Seat has unveiled an electrically-driven prototype based on its Leon hatchback, which the company plans to trial in an urban environment together with the Spanish government. The technology behind the new prototype is Volkswagen Group’s Twin Drive plug-in hybrid powertrain, which was first displayed in a Mark V Golf hatch and then again in the new Mark VI model.

The prototype receives its name from its twin powerplant design, which features an electric motor designed for city driving and an internal combustion engine for longer trips. Likewise, certain elements such as the gearbox, brakes, heating and cooling systems, and a substantial part of the electronics have also been modified.

The electric motor is powered by a group of lithium-ion batteries located at the rear of the vehicle, providing sustainable power of 35kW and a restricted top speed of 100km/h. On electric power alone the vehicle can travel a total distance of 50km. After that its internal combustion engine, a highly efficient turbodiesel unit, kicks in. The idea is that the electric motor will be used exclusively for short urban trips and the internal combustion engine for longer journeys and highway travel.

VW is also conducting its own trial of the Twin Drive system together with the German government. The company will trial a fleet of 20 Twin Drive Golfs later this year under a new scheme investigating the future of personal mobility. To ensure the cars are true zero-emissions vehicles, the electrical energy required to charge the batteries under the trial will be generated from renewable resources such as wind and hydro power.

Both companies expect to have the first production models ready for public sale around 2014.