Subaru, which does not own a very wide stable of vehicles, does not currently offer a hybrid model, let alone an all-electric one. But in order to meet strict upcoming emissions standards, for example those being set by California, the Japanese automaker is being forced to act, and act quickly.
The first move in the direction of electrification will come next year in the form of a plug-in hybrid SUV. That could well be the Forester, which is getting a refresh for 2019, or a new model at least partly inspired by that popular utility model.
The name is derived from the words evolution and volt, which may be causing some gnashing of teeth over at Mitsubishi, currently working on its own Evolution.
We know that the new plug-in hybrid Subaru will borrow significant hybrid-related hardware and technology from the Toyota Prius Prime. Lest you find that surprising, remember that Toyota actually owns 16.5% of Subaru shares, and that the two Japanese automakers have worked together previously, notably on the development of the BRS (Subaru) and FR-S (Scion) models. The latter would go on to become the Toyota 86.
Interesting fact, and one little-known in our part of the world: the Toyota Prius is offered with all-wheel drive in Japan. Subaru’s future plug-in hybrid offering to North American consumers will get the same all-wheel-drive system.
So why is the small Japanese manufacturer moving in this direction now? Look no further than California. Via its Zero Emissions Vehicle rules, the state obliges manufacturers to have all-electric or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles account for at least 4.5% of their sales. In 2025, this will increase to 8%. A PHEV, or plug-in hybrid vehicle, meanwhile, accounts for around 55% of a vehicle for the purposes of the regulation. And if those objectives are not met, a company like Subaru will be required to buy credits from its competitors.
Easy then to understand why Subaru is motivated to produce hybrid, plug-in hybrid an all-electric vehicle at a steady clip in the coming years. In fact, the company has already announced a five-year plan to develop all-electric products. The first of those is expected to hit markets in 2021.