In the second of a three-part series on alternate powertrain vehicles, Glenn Brooks examines the future of petrol and diesel hybrid vehicles in the world’s major markets.

It is telling that fourteen years on from the launch of the Prius, Toyota remains far and away the world’s largest manufacturer of petrol-electric vehicles. In that time, the Japanese firm has greatly expanded its hybrid model offerings but one important fact remains: the US and Japan are still the only two countries where the technology has found a large number of ready buyers.

Historically, there have been two factors at play with the success of hybrid cars, and each of them has gone away over the course of 2011: government incentives in Japan expired in late 2010 and with them, the huge sales success of the Prius there; plus the legality of driving a passenger-less hybrid in the carpool lanes that feed into major cities in California (the various fiscal incentives for buying hybrids in the US expired or were exhausted long ago).

In San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, the Prius is everywhere – the Golden State has always been where the majority of US registrations took place. Now, sales of hybrids might be about to take a tumble as last month their exemption from the multi-occupant rules which govern carpool lanes expired. Still, that doesn’t seem to be worrying Toyota and its rivals – ever more new models are on the way and while consumers in Europe, China, Brazil and India continue to remain luke-warm towards petrol-electric cars, many in Japan and parts of the US will probably remain keen on the attractions of hybrid ownership. Chief amongst these are silent low speed running and the belief that the car itself is somehow as green as any contemporary vehicle can be.

Toyota’s strategy for dealing with sagging hybrid sales has been to launch multiple new vehicles. In the US, Japan and Europe, that means primarily extra Prius-based models, such as the Prius Alpha (the car’s name in Japan) which is due for launch in the coming months. This vehicle, which had its global debut at the Detroit auto show in January, is more or less a taller, longer derivative of the Prius. One detail worth noting is that while North America’s Prius v will have a nickel-metal hydride battery located under its rear seat, the seven-seater Prius+ for Europe will have a lithium ion battery. Europe and Japan will also gain a smaller car, the Vitz Hybrid or Yaris Hybrid. This will be built in Japan and France from early 2012.

Honda has a similar strategy to Toyota and in some ways is ahead of its larger rival, having launched quite a few hybrid models in major markets throughout 2009, 2010 and 2011. None has captured buyers’ imaginations in the way that the Prius has, however. In addition to the existing Insight, CR-Z, Civic, Fit/Jazz and Fit Shuttle petrol-electric models, hybrid versions of the replacements for the Acura CSX (former Honda Civic) and Acura RL (Honda Legend) are expected, while a plug-in hybrid powertrain for the existing Odyssey minivan has also been suggested.

Aside from Toyota and Honda, Nissan and Mazda are also working on new petrol-electric models. A replacement for the current, slow-selling Nissan Altima hybrid is expected for 2012, while Infiniti division’s EX crossover is considered likely to be fitted with the 3.5-litre and electric motor system that has been recently launched in the M35h sedan. As for Mazda, there should be a gasoline-electric hybrid version of the next Atenza/Mazda6: in March 2010, Mazda stated that it is to license Toyota’s hybrid technology by 2013 for a new, Japan-built model. Before then, we should also see a CX-5 HEV – the follow-up to the Tribute HEV for the Japanese and US markets.

As Hyundai and KIA continue to make large sales gains in Europe, China and North America, more alternate powertrains will be steadily added in certain of those markets. Already we have been hybrid versions of the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima twins on sale in the US and Korea, while a concept version of a Soul Hybrid has been exhibited at various motor shows. Next year, the third generation of the Hyundai Santa Fe is highly likely to offer a petrol-electric powertrain in the US market at least.

Kia, meanwhile, is expected to release a diesel-electric hybrid version of the Sorento in the second half of 2012, mostly for markets in Europe. It is believed that the production model will be closely based on the prototype that debuted at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2009. That vehicle was said to be powered by the combination of a 163bhp 1.6-litre I4 turbodiesel engine and a 30kW electric motor. The same powertrain may also be fitted to a hybrid diesel version of the successors to the Kia cee’d and the related second generation Hyundai i30 – the latter is making its world debut at the Frankfurt motor show next month.

As for European manufacturers, Bmw has had some, albeit limited success with its ActiveHybrid 7 Series and X6 models. A petrol-electric version of the 5 Series will soon be launched. This will be followed in 2013 by a plug-in long wheelbase 5 Series hybrid specifically for the Chinese market. The same year, a petrol-electric version of the next (F30) 3 Series sedan is also due to be launched in the US and Europe.

Daimler has adopted a similar approach to BMW, with small-scale production and petrol-electric systems fitted to existing, premium-priced models. The forthcoming diesel-electric versions of the E-Class sedan and next M-Class SUV have been designed mostly for Europe but there may even be a small niche for such vehicles in North America.

A potential gasoline-electric version of the next Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2014) seems increasingly likely too, the logical production plant being Tuscaloosa in the US. Before then, European buyers could well be offered a diesel hybrid version of the new B-Class five-door hatchback.

Volkswagen has thus far limited its hybrid offerings to Audi (Q5, A6 and A8), though the high-priced VW Touareg is the one exception to that rule. Hybrid versions of the Jetta and Passat are believed to be on the way for the US market, while in Europe, a Golf Hybrid will be launched in October 2013, the company announced at the Geneva motor show in March 2010. For now at least, the VW Group seems to be betting only on petrol-electric hybrids.

By contrast, Europe’s number two manufacturer, PSA Peugeot Citroen is backing diesel engines for its future hybrids. Its first model, the Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4 has just been launched, while the 508 RXH will follow in 2012. This same powertrain is likely to be fitted to two other pricey range-topping variants for the 5008 and RCZ models later in 2012. Citroen’s DS5 is also highly likely to be available in HYbrid4 form from the second half of next year.

The big two US-based automakers, meanwhile, will likely maintain a cautious approach as they steadily roll out more petrol-electric models during 2012 and beyond. There should be a new 2.0-litre powertrain to be shared by the replacements for the Ford Fusion and Escape in North America from 2012. A (US-built) production version of the C-MAX Hybrid concept from this January’s Detroit motor show should follow these two.

General Motors, like its rival, is looking mostly to the US market for the majority of its future hybrid vehicle sales. It is expected to reintroduce a petrol-electric Chevrolet Malibu when that model’s replacement is launched in early 2012, while Buick division will shortly add the (2012MY) Regal eAssist variant that debuted at the Chicago motor show back in February. A hybrid version of the Cadillac XTS is also expected as a rival for the successor to the current Lexus GS 450h – both of these cars should be launched during 2012.

Finally, of the many manufacturers that continue to experiment with small-scale production of hybrid powertrains in China, it is hard to see a natural leader. BYD and SAIC, for example, have sold few such models, while Geely is likely to see only modest production numbers for the Ge, a hybrid-only sedan which it promises to launch in 2013. Rivals such as Changan and Chery continue to exhibit prototypes at motor shows but production plans are invariably vague – until there are strong incentives to purchase such models, the market for hybrids in China seems likely to remain small.

The many different approaches to future hybrids by manufacturers operating in the world’s major markets have one thing in common – the question of how to make serious money out of such vehicles. It is presumed that only Toyota and Honda are presently enjoying much of a return on the technology, not that this fact has proved to be too discouraging for their rivals – after all, failing to invest in hybrids risks being left behind should buyers in a market the size of China suddenly be given new and generous incentives to embrace petrol-electric cars.

No doubt the only justifiable approach for any manufacturer is to continue to invest in a suite of alternate propulsion systems, of which petrol and/or diesel hybrids are but one constituent. And as the third and final article in this series will show, the next generation of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) is already out of the planning stages, with these models set to reach showrooms in the world’s major markets in just a year or two.

The data table below has been extracted from just-auto’s proprietary Production Life Database (PLDB). Currently, PLDB holds details on over 1,500 models from 187 makes/brands and 99 vehicle groups.

Brand Model Segment Platform Production Location
Acura CSX replacement Hybrid Lower Medium Honda Civic 9 TBA
Acura RL replacement Hybrid Executive TBA Sayama (Japan)
Audi A6 hybrid Executive MLB Neckarsulm (Germany)
Audi A8 hybrid Executive MLB Neckarsulm (Germany)
Audi Q5 hybrid quattro SUV PQ35 Ingolstadt (Germany)
BAW B90 Hybrid SUV TBA Zhuzhou, Changsha (China)
BMW ActiveHybrid 3 Upper Medium TBA Munich (Germany)
BMW ActiveHybrid 5 Executive L6 Dingolfing (Germany)
BMW ActiveHybrid 6 Sports L6 Dingolfing (Germany)
Buick Regal Hybrid Upper Medium Epsilon 2 Shanghai (China); Oshawa 1, Oshawa, Ontario (Canada)
BYD F6 DM Crossover Honda Accord 6/7 Shenzhen (China)
Cadillac Escalade Hybrid SUV GMT900 Arlington, Texas (USA)
Cadillac XTS Hybrid Executive Epsilon 2 Oshawa, Ontario (Canada)
Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Upper Medium Epsilon 2 Fairfax Assembly, Kansas City, Kansas (USA) or Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan (USA)
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid Pick-up GMT900 Silao (Mexico)
Chrysler 300 Hydraulic Hybrid Upper Medium LX Brampton, Ontario (Canada)
Citroën DS5 HYbrid4 Crossover PF3 Rennes-la-Jannais (France)
Dongfeng S30 BSG Hybrid Lower Medium PSA PF2 Wuhan, Hubei (China)
Emgrand GE Executive Geely FD Ningbo, Zhejiang (China)
Ferrari 599 replacement (hybrid variant) Sports TBA Maranello (Italy)
Ford C-MAX Hybrid Compact Minivan C2/C-Car Michigan Assembly, Wayne (USA)
Ford Escape replacement Hybrid SUV C2 Louisville, Kentucky (USA)
Ford Fusion replacement Hybrid Upper Medium TBA Hermosillo (Mexico)
GMC Sierra 1500 Pick-up GMT900 Silao (Mexico)
GMC Terrain Hybrid SUV Theta CAMi, Ingersoll, Ontario (Canada)
Honda Fit Hybrid replacement/Jazz Hybridreplacement Small Global A Suzuka (Japan)
Honda Odyssey Hybrid Minivan GLTP Lincoln, Alabama (USA)
Infiniti EX Hybrid Crossover FM Tochigi (Japan)
Infiniti X260 Hybrid (XF replacement) Executive X760 Castle Bromwich (England)
Jaguar XJ Hybrid Executive X350 Castle Bromwich (England)
Kia Sorento diesel hybrid SUV Type-N Hwasung (South Korea)
Kia Soul Hybrid/Xiu Er Hybrid Crossover MC Kwang-Ju (South Korea)
Lancia Thema Hybrid Executive LX Brampton, Ontario (Canada)
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Hybrid SUV Ford C1 Halewood, Merseyside (England)
Land Rover Range Rover Hybrid SUV TBA Solihull (England) or Castle Bromwich (England)
Land Rover Range Rover Sport Hybrid SUV TBA Solihull (England) or Castle Bromwich (England)
Lexus ES 350h Upper Medium Camry 7/8 Georgetown 2, Indiana (USA)
Lexus GS 500h Executive Crown 13 Tahara, Aichi Prefecture (Japan)
Lexus IS 400h Executive Crown 13 Tahara, Aichi Prefecture (Japan)
Lexus LS 600h & LS 600h L replacements Executive Crown 13 Tahara, Aichi Prefecture (Japan)
Mahindra W201 SUV TBA Chakan, Maharashtra (India)
Mazda CX-5 Hybrid Crossover Atenza 3 TBA
Mazda Mazda6 Hybrid Upper Medium Atenza 3 Hofu, Yamaguchi (Japan)
Mercedes-Benz A-Class or B-Class Hybrid Lower Medium TBA Rastatt (Germany) or Kecskemét (Hungary)
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Hybrid Executive W204 TBA
Mercedes-Benz E 400 Hybrid Executive W204 Sindelfingen (Germany)
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Bluetec Hybrid Executive W204 Sindelfingen (Germany)
Nissan Altima Hybrid replacement Upper Medium Alliance D Smyrna, Tennessee (USA)
Peugeot 508 RXH Crossover PF3 Rennes-la-Jannais (France)
Peugeot RCZ HYbrid4 Coupe PF2 Magna Steyr, Graz (Austria)
Roewe 750 Hybrid replacement Upper Medium GM Epsilon 2 Yizheng, Jiangsu (China)
Subaru Alcyone Hybrid Coupe M-L Ota, Gunma (Japan)
Subaru Legacy Hybrid Upper Medium M-L Ota, Gunma (Japan)
Subaru Auris Hybrid replacement Lower Medium TBA TMUK, Burnaston (England)
Toyota Camry Hybrid Upper Medium Camry 7/8 Tsutsumi (Japan); Georgetown, Kentucky (USA); Line 2, Guangzhou, Guangdong (China); Gateway, Chachoengsao (Thailand); Altona (Australia)
Toyota Crown Hybrid replacement Executive Crown 13 Motomachi (Japan)
Toyota Estima Hybrid replacement Minivan Camry 7/8 Toyota Auto Body, Inabe (Japan)
Toyota FR-S Hybrid Coupe M-L Ota, Gunma (Japan)
Toyota Kluger Hybrid/Highlander Hybrid Crossover Camry 7/8 Miyata, Toyota Motor Kyushu (Japan)
Toyota Prius (4th gen) Lower Medium TBA Miyata, Toyota Motor Kyushu (Japan); Gateway, Chachoengsao (Thailand)
Toyota Prius Alpha Compact Minivan MC Tsutsumi (Japan)
Toyota Vitz/Yaris Hybrid/Prius c Small TBA TBA (Japan); Valenciennes (France)
Toyota Golf Hybrid Lower Medium MQB Wolfsburg (Germany)
Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid & Jetta Coupe Hybrid Lower Medium NCS Puebla (Mexico)
Volkswagen Passat Hybrid Upper Medium MQB TBA