Even as Audi is preparing to introduce a full-electric SUV, which boasts a 500 km (310 mile) range that would rival Tesla's Model X crossover, its CEO Rupert Stadler continues to be cautious about EVs. When interviewed by Automotive News Europe last week, Stadler said that customers who want a vehicle with electrification will be choosing plug-in hybrids at least for the next 10 to 15 years.
He explained that plug-in hybrids offer the right balance, with electric power used for city driving and the internal combustion engine used for longer journeys. Plug-in hybrids are equipped with a gasoline or diesel engine as well as an electric motor. Audi’s A3 Sportback e-tron is the first plug-in from the automaker. It started selling last November in Europe.
On electric power, it has a range of 50km. Stadler said that more people will accept the EVs if it gets a longer range and if the fast-charging network is improved. On March 10 at Audi’s annual press conference, r&d chief Ulrich Hackenberg said that the company will present a large premium SUV with a range of over 500km in early 2018.
He shared that the model will utilize a new design that is being developed for the brand’s plug-in hybrids and EVs. It will be equipped with the second-generation MLB platform from Volkswagen (Audi’s parent) that is lighter and will help in increasing its range. No other details were given. According to company insiders, this model will be based on the next Q5.
It will feature the e-tron badge that the brand has been using for EVs and plug-ins. Stadler added that when a fast-charging station is used, it only takes 20 minutes for this new EV to get 80% of its charge. He said that many countries are working on charging networks. In particular, China’s network is expected to cover 16,000 km of highways by 2020 with a station built every 50 km.
This EV will mark the first time that Audi will enter the mainstream market with an EV. Presently, the niche R8 e-tron supercar is Audi’s only EV being sold. Audi’s second-generation R8 e-tron, which was launched at the Geneva auto show, has new battery cells and so its range has been doubled to 450 km.
The range of the new battery-powered Audi SUV will be longer than that of the Tesla Model X crossover, which is about to go on sale. The Model X has a range of up to 430km. Tesla has recently begun selling a longer-range version of its Model S sedan with a 360km-range between charges.