AUDI HAS CONFIRMED that it will bring a hybrid Q5 model to market in 2011, the first mass-market hybrid vehicle for the German brand.
Specific details on the Q5 Hybrid are still under wraps, but, like the Mercedes-Benz ML450 hybrid, it will likely be destined for the US market.
No commitment has been given to manufacturing the Q5 Hybrid in right-hand drive, meaning we may never see Audi's eco-friendly softroader on Australian roads.
Opinion is split on whether Audi will use nickel metal hydride or lithium ion batteries in the Q5 Hybrid. However odds are high that the powertrain will be similar to the 3.0 litre V6 petrol engine and 300Nm electric assistance motor used by the upcoming 2011 Porsche Cayenne hybrid, 2010 Porsche Panamera hybrid and 2010 VW Touareg hybrid.
Up until now, Audi has resolutely stuck to clean diesel technology as its answer to emissions reduction.
It remains to be seen whether the automaker will follow up the Q5 Hybrid with more petrol-electric models. Some commentators postulate that the petrol-electric Audi is less about reducing CO2 and more about profiting in the hybrid-friendly US market.
Audi, like its compatriot Mercedes-Benz, favours all-electric powertrains as its long-term answer to reducing environmental impact. The company has revealed that it intends to launch a battery-electric version of its R8 supercar by late 2012, with the technology to eventually work its way down the Audi range.
For now though, the company is keen to demonstrate what it can do with petrol-electric technology. The Audi Q5 Hybrid is due to be officially unveiled in late 2010, most likely at the Los Angeles Auto Show.