This years Frankfurt Motors Show was all about plug-in hybrids. You could hardly get between stands for falling over power cables left lying around to underline that fact that you could plug the car at the end of them into a wall socket to charge its batteries and get some zero-tailpipe emissions motoring done. Of course it wasn't all hybrids, but it was impossible to navigate the halls and not come away with the impression that in ten years time most of us will be driving cars we can charge like our mobile phones even if they still have petrol or diesel engines under the bonnet.
Star of the show was the Porsche 918 Spyder, a mid-engined plug-in hybrid powered by a 4.6 litre V8 engine developing 608 horsepower and two electric motors delivering an additional 279bhp for a combined output of 887 horsepower. Gulp. Using the just the batteries and the electric motors the car can get to 60mph in 7 seconds and run at up to 93mph. Maximum electric-only range is 20 miles though obviously to if you running at 93mph! The race version of just demolished the lap record at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit. If you want one of the 918 LHD cars Porsche plans on building you'll need very deep pockets (no official UK price has been announced) and I suspect friends in high places at Porsche.
Rather more affordable will be Audi's A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid. With a 1.4-litre petrol engine which delivers 148bhp and a 101bhp electric motor integrated into the car's six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission the A3 e-tron can cover the 0-62mph dash in 7.6sec and has a top speed of 138mph; more impressively it means a claimed average of 188mpg and CO2 emissions of just 35g/km. Plug it into a domestic wall socket for a few hours and the 8.8kWh battery gives the car a potential all-electric range of 31 miles which ain't bad. Due to go on sale next year the e-tron will set you back around £32,000.
Mercedes' new S-Class Plug-In Hybrid will apparently offer 94.2mpg average fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions of just 69g/km which should make it the most efficient car in its class. It uses a 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol engine mated to an 80kW electric motor. In electric-only mode, this S-Class can travel up to 18 miles. If you put your foot hard down the S500 Plug-In Hybrid will get from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and push on to a 155mph top speed so you can save the planet and go like stink in opulence at the same time. Nice.
Rather more sexy was BMW's i8, big brother to the i3, a small plug-in hybrid that will go on sale next year. Finally revealed in Frankfurt in production trim the i8 has a turbo-boosted 1.5-litre three-cylinder shoving out 230bhp and driving the rear wheels and an electric motor at the front delivering another 130bhp. There's no price yet for this visually stunning carbon-fiber wonder but I'm guessing it won't be cheap.
For us Brits the highlight of the show was the Jaguar C-X17 concept. Purists may howl about Jaguar making an SUV but it needs to make what the punters want if it's to stay in business and chief designer Ian Callum has at least managed to come up with a shape but looks like a Jag and isn't as ugly as sin like most Chelsea tractors. More significantly the new SUV will be the first model to be built on the company's new aluminium monocoque structure for smaller cars, which carries the code name iQ[Al] and will spawn a small saloon in 2015. The new car is meant to compete with the BMW 3-Series and erase forever memories of the dismal (and Ford Mondeo-based) X-Type. Not to be left out Jaguar said that its UK-developed new powertrains will include plug-in hybrid options.