Subaru’s first ever plug-in hybrid, which is due to go on sale late this year, will use technology from the Toyota Prius Prime.
That detail was revealed in a recent report from Automotive News, quoting Subaru’s chief technical officer, Takeshi Tachimori, as saying that they “have used Toyota’s technologies as much as possible.”
That borrowing strategy might serve Subaru quite well—and fit Subaru’s strategy of sticking to all-wheel drive whenever possible. Toyota in Japan actually already sells an all-wheel-drive version of the current Prius. It’s called the E-Four, and it has a separate (third) electric motor that’s mounted in back and drives the rear wheels.
While that AWD version isn’t offered in a plug-in hybrid version, it might just be a matter of mixing and matching components. Subaru, of course, will need to alter the hybrid components to work with the longitudinal engine layout of its own platform. That’s a task that Subaru looked at tackling once before—a decade ago, when a technology-sharing agreement gave the automaker access to Toyota’s hybrid hardware.
Subaru also dabbled at least once before with the rear-motor strategy, in the Hybrid Tourer concept [above] from 2009, but the company took a less adventurous route with its only production hybrid for the U.S. market to date: the Crosstrek hybrid, a model with lackluster performance, a hefty price premium that offset any improvement in mileage, and what we described as crude hybridization. It was only sold for the 2014 through 2016 model years.
The plug-in hybrid project stands apart from an electric-vehicle effort that also has the two automakers working together. Late last year, Subaru joined an alliance with Toyota, Mazda, and the supplier Denso to work toward electric-vehicle development. The venture now also includes Suzuki, Daihatsu, and the truckmaker Hino.
As for which Subaru model will get the plug-in hybrid treatment, that information is still under wraps. What isn’t a secret at this point is that Subaru plans to reveal the model later in the year, and it could go on sale by the end of the year as Subaru works to comply with California’s Zero Emission Vehicle requirements.