Audi Confirms Plans to Build All-Electric SUV To Cross-Shop Against Tesla Model X in 2018

The Volkswagen group was a little late to the mass-market electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid party, launching its first mass-produced electric car — the tiny 2013 e-Up —  nearly three years after market leaders Nissan. Since then however, it has more than made up for its slow start, launching a wide range of plug-in vehicles from the all-electric 2016 e-Golf hatchback through to the 2016 Audi Q7 e-tron quattro plug-in hybrid and the super-sexy 2016 Audi R8 e-tron sports car.

The Audi R8 e-tron is essentially a platform to help Audi build other long-range electric cars.

The Audi R8 e-tron is essentially a platform to help Audi build other long-range electric cars.

In fact, from no plug-in models in 2013, the Volkswagen group [XETRA: VOW3]— including Audi, Porsche, VW and others — now offers more plug in models than any other automaker we can think of.

Earlier this week at its annual press conference, Volkswagen’s luxury arm Audi confirmed another brand-new plug-in model due to hit the market by 2018: an all-electric SUV that could wear the Q6 e-tron badge and offer a range of up to 300 miles per charge.

The announcement comes courtesy of Audi’s chief of engineering, Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, who said that the recently-unveiled 2016 Audi R8 e-tron will be a “technical light tower” that will enable Audi to build a much larger, family-friendly all-electric SUV in 2018.

As UK magazine Autoexpress reports, Hackenberg showed the assembled crowd a darkened image of a sleek, sporty concept SUV, complete with large wheelarches, laser headlights and a low waistline.

Unlike the Audi Q7 e-tron quattro, the future model would be 100 percent electric.

Unlike the Audi Q7 e-tron quattro, the future model would be 100 percent electric.

“In early 2018, we will launch a battery-powered sports activity vehicle in the large premium segment with a range of more than 500 kilometres,” he said. “It will have a new, very attractive design, which we are developing especially for the e-tron range and for battery-powered vehicles. This sports activity vehicle will be build in the second generation of the modular longitude platform (MLB 2) — our concept for the optimal drivetrain diversity implementation.”

From the description and the technical capabilities, this would put the promised vehicle squarely in the same market as the upcoming 2016 Tesla Model X Crossover SUV, which Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] says will enter production in Q3, 2015.

“It’s a more passenger orientated car, so for more than two passengers. But it will be a car which can be used by families that have some money, it is premium. It will have a big battery capacity and a range of more than 500km,” Hackenberg promised. “We will make a presentation soon.”

At this point it’s worth noting that the promised range of 500 kilometres is probably based on the European NEDC test cycle, which is notoriously over-optimistic for electric car range. Even taking a rather pessimistic estimation however and knocking off a rather large 20% to obtain a more usable real-world figure, we’re still left with a range of 400 kilometers per charge, or 248.5 miles.

Those who are eagerly awaiting the Tesla Model X Crossover SUV will note that’s a figure that is slightly larger than the 230 miles of real-world range the Model X is expected to achieve in everyday use.  And unlike the Q7 e-tron quattro you’ll see featured in this post, the future electric Q-model will be all-electric.

Continuing his exposition, Hackenberg said the increase in range is thanks to a next-generation battery technology the Volkswagen group is developing, enabling a much higher-energy density than in previous generation electric cars. Indeed, it’s that same battery technology which Audi has used to increase the storage capacity of the R8 e-tron’s on-board battery pack from 84 watt-hours per kilogram in the early prototypes to 154 watt-hours per kilogram in the production model.

The new Audi R8 e-tron can go up to 280 miles per charge of its 92 kilowatt-hour battery pack. That same battery pack could be used in a future 2018 model-year SUV.

The new Audi R8 e-tron can go up to 280 miles per charge of its 92 kilowatt-hour battery pack. That same battery pack could be used in a future 2018 model-year SUV.

As to the form factor? Hackenberg admitted that a crossover SUV isn’t exactly the most aerodynamic of vehicles, thanks to its inherently large surface area and high wind resistance.
“But if you ask the sales people, everything has to be Q!.” he joked, making a nod to the continuing trend in the U.S., Europe and Asia towards large, luxurious SUVs above all other vehicle types.

We’ll find out more in coming months, but at least Hackenberg’s speech confirms the rumors we’d already heard about this intriguing future plug-in.

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  • jeffsongster

    Glad to see them jumping in to the game even if a bit late. While I am hopeful that it will be cool stuff. The phrase ‘put up or shut up’ comes to mind when thinking of how, after Nissan and Tesla showed their cars… the rest of the companies are following the Microsoft “me too… later… supposedly better products marketing scheme” designed only to delay the game.nFirst they laugh at you, then they mock you, then you win. Fun to see them all trying to re-establish their tech chops after having their hats handed to them by Tesla and Nissan. The more the merrier… but show us… don’t just tell us. You know they have had most of these ideas percolating for the past 30 years… so the real question is why aren’t they loads better than Tesla and Nissan.

  • Espen Hugaas Andersen

    I wouldn’t conclude that the Q6 e-tron has more range then the Model X. It might, but as long as we don’t know which battery pack options the Model X will come with, there’s no way to tell. (A while back, Tesla removed the text saying that the Model X would come with 60 and 85 kWh battery packs. Now it just says it will come with “multiple battery pack options”, suggesting that Tesla might introduce more energy dense cells soon, boosting the battery capacity to 95-100 kWh.)nnnnBut Audi will have to address the charging situation, or it will simply be inferior to the Model X. Audi needs to enable more than 100 kW charging at all major roads in Europe, just like Tesla is doing.