Audi is intending introduce at least four plug-in hybrid cars as part of its plans to counter the electric car offensive of BMW AG. Audi plans to roll out its first plug-in hybrid -- the A3 Sportback E-tron -- in Europe this month and in the United States in the second or third quarter of 2015. Sales in China will commence in the first or second quarter of 2015.
The A3 Sportback E-tron will be targeted towards customers wanting green luxury vehicles, taking on BMW’s i3. Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler remarked that the A3 Sportback E-tron will be followed by more plug-in hybrids. He said that Audi “strongly believes” in plug-in hybrids, and is planning to add a new model every year starting with the Q7 in 2015, the A6 long-wheelbase sedan for China and the A8.
For Audi, plug-in hybrids provide the best solution for low-emission vehicles because since they are not limited in terms of range, unlike battery-powered vehicles. Stadler remarked that plug-in hybrids are exactly what its customers are asking for -- EVs for “everyday driving.”
The A3 Sportback E-tron can be piloted on pure electric power for about 30 miles and could go on another 373 miles on gasoline engine. The BMW i3, meanwhile, could cruise up to 100 miles. A range-extended version could go up to 187 miles.
Audi’s approach to clean-car technology differs from BMW, which established the “i” subbrand to highlight its environmental technology. BMW’s i3 city car and the i8 plug-in hybrid supercar feature plastic exterior body panels and unique styling.
Christian Breitsprecher, an analyst with Macquarie Europe,remarked that while BMW created a “totally different” product, Audi and Mercedes-Benz tried to integrate e-mobility into their existing vehicles.
He noted that Audi and Mercedes’ approach allows them to produce a lot of vehicles if the demand is high. If the demand is low, the carmakers could simply allocate the capacity to their conventional cars.