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Subaru late to the electric party

Pure concept: The Subaru Hybrid Tourer is said to be not for production, but Subaru is working on hybrid and electric cars for the road.

EVs, hybrids are in the pipeline for Subaru Australia, but not before 2013

4 Jun 2010

SUBARU Australia says it will not have a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV) on sale in Australia before 2013.

Managing director Nick Senior said Subaru was working on hybrids and EVs – one of which reportedly is a hybrid version of the FT-86 concept sports being co-developed with Toyota – but they were not market ready.

“The factory is working on both,” he said. “We’re keeping in close touch with them.” When asked how long it would take for the fruit of these endeavours to reach Australia, he said: “It would be several years away.” Asked if that meant more than three years, he replied: “Yes.” Mr Senior defended the pace of Subaru’s alternative fuel program, saying the local market for such vehicles was small.

“There’s been more hype than sales around hybrid at the moment,” he said.

“It (hybrid) achieved 0.8 per cent of the market in April, and if you take out the government sales, I think it’d struggle to get 0.1 per cent of the market.

“Australians haven’t embraced hybrid anything like the emotion might suggest that they have.”

2 center imageLeft: Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept. Below: Subaru Stella EV.

Mr Senior agreed that the alternative fuelled vehicle market could gather pace rapidly in coming years, but said it was contingent on appropriate government subsidies.

“It could come, and if government policy moves to support electric/hybrid cars, then it will escalate the appeal, as it has done in any other country around the world where there’s high take-up of hybrid.” Subaru’s parent, Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), has been involved in EV battery research since the early 1990s in co-operation with NEC, and has since revealed EV concepts including the 2008 Stella EV Concept micro car.

More recently, it has leaned on Toyota for its hybrid technology.

The most recent example of Subaru’s hybrid is the Subaru Tourer Concept unveiled at last year’s Tokyo show, with a unique hybrid system employing two electric motors – one at either end of the vehicle – plus regenerative braking and idle-stop systems a lithium-ion battery pack similar to that found in Subaru’s plug-in Stella EV Concept.

Subaru says its direct-injection boxer four-cylinder engine is the primary power source during normal driving, with the 20kW rear electric motor assisting the petrol engine during acceleration and the 10kW front motor also kicking in during uphill acceleration.

The tourer employs a full parallel, or two-mode, hybrid drive system as used by Toyota’s Prius, with the rear electric motor providing drive for take-off and low speeds, such as parking.

Mr Senior said the Tourer Concept was purely a concept car, and that while elements would surface in production models in years to come, that would not happen for at least five years.

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