INGOLSTADT, GERMANY — Audi of America plans to launch its first diesel and hybrid vehicles this year. Both powerplants will be offered on the full-sized Q7 SUV, according to Automotive News.

The SUV is likely to be the first of several hybrid models. Audi has not disclosed which other vehicles will get the parallel hybrid system, which can run on either a traditional gasoline engine or electric motor — or on both at the same time.

Audi has been working on a hybrid engine with Volkswagen and Porsche, but will be the first of the partners to launch a vehicle with the gasoline-electric system. Porsche said a hybrid Cayenne SUV will be sold in the U.S. at the end of the decade.

At an Audi technical day last weekend, experts said the hybrid system is modular and can easily be adapted to different model ranges. Josef Bast, head of Audi AG’s powertrain electronics unit in Germany, said the electric drive easily integrates with existing drivetrains, reported Automotive News.

The Q7 will have a 3.6L, 280-hp gasoline fuel-injected engine mated to the electric engine. The hybrid system will use about 23-percent less fuel — getting about 23 mpg — than a Q7 running only on gasoline, said Bast (or 9.8L of fuel per 100 km). Audi says it cannot provide a mileage range.

On the diesel side, Audi plans to bring in a turbodiesel Q7 with a 3.0L V-6 powerplant producing about 230 hp and about 400 lb.-ft. of torque. It will be available for all 50 states at the end of 2008 in low volume. The diesel is expected to have a 600-mile range on one tank of gasoline.

The electric motor works at speeds of 12 to 15 mph and will go as fast as 31 mph. Bast said that if the hybrid vehicle is coasting and the driver does not step on the accelerator, the system turns off the gasoline engine and continues to move at speeds as high as 75 mph .

Audi chose the parallel system because it is lighter and less expensive than other systems, Bast said.

Features of the system include:

  • The air-conditioning system, automatic transmission and brake booster all run off the electric motor.
  • A new electrohydraulic power steering system operates only when needed.
  • When the SUV brakes, energy is fed back to the electric motor battery.

    Bast said Audi uses a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery with a peak output of 288 volts. The battery weighs 152 pounds and is made up of 240 cells, each with an output of 1.2 volts. In addition, the hybrid module weighs 88 pounds. The total additional weight of the hybrid system is about 309 pounds. The battery does not take up any of the seating space and is in the spare wheel well in the rear.