You are here

Audi built a plug-in hybrid in 1989

The Audi 'Duo' could do 24 miles on e-power alone

Read more on:

Thought PHEVs were a relatively new phenomenon? Think again, because Audi built its first one way back in 1989.

Yup, 1989, the same year British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. When cassettes were more popular than CDs, and mobile phones were the size and weight of a brick. And here was Audi, somehow making a petrol engine and e-motor speak the same language.

Revealed at the 1990 Geneva Motor Show, the Duo was based on an Audi 100 Avant. Its 2.3-litre, five-cylinder engine sent about 134bhp to the front axle, while a 12bhp e-motor from Siemens (drawing power from a 9kW nickel-cadmium battery mounted under the boot floor) drove the rear.

Most of the time the two power sources worked in tandem, but the Duo did have a special electric-only mode that prevented the internal combustion engine from kicking-in. Modern-day PHEVs have such modes of course, accessible via a little button you can press anytime, anywhere. In the Duo, you had to come to a complete halt and shift into neutral.

Max range on e-power was 24 miles, at speeds of up to 31mph. It had regen-braking and solar panels on the roof for keeping the battery topped up. Ten were built for testing – one was even trialled as a taxi in Audi’s hometown of Ingolstadt – but none sold.

It was 1997 before Audi did a PHEV you could buy. Well, Kinda. The A4 Duo, which Audi claims was the first production plug-in hybrid, combined a 90bhp 1.9-litre diesel with a 29bhp e-motor. Like modern PHEVs it could run at slow speeds for a short while on e-power alone, and was chargeable on the move via regen or from a plug socket.

But it was TWICE the price of a normal A4 Avant. Audi apparently expected to sell around 500 cars a year, but by the time production had halted in 1999 it had only built 60.

Before its time? You bet.

Share this page: 

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear’s code of conduct (link below) before posting.

Promoted content