It turns out the Suzuki Swift Plug-In Hybrid we saw at the 2009 Toyko motor show was more than just a concept. The Japanese automaker recently revealed it is hard at work developing a test fleet that may hit the road later this summer.
The Swift PHEV operates like many other plug-in-hybrid vehicles. The car is propelled by a 55-kW (74 horsepower) electric motor powered by a 2.66-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, supplied by Sanyo Electric. The car can run just under 10 miles on electricity alone, but once the batteries are depleted, a small 660-cc gasoline engine comes online to function as a generator. According to Suzuki, this system is lighter and less expensive than installing a large battery pack, and allows the little Swift to achieve 88 mpg on the Japanese fuel economy testing cycle.
Later this year, Suzuki will send roughly 60 of the Swift PHEVs to its Japanese dealerships for real-world testing. Suzuki has announced its plans to ultimately sell a plug-in-hybrid vehicle, but has not given any specifics on the hybrid Swift’s future -- at this point, it will be strictly a limited-production test vehicle. Osamu Suzuki, the chairman of the company, says his company plans on ultimately introducing electric vehicles in Japan, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the firm focuses on launching PHEVs in the same market.
We also wouldn’t be surprised if Suzuki’s hybrid aspirations run outside of its home market. We’ve heard a hybrid Kizashi sedan was under development at one point, but was canned once General Motors ended its partnership with Suzuki. Since Volkswagen purchased a stake in the automaker back in December 2009, Suzuki has reiterated its plans to develop hybrid powertrains with a little help from VW.