SEAT - All-Electric and Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle CONCEPTS

Written By: Brittney B.

SEAT is a subsidiary of the German-owned Volkswagen group, but it is (as always) a Spanish manufacturer, and now it's one of Spain's greatest hopes for a cleaner, greener future. Its name stands for Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo (the Spanish Society of Automobiles and Tourism). SEAT's Barcelona manufacturing site has played host to foreign partners Ford and Fiat, and now there are manufacturing and design centers throughout the country, including additional factories in Vigo and Martorell. Today SEAT produces a variety of gas-powered vehicles, but they're looking forward, and some of their most promising new prototypes are electric or hybrid options.

Signs of progress for SEAT

The Spanish government has enlisted SEAT's help in various environmental efforts, including developing a railway for its vehicles and parts, and installing solar panels in one of its factories. However, SEAT still doesn't produce any electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. So far, all of its electric and hybrid powertrains have belonged to concept cars and prototypes that will never make it to the mass market.

Lately, the automaker has narrowed its focus on fuel-efficient technologies, thanks to everything from government-backed research projects to increasing heat from European competitors. Over the past few years, announcements and car show unveilings have included hybrid SUVs, electric sports cars, and multiple green versions of the ever-evolving SEAT León.

León Verde Plug-in Hybrid

                                       SEAT Leon Verde Plug-in Hybrid

In 2009, SEAT borrowed Volkswagen's Twin Drive technology for a new plug-in hybrid of its own: the León Ecomotive Twin Drive, which received 74.3 MPG with a lithium-ion battery and a 1.6-liter turbo diesel engine. A year later, the León Twin Drive came to a showcase of environmental vehicles in Madrid. The prototype marked a first step toward feasible plug-in technologies, suggesting that León's long legacy will eventually include a lineup of fully electric vehicles.

For now, plug-in hybrids are a more attainable goal, and it looks like León is the model worth watching. In 2013, the latest León in SEAT's lineup was followed by a plug-in hybrid version of the same model. The León Verde, quite literally the "green" version of the León, might be the closest SEAT has ever come to a production-ready plug-in. Its powertrain can last for up to 507 miles, relying on both a 1.4-liter engine and a 8.8 kWh battery that powers a 75 kWh electric motor. The battery alone can last for 31 miles, and it helps drivers avoid taxes by satisfying requirements for lower carbon dioxide emissions.

The SEAT León Verde is the result of four years of research and development, but it's never going to arrive in dealerships. The four-door car gives back to the power grid with an on-board charger, and its estimated fuel economy is 176 MPG. Its fully electric range hasn't changed, but a connectivity option allows you to synchronize your smartphone with the battery in an effort to observe and conserve energy.

IBE Electric Car Concept

The SEAT IBE made its debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show before appearing at the Paris Motor Show the same year. It was the result of SEAT's contribution to a nationwide environmental initiative, which the government created in order to speed up progress toward hybrid and fully electric vehicles. The IBE, an electric coupe, is SEAT's first zero-emissions vehicle (if concepts count). It's also a sign of things to come from SEAT's designers and engineers.

The IBE was designed with aerodynamics and power in mind, but it's also an environmentally savvy sports car that's fit for urban lifestyles. Its energy-saving components are positioned and constructed to keep the car speedy and lightweight. These include a compact rear suspension, energy storage under the floor, and a 18 kWh lithium-ion battery in the back.

IBX Plug-in Hybrid Crossover Concept

                                  SEAT IBX Plug-in hybrid Crossover concept

When SEAT revealed the IBX at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, President James Muir called the SUV a demonstration of the company's values, as well as proof of its ongoing commitment to sustainability and progress. The IBX came just a year after the IBE, and both concepts offered purer designs, more efficient powertrains, and compact appeal for city drivers. However, the IBX is more versatile, spacious and powerful, and not just because it's an SUV.

Rather than running on battery power alone, this SUV gets extra range and power from a conventional engine, making it a plug-in hybrid crossover. SEAT considered a few different combustion engines to complement the IBX's rechargeable battery pack, which can last on its own for up to 28 miles (or 45 kilometers). Both gas and diesel candidates would work in the IBX, but they'd come from members of its pre-existing lineup, rather than being exclusive plug-in technologies.

As SEAT continues to progress toward production-ready vehicles that run completely or partially on electric power, future prototypes will likely provide sneak peeks of the latest advances. SEAT may venture in its own unique direction, continue a trend of adapting current vehicles for greener technologies, or even take cues from its German parent company. But whatever the future holds for this Spanish innovator, plug-in hybrids will likely make an appearance.