Audi e-tron edges closer to production

Article James Howe Chris Haining
Mar 9, 2018
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Early online deposits now being taken for Audi’s Tesla rival

Audi has confirmed that online deposits are now being taken for its new e-tron SUV – an all-electric rival to the Tesla Model X. Customers can place a £1,000 deposit that entitles them to be first in line to order the new car when it goes on sale later this year.

The news comes following this year’s Geneva Motor Show, where Audi showed off a lightly disguised example of the e-tron. Previously, a concept revealed at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show offered the first glimpse at Audi’s EV plans.

The production e-tron will be the first of many Audi models to be built on the Volkswagen Group’s next-generation MEB platform; Audi claims that 20 electrified cars – both EVs and hybrids – will join its range by 2025. The new car will be built at Audi’s carbon-neutral factory in Brussels.

Audi hasn"t released an operational range for the e-tron, but claims that the electric SUV will charge to 80% capacity in less than 30 minutes from a 150kW fast chargers. The model is also confirmed as being four-wheel drive, using a system dubbed ‘e-quattro’.

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It’s likely that full details of the e-tron’s capability will released once the car’s rigorous testing programme is complete – 250 cars will be used to cover a total of more than three million miles on four continents before the car goes on sale. Charging, range and performance are set to be tested in extreme cold and heat and in a variety of real-world situations.

Although a new Q6 model is known to be joining the range, Audi has decided its electric SUV will be named in such a way as to separate it from its more conventional stablemates. Stepping outside the existing model name hierarchy also gives Audi greater freedom on pricing.

Audi boss Rupert Stadler admitted “I would not like to limit the nomenclature for the first car, because Q6 fixes the price as well as Q8 is fixing a price, and I would like to feel free.” This comes as a strong hint that the e-tron’s advanced battery technology could push its price beyond that of the Audi Q7.

Audi e-tron SUV concept – design

The Audi e-tron SUV is expected to draw its style from the e-tron concept first revealed at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. The show car was a collaborative design effort between Audi’s German and American studios.

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Discussing the proportions and features hoped to set the e-tron apart, Audi’s head of total vehicle development, Dr Rudiger Chmielewski, told Carbuyer that: “We have found the right height. You will find this in the exterior. You’ll also find the headlight pattern in all our electric cars.”

The e-tron concept saw the debut of Audi’s ‘Matrix’ Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) lighting technology, which is continuously variable and can keep the road ahead illuminated without dazzling other drivers. This works by moving and turning off individual OLEDs to ‘bend’ and curve their beams around other cars on the road.

Dr Chmielewski continued: “The flush door handles will feature, too. A lot of heart went into these. We hope we can use them with rear-view cameras [instead of door mirrors].” Regulations will have to change for this to become a reality, however.

As well as all-electric rivals, the e-tron will take on conventionally-powered coupe/SUV crossovers like the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe. Audi claims that the Q6 will be the most aerodynamically efficient car in its class, which will help increase its range.

On that subject, Dr Chmielewski said: “This is an electric car suitable for the long haul. It’ll have a 500km (310-mile) range and is tangible proof of our commitment to electric mobility.”

The car’s launch will coincide with big changes in electric car infrastructure – especially in Audi’s home market of Germany. Dr Chmielewski said: “By the time we launch the e-tron, we’ll have a fast-charge network in Germany. An 80% charge will take 30 minutes. The success of a model like this will depend on the infrastructure.” He also confirmed that Audi was developing wireless inductive charging for installation at owners’ homes.

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