Plug-in hybrid and compressed natural gas (CNG) powered versions of the Volkswagen Polo are tipped to reach production next year.
During this week’s official launch of the refreshed Polo range at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, the company confirmed that the two alternative power sources are being developed for the supermini.
Volkswagen’s plug-in hybrid technology sits under the umbrella name ‘TwinDrive’ and the system can be combined with either petrol or diesel combustion engines.
The Wolfsburg-based company has already shown off several plug-in hybrids including the Golf GTE – which marries a transversely mounted 148bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine with a 107bhp electric motor – the Twin Up, which used diesel technology derived from the super-frugal XL1 two-seater, and the CrossBlue SUV.
Volkswagen wouldn’t be drawn on details of the system the Polo will adopt, beyond saying that it will be different to that adopted for the Golf. One key reason for this is because the latter vehicle is based on Volkwagen’s modular MQB platform, whereas the current-generation Polo still uses the older PQ25 underpinnings.
“The technology will differ,” said Ekkehard Pott of Volkswagen's powertrain development team. “We don’t have the same platform, so we have to make vehicle-specific adaptions.”
Pott believed the plug-in hybrid system could work well with a supermini such as the Polo, where urban journeys could be undertaken on silent electric power.
“One of the advantages would be fuel economy, of course but another one would be comfort. Driving on pure electricity over shorter distances is something that TwinDrive could offer in a very good way,” he said.
Developing a plug-in hybrid system in a supermini that can be sold at a competitive cost could prove to be a challenge in a market segment with narrow profit margins.
Although Volkswagen’s plug-in system can be paired to either a petrol or diesel internal combustion engine, the combination of an oilburner – traditionally more expensive than petrol units – and the plug-in technology would seem to suggest that a petrol plug-in makes sense.
“Until now TwinDrive has been shown with petrol technology,” said Pott. “Of course the cost of the technology would be a concern – we have to decide for every project what the most meaningful combination would be.”
Volkswagen is also assessing its compressed natural gas (CNG) technology for installation in the Polo. The system was first seen in the Golf TGI BlueMotion first shown at the Geneva motor show last year. That car used a 1.4-litre TSI engine that could take either petrol or CNG.
“Things are still under development, but if there proves to be an good outlook for TGI and TwinDrive we will unveil more of the details next year,” said Pott.