor mated to either a petrol or diesel engine, and a B6 petrol-electric mild hybrid. Volvo’s compact but super-stylish XC40 SUV is set to become available in T4 Twin Engine petrol plug-in and T5 Twin Engine plug-in guises, and the imposing and beautiful XC90 SUV will gain B5 petrol or diesel mild-hybrid and B6 petrol-electric mild hybrid versions.
The range-topping T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrain that features in Volvo’s 60 and 90 series models will also be upgraded to bring up to 15% better fuel efficiency to the table, courtesy of a revised battery and advanced charging made possible through brake-by-wire technology.
As one of the market’s forerunners in business vehicle leasing and personal contract hire (PCH), Vehicle Consulting provides each of our valued clients with information helping them decide which fuel is the most suitable and it’s clear that mild and full plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology and, of course, fully electric cars, will increasingly come to the fore.