FRANKFURT - Audi AG expects to sell no more than 500 hybrid drive vehicles a year when it launches its Audi Duo in autumn 1997.
Audi is likely to be the first automaker to sell a hybrid-drive vehicle. The car has a diesel engine and an electric motor.
The Duo is the latest in a series of hybrids which Audi developed but never put on sale.
The first, the Audi 100 Avant Quattro, appeared in 1989 with an electric motor and a 2.3-liter, five-cylinder engine. The vehicle's second generation appeared in 1991.
The Duo is based on the front-wheel-drive A4 Avant station wagon. It will debut at the Berlin auto show on 19 October.
The Duo will be available only in Europe. It will cost about DM60,000 ($39,215), which is DM16,100 more than for a 1.9-liter Avant. It is likely to appeal only to fleet owners and inner-city users, said an Audi spokesman.
The 1.9-liter turbo direct-injection engine can run on diesel fuel or methyl ester plant oil. The electric motor is water cooled.
When running on batteries, the vehicle has zero emissions, and it makes hardly any noise.
Duo's electric range is restricted to about 50km and a top speed of 80kph.
However, because it has the diesel engine as well, it has much more range than the all-electric Peugeot 106 or Renault Clio.
The Duo is 'an alternative to a real electric car. You can drive long distances with a diesel engine or short distances, and in districts where cars are prohibited, with the electric engine,' said an Audi spokesman.
'We didn't want an all-electric car because the real technology needed is too far in the future and the distance you can drive with electricity is too small.'
A full tank of diesel fuel gives the Duo a 600km range and a top speed of 170kph.
Although the driver chooses whether the Duo is driven as an electric or diesel car, safety measures are built in.
The car is powered by the electric motor only if the driver doesn't push the accelerator pedal down too far. If there's rapid acceleration to overtake another vehicle, the diesel engine automatically engages.
Removing the foot from the pedal after passing will re-engage the electric engine and turn off the diesel.
According to Audi, the transition from electric to diesel takes several seconds only.
Electric power is provided by a 320kg lead-acid battery, packed in fiberglass as a precaution in case of a crash.
The battery is recharged either by plugging it into a socket when the vehicle is stationary or by an alternator which operates when the diesel engine is running.
The electric synchronous motor is water-cooled.
The electric motor was initially developed by Audi and the University of Leoben. It was produced by Siemens. The motor weighs 22kg, half the weight of previous electric vehicle motors.