Within the next 18 months, Audi will begin to roll out gasoline-electric hybrid models but remains cautious about pure electric vehicles. CEO Rupert Stadler told Automotive News Europe that a Q5 hybrid will be launched in Europe this spring. The A6 hybrid will follow at the end of the year and an A8 hybrid will come in 2012.
Within two years of their European launch, the hybrids will then be launched in the U.S. and China. Stadler disclosed that at the end of 2012, Audi will start limited production of a battery-powered version of its R8 supercar.
And this summer in Munich, Germany, 20 electric variants of the A1 minicar will be field tested. Audi's electric cars will be grouped under the brand name E-tron.
When asked about the electric cars, Stadler asserted that he did not want to predict when these will be mass-produced. He revealed that the electric vehicle project is still in the early phase in terms of commercialization and they have yet to decide “whether the cars will be sold or leased, or will just be a collector's car."
Stadler added that Audi would first have to industrialize the lithium-ion-battery. He said that this is happening with the hybrid cars that now have the role of a bridge technology. Stadler said that other electric car issues that have to be resolved are range, performance and crash safety.
He explained that there shouldn’t be too much excitement for electric vehicles as the industry is “in the middle of a system change” and there are still many obstacles to overcome. [via autonews - sub. required]