Luxury and hybrid is a common combination these days, and it's soon to become much more common. While the likes of the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid, ActiveHybrid 7, Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid, and Lexus's many hybrid offerings are either too expensive and exclusive or simply inadequate (HS 250h anyone?), BMW's planned 5-series and, confirmed today, 3-Series hybrids could be the Goldilocks solution: just right.

The 3-Series already sells in solid volumes for the luxury market, and a hybrid version would add all the image appeal and benefit at a more affordable point. And they may be on their way sooner than you'd think. According to a Reuters report, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer told shareholders at an annual meeting in Munich, "As early as next year, the new BMW 5-Series will also be available as a full hybrid. And we are anticipating the hybridization of further models series, such as the BMW 3-Series."

The arrival of the 3-Series won't be next year, but with the X6 followed by the 7-Series and then the 5-Series, the hybrid 3er could conceivably be on the streets by 2012. That would also coincide with the expected debut of the next-gen 3-Series platform.

BMW's move to hybrids throughout its lineup isn't purely altruistic, however. As emissions standards around the world cinch ever tighter around the waist of the car industry, hybrids will be key to meeting the new rules while still allowing adequate power to move its relatively large, heavy cars around. Diesel is also a solid solution, but is already in place in the 3-Series in the form of the 335d, which though a good performer, hasn't seen the same level of acceptance as it has in the X5 range.

Stay tuned for more updates on the development of the 3-Series hybrid. For more details on plans for the 5-Series, including the M5's possible KERS performance-boosting kinetic hybrid system, check out our previous coverage here.

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