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Plug-in diesel-electric V70

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With a 202bhp diesel engine driving the front wheels and a battery-powered electric motor with 70bhp to drive the rear axle, the plug-in V70 hybrid won't be a slouch when it goes on sale in 2012 (although no official performance figures have been quoted).

On the official fuel consumption cycle, however, Volvo says it will emit less than 50g/km of CO2 and return an average of 148.6mpg. Impressive.

Volvo points out that 75% of us travel fewer than 31 miles a day, which makes the battery's theoretical maximum range of 31 miles extremely convenient. If you need to go any further, the maximum range with the diesel engine is nearly 750 miles.

In reality, though, most people are unlikely to match official figures, but you could probably still commute carbon-free if you could find somewhere at work to recharge the car.

We got to drive the plug-in V70 in electric mode only, so it's uncertain just how gently you would have to treat the throttle to avoid the diesel engine kicking in. Volvo promises, though, that the electric mode will be sufficient for the majority of commuter journeys we'll have to wait and see.

How much will it cost? At the moment, it would be nearly 14,000 more than a conventional diesel engined model. Volvo says this premium will come down by 2012, because the cost of batteries has fallen 30% since last December and will continue to drop.

Exactly how much the cost will come down is still uncertain, however, as is the Government's promise of up to 5000 for people who buy electric cars. If the plug-in V70 qualified for all of that, and if battery prices drop a further 30% or so, the premium could be cut to 4500.

There are still a lot of 'ifs' over the price, but as Volvo's boss Steve Odell has said, the company has to learn to swim in uncharted waters or sink.