Volkswagen Expands Hybrid Plug-In Vehicles in China, But Will Other Markets Follow?

vwWe may not have caught up to what folks in the recent past pictured the 21st century to be like, but we’re at least taking baby steps to get there. Just ask Volkswagen.

The German automaker recently announced its latest endeavor to manufacture plug-in hybrid vehicles for the Chinese market in an effort to draw drivers in with the new cars’ air pollution-fighting technology, Reuters reports. China has been plagued with hazardous pollution for years as its economy has relied on heavy industry. VW plug-ins would help cut down on vehicular exhaust fumes.

As Chinese leader Li Kequiang said last month, China is undertaking efforts to curb the amount of pollution by shifting its economy more toward greener approaches, and that includes changes in the production and consumption of energy. The plan, worth a reported 10 billion yuan ($1.61 billion USD), is what some market watchers believe caught VW’s attention to turn its gaze to the green car market. VW hasn’t, after all, been much of a leader in the earth-friendly auto scene, especially when compared against of efforts of Toyota and Honda.

Turning its focus to environmentally friendly vehicles for the Chinese market may help boost VW’s sales, though the numbers show they don’t necessarily need one. Reports indicate that China is the automaker’s number-one market and even accounted for a third of all its global deliveries — which totaled just under 10 million, a record — in 2013. Still, VW would be wise to get its claws into the hybrid market before it gets boxed out, and that’s what it appears to be doing with this unique plug-in move.

“I think that this is a good thing,” says Eli Pruett, Owner and President of Bumblebee Batteries. ”The more hybrids, the merrier! China has one of the fastest growing economies of any country, and quite frankly, it would be stupid for other companies not to expand into that market.”

So, what do plug-in hybrid cars have that regular battery-powered hybrids don’t? Standard hybrid vehicles utilize a dual-power system that splits the powering of the car more or less evenly between the gasoline engine and the battery. Plug-in autos, however, don’t rely at all on traditional gas engines, instead performing with the help of their batteries alone, which are recharged, as their name suggests, by plugging them to electrical sources.

But what about “crossover” vehicles? The term gets thrown around quite a lot in car advertisements, but it really just refers to SUVs with a bit of different technology that allows them to be a bit more lightweight and fuel-efficient. As Forbes recently reported, it might be the end of the line for “crossovers” as SUVs go back into vogue — this time with some plug-in technologies of their own to boast about.

We might not have flying cars yet, but we have plug-in hybrids. It’s not The Jetsons, but considering where we were even 20 years ago, it’s progress we can all be proud of.