Subaru is set to introduce its first plug-in hybrid vehicle in the North American later this year, and in order to speed up development work the Japanese company has turned to Toyota to supply the major componentry required.
The supply agreement comes as no surprise, with Toyota owning a 17 percent share of Subaru, and the two companies having already established a working relationship on joint projects like the BRZ and 86 sports car.
Subaru’s relatively small size next to larger competitors means the company lacks the R&D budget and workforce to add electrification research to its existing projects, but as emissions regulations become stricter the need to add hybrid, plug-in, and full EV powertrain to the range can’t be ignored.
In an interview with American industry journal, Automotive News, Subaru’s chief technical officer Takeshi Tachimori explained the use of Toyota systems came from the need to need a strict introduction timeline.
"For our plug-in hybrid to be introduced this year, we have used Toyota's technologies as much as possible," Tachimori said.
Like the agreement in place between Toyota and Mazda in Japan, where Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system is added to hybrid versions of the Mazda3, Subaru will use the electrical side of the PHEV from the Prius Prime adapted to work with the brand’s own longitudinally mounted Boxer four-cylinder engine.
As an extension of the Toyota supply agreement, Subaru will also join the EV Common Architecture Spirit Co. joint venture project which aims to co-develop a common electric vehicle architecture with input from Toyota, Mazda, Suzuki, Toyota-subsidiaries Daihatsu and Hino, and component supplier Denso (which Toyota also part-owns).
Despite involvement in the joint venture Subaru is also working independently on its own unique EV, set for release in 2021, although some technologies and systems may be added to the vehicle during its development as a derivative of the current Subaru Global Platform vehicle architecture (pictured above).
Subaru won’t be aiming for high volumes from its first plug-in product either. Set to be based on a yet to be disclosed existing model line, the Subaru PHEV will only be marketed in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont - states with zero emissions vehicles policies in place.
Despite the US-centric approach, the PHEV model will be built in Japan and exported to the US.
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