Subaru has fallen behind in the push for electric cars, but it’s going to have some help catching up.
Subaru is best known for their irreverent 4-wheel drive cars that appeal to housewives in Montana as much as they do rally enthusiasts. But, as fun as their cars are, Subaru has a problem: they have no electric or hybrid cars. At all.
That never used to be a problem, since nobody buys a Subaru for its fuel economy, but in the world of ever more stringent emissions regulations, Subaru is falling behind. Way behind.
The Tokyo-based car manufacturer recently announced they’ll bring a plug-in hybrid car to the US later this year, and a fully electric model in 2021, but to help develop a fleet of hybrid and electric cars Subaru is going to need help. That’s why they’ve joined forces with other Japanese car manufacturers Toyota, Mazda, Suzuki, Daihatsu, and Hino (Hino makes trucks, but we won’t hold that against them).
According to chief technical officer Takeshi Tachimori, for Subaru’s hybrid plug-in they’ll be leaning heavily on Toyota. "For our plug-in hybrid to be introduced this year, we have used Toyota's technologies as much as possible," Tachimori said.
Subaru previously had a hybrid car, the Crosstrek Hybrid, but discontinued the on the 2017 model. The new hybrid will draw heavily from Toyota’s Prius Prime platform rather than any previous Subaru venture but have a few uniquely Subaru qualities. For example, Tachimori said the engine will be mounted along the length of the car rather than horizontally.
Tachimori admitted that, due to Subaru’s smaller size in comparison with other Japanese auto manufacturers, they simply couldn’t develop electric technology fast enough on their own. "We can't engage in a large-scale development," he said.
Subaru has one-tenth the R&D budget in comparison with Toyota, who also owns 17 percent of Subaru.
While Toyota is helping Subaru develop their plugin hybrid, Subaru’s inclusion in the EV Common Architecture Spirit Co. is helping them develop their electric car. The joint venture, begun by Mazda in September of last year and quickly joined by Subaru, Daihatsu, Hino, and Suzuki, will help all participating manufacturers develop electric car technology.
"If there is a basic technological foundation, that would help carmakers not waste resources," Tachimori said.