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The Audi A3 e-Tron was on display at both the Geneva and New York auto shows.
The Audi A3 e-Tron was on display at both the Geneva and New York auto shows.

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Audi A3 to be resurrected as a plug-in hybrid Add to ...

The Audi A3 hatchback will not die in Canada, as initially thought, but will be resurrected as a plug-in hybrid, Audi Canada confirmed this week.

However, the plug-in version of the all-electric Mercedes-Benz B-Class, confirmed to be heading to the United States at last week’s New York auto show, is still not a sure thing for green car fans north of the border, a Mercedes Canada spokesperson said this week.

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The potential luxury hatchback plug-in rivals are scheduled to arrive in the United States next year. The B-Class Electric Drive is slated to start appearing in American dealers in early 2014, and, while Audi didn’t confirm the A3 Sportback e-Tron’s arrival time frame, the A3 sedan on which it is based is officially planned for the first quarter as well.

It would be a shock if Mercedes didn’t bring the B-Class BEV to Canada, especially since a gasoline version of the B-Class has been on sale in Canada since 2006, and M-B Canada’s leadership with enviro-friendly small hatchbacks here such as the Smart two-seater. Chances of that happening seem slim, however, as there are positive vibes about the B-Class BEV’s chances of making it to Canuck buyers.

“At this point, the B-Class electric is still not fully confirmed for Canada, but we're working hard to get it as well as the U.S.,” wrote Mercedes-Benz Canada spokesperson Michael Minielly in an e-mail earlier this week.

The company has just started delivering the Smart fortwo Electric Drive coupe and convertible in Canada, about a month before the two-seat BEVs start arriving in the United States. The two Smarts have become the lowest-priced plug-in vehicles available in Canada, at $26,990 for the coupe and $29,990 for the convertible, before provincial clean car rebates of $5,000-$8,500 in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

In show form, the A3 e-Tron, which was also shown at the Geneva auto show in March and will be sold in Europe, featured a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine, with 204 combined gas and electric horses, and 258 lb-ft of torque. Based on European drive cycles, it is rated at an all-electric range of 50 km, and an overall fuel efficiency rating of a minuscule 1.5 litres/100 km.

The A3 e-Tron uses a newly designed six-speed automatic transmission to send power to the front wheels, though its New York unveiling didn’t provide confirmation of either EPA numbers or even whether this would be the drivetrain used in the production version.

Perhaps not coincidentally, early 2014 is also when the BMW i3 plug-in is set to arrive in Canada and the United States. It will be another small but luxury-oriented hatchback, a battery-electric vehicle more similar to the electrons-only Mercedes-Benz BEV, but the i3 will also offer a range-extender option that will include a small motorcycle-based gasoline engine that will recharge the batteries occasionally, if needed.

U.S. proposes rules for cleaner gasoline

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for cleaner gasoline and therefore cleaner emissions from gasoline-powered cars, with a goal for new Tier 3 standards to be implemented by 2017. So far, there’s general support from auto manufacturers and environmental groups for the new rules, with the only opposition coming from the oil industry, the EPA said in announcing the new proposed standards.

The move will result in higher prices at the pump and at the dealership, the EPA conceded, but estimated the increased costs at approximately $150 (U.S.) per vehicle, and less than a penny per U.S. gallon.

The new standards reduce the amount of sulphur in gasoline from 30 parts per million to 10 ppm, while reducing a range of smog-forming and toxic air pollutants.

B.C. government extends alternative energy rebates

Potential plug-in car buyers in British Columbia breathed a collective sigh of relief when the provincial government extended its consumer rebate of up to $5,000 just days before it was set to expire on March 31.

Leading plug-in vehicle auto makers such as GM, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Ford will also be heartened by the extension, since sales of the vehicles in provinces without such incentives have been nearly non-existent.

The move pushes out the final deadline for rebates on plug-in purchases, as well as natural-gas-powered and fuel-cell vehicles, to March 31, 2014, in British Columbia, or earlier if the $6.5-million earmarked for the Clean Energy Fund is exhausted.

A rolling countdown of the funds available is listed on cevforbc.ca, with $4,337,734 available as of early this week.

Rebates of up to $1,000 on the installation of electric vehicle charging equipment was also extended one year to help early adopters of such plug-in electric vehicles, though buyers can always choose to plug in their vehicles using regular plugs and outlets.

Tesla drops smaller, cheaper battery option on Model S

The base price of a Tesla Model S was effectively increased by more than 10 grand this week when the company announced that it will not produce the 40 kWh version of the highly lauded all-electric luxury sedan.

Tesla said that only 4 per cent of buyers opted for the smallest capacity battery, which offered a maximum range of 250 km, and therefore wasn’t enough to justify producing. If such numbers hold true north of the border, the vast majority of buyers in Canada preferred to pay $10,700-$35,900 more for models that are rated closer to 370 to 480 km of range (at 88 km/h), and offered higher levels of interior equipment and fast-charging options as well.

For buyers who ordered a 40 kWh model, the company says it will honour the former price, but limit the included 60 kWh battery through software to the promised range of the 40 kWh model. Should the waiting buyer wish to upgrade, or potentially a future buyer of such a Model S, it will cost $11,800 after the car is produced.

Tesla also announced that all 60 kWh cars will now come with Supercharger hardware pre-installed, so that buyers who don’t opt to pay the $2,150 (Canadian) upgrade fee upon ordering, can do it later to receive free fast-charging at electric stations Tesla is planning to install across North America.

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