An exact timeline was not given for when the new powertrains would be introduced but Fuji Heavy Industries chief Ikuo Mori has told Bloomberg that he expects new diesel and hybrid models to be launched by Subaru in the next two to three years.
Importantly, a 2011 or 2012 introduction for these models will give Subaru some time up its sleeve to get its entire fleet to achieve a fleet average fuel economy of 35.5mpg by 2016, the new goal set down by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The source of Subaru’s hybrid technology is likely to be Toyota, which currently owns a 16% stake in Fuji Heavy Industries. Subaru and Toyota are already working on a joint sports car and sharing components makes sense for both companies as they weather the current downturn in the industry.
It’s uncertain how a hybrid powertrain would fit in with Subaru's all-wheel-drive philosophy, but it has been suggested that a small electric motor could be used to power the rear wheels, while a conventional petrol engine powers the front. Alternatively, two small electric motors could be fitted to both axles, with a petrol generator to keep the batteries powered, although this solution could present weight issues and prove too expensive.
Subaru has already previewed its electric future with plug-in hybrid and all-electric concepts based on its Stella compact and R1 minicar. Both concepts have evolved to the prototype stage but any production possibility appears to be several years away still.