Spanish automaker SEAT has actively promoted plug-in vehicles throughout the region in the past two years. This Volkswagen subsidiary has worked with the City of Barcelona and Spanish businesses to reduce barriers to EV ownership since 2010. SEAT inked an agreement earlier this year with Barcelona officials on a six-month road test of plug-in models. This agreement has come to fruition with the delivery of four plug-in vehicles to Barcelona City Hall, the Catalan Energy Institute and Endesa. SEAT will assess performance of the Altea XL Electric Ecomotive and the Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive plug-in hybrid through the end of 2012.
Utility firm Endesa, Barcelona City Hall and Catalan Energy Institute each received an Altea XL Electric Ecomotive from SEAT. The Altea XL is the first pure EV produced by SEAT and represents the cutting edge of the automaker’s green vehicle line. This all-electric vehicle produces a maximum output of 85 kW and reaches a top speed of 84 miles per hour. SEAT estimates battery range of 84 miles based on a mixture of highway and urban driving. Drivers need not sacrifice passenger space or cargo capacity thanks to a battery pack stretched under the rear seats. The Altea XL also uses rooftop solar panels as a power source for heating and cooling systems.
Barcelona City Hall will test the Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive with additional units delivered to corporate partners by early next year. This plug-in hybrid can travel up to 32 miles in all-electric mode at a top speed of 60 MPH. Drivers can switch to hybrid mode in order to extend range and reach a maximum speed of 105 MPH. An estimated fuel economy rating of 138 miles per gallon takes into account electric power at low speeds and efficient engine use. SEAT cites carbon emissions under 39 grams per kilometer, an impressive showing for a hybrid model.
SEAT is already laying the groundwork for broader EV adoption in Spain instead of simply pushing out new models. The automaker recently renewed its commitment to the Logistics for the Implementation of the Electric Vehicle (LIVE) Project initiated by the City of Barcelona.
SEAT has consulted with Endesa, Siemens and B:SM on charging infrastructure, regulatory changes and other components of EV adoption. Another phase of SEAT’s EV crusade is a regional collaboration called CENIT VERDE. This partnership of government agencies, research institutes and businesses promotes EV research that could benefit consumers throughout the world.
Each driver involved in this six-month trial will provide feedback on vehicle comfort and performance. SEAT hopes that driver journals provide invaluable tips on how to improve plug-in models before reaching mass production. The biggest issue facing SEAT and the City of Barcelona heading forward is the uncertain nature of the Spanish economy. Spain is facing years of tightened regional and national budgets that endanger development of EV infrastructure.
Austerity will halt grants for university researchers searching for improved battery technology as well as incentives for consumers to purchase EVs. SEAT must continue forward with public and private partners in anticipation of a future where plug-in vehicles will be commonplace.