Audi has quickly become a leader in hybrid and electrified technology, having released two fully electric cars and several hybrids in just two short years. Despite not having many electrified vehicles prior, these past couple of years have seen Audi ramp up its EV tech massively. However, the four-ringed brand is actually no stranger to electric tech. In fact, it was working on hybrid technology before almost anyone, having made a plug-in hybrid more than thirty years ago. The 1989 Audi 100 Avant Duo.
Admittedly, Audi never actually sold the Avant Duo, as only six test mules were ever made and they all went to trial programs. However, the tech was there back in the late ’80s, proving that Audi was ahead of the game.
Powering the Audi 100 Avant Duo was a 2.3 liter five-cylinder gas engine with 136 PS (134 horsepower), which sent power to the front wheels, and a 12.6 PS (12.4 horsepower) Siemens electric motor that drove the rear wheels. Interestingly, if you wanted to use just the electric motor, you had to stop, put the transmission into neutral and press the “E” button on the dashboard. The latter would engage the electric drive mode, which solely used the rear-mounted electric motor.
Under pure electric power, the Audi 100 Avant Duo was capable of around 24 miles, which isn’t bad even today. Though, it could only reach a top speed of 31 mph before the gasoline engine kicked in.
Even more interesting is the fact that the Avant Duo had regenerative braking, all the way back in 1989. So upon applying the brakes, energy was captured and sent back into the battery. That’s really impressive stuff for a car that’s thirty years old.
Obviously, the Audi 100 Avant Duo wasn’t a sales success, as it was never actually sold. However, its technology and capabilities were so promising that Audi actually made a second version, the Audi A4 Avant Duo, based on the B5 A4 chassis. It had a smaller 1.9 liter turbocharged engine with just about 90 horsepower, with an additional 28 horsepower coming from the electric motor. It could also hit 50 mph but both powertrains only drove the front wheels.
Audi’s motto is Vorsprung Durch Technik, roughly translating to “Advancement Through Technology), so it’s not much of a surprise that it was so far ahead of the game back then. Now, it seems to have slowed down just a bit but things are getting back on track. But every hybrid or electric car Audi makes owes itself to the original Audi 100 Avant Duo.