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All 2018 Audi A8s will be hybrids... technically

It's not a full hybrid system. Just think of it as a very big car battery.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

Most cars these days still operate on the 12-volt electrical systems that have been around for decades. But with the need to boost efficiency, Audi is ready to move away from that setup in favor of something a bit more... capable.

The 2018 Audi A8 flagship luxury sedan will come standard with a 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system when it goes on sale later this year, Automotive News reports, citing a conversation with the head of Audi's mild-hybrid system. After the A8's release, the setup will be pushed to other large Audi vehicles, including the A6 and A7, as well.

The Audi Prologue concept offers our best look at the future of the A8, but we'll know what it really looks like when it debuts next month.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

Instead of the 12-volt car battery you're used to, these cars will sport a 48-volt lithium ion battery and a belt-driven alternator and starter. It can collect energy under braking and store that in the battery, and it can also power cars so they can coast with the engine off while at speed, both of which can boost fuel economy.

The battery can also provide up to 16 horsepower and 44 pound-feet of torque for a bit of extra performance. The immediacy with which electric systems can deliver torque can help fill performance gaps in a gas or diesel engine's rev range.

The 12-volt battery will still have a place in these vehicles, but it'll be used for powering ancillary systems, and a separate starter will be included for cold starts. Yes, there's a bit more complication involved with this system.

The idea of a 48-volt mild hybrid system isn't necessarily new. Delphi has been hard at work for more than a year developing its own solution, but it's not clear if this is the same system as Audi's. Other automakers offer this technology, as well -- you can find 48-volt systems on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the new Bentley Bentayga SUV.