Subaru is planning on debuting a plug-in hybrid electric car before the end of the year.
The Japanese carmaker best known for its sporty all-wheel-drive petrol-driven cars is falling dangerously behind in the push for ever-lower emissions. There’s a real sense at Subaru that they’re playing catch-up to the rest of the world, and that’s never a good position for a Japanese automaker to be in (just ask Suzuki how that’s going).
To give themselves a leg-up, so to speak, Subaru is partnering with Toyota (who owns a 16.5 percent stake in the company) to produce a plug-in hybrid electric car (PHEV) before year’s end.
It’ll still have everything you’ve come to expect from a Subaru—longitudinally mounted boxer engine, all-wheel drive, and a spunky persona—only the rest of the guts will be from a Toyota Prius Prime. If that’s the case, it’ll come with the Prius’ 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery that can be recharged from a standard home outlet in six hours.
The Prius gets 133 mpg, 54 mpg combined and can go about 25 miles in EV mode. Since the Subaru version will have all-wheel drive, expect those numbers to be a little worse to account for the grippier-yet-less-fuel-efficient drivetrain.
Subaru hasn’t named the car yet, but according to AutoBlog it’ll be produced in Subaru's Gunma Japan factory alongside the Crosstrek and the Forester. It’s, therefore, possible the PHEV will just be a hybrid version of either SUV, which would be a strange choice if it turns out to be the Crosstrek. Subaru had a hybrid version of the Crosstrek from 2013 to 2017 but discontinued it due to poor sales.
Of course, it could be something entirely new, or basically a rebranded version of the Prius Prime. We’ll have to wait and see.
We do know that Subaru will release the car in 10 states that comply with California's Zero Emissions Vehicle program, which requires that automakers sell a number of cars that produce zero emissions. That number is based on the size of the company, so with Subaru being one of the smaller carmakers, they’ll just need the one PHEV.
But Subaru isn’t content with doing the bare minimum. They’ve already promised to release a 100 percent electric car in 2021, and have joined a number of other Japanese automakers to share technology in that goal.