When it launches later this year, the Tesla Model X will be the world’s first all-electric SUV to enter into mass production. Based on the same chassis and drivetrain as the Tesla Model S electric sedan, the Model X is set to ignite the full-size SUV segment alight with seating for 7, all-wheel drive capability, zero tailpipe emissions, Supercharger compatibility and a range in excess of 250 miles per charge.
While it might lay claim to being the first full-size electric SUV in the marketplace however, the Tesla Model X won’t be the last, with several major manufacturers including Audi, BMW and Porsche all planning their own ‘Tesla-fighting’ electric SUVs for launch in the next few years.
As we detailed a few weeks ago, Audi is set to be the first automaker to challenge Tesla in the all-electric SUV marketplace, confirming at its Annual General Meeting back in May that it would be bringing an all-electric, ‘Sporty SUV’ to market for 2018.
Now, says Automotive News Europe (subscription required) Audi will preview that very vehicle — likely to be called the Audi Q6 e-tron when it enters production — at the upcoming 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show this September.
So far, Audi has kept details close to its corporate chest, but sources speaking to Automotive News says that while the concept car will most likely be an all-electric vehicle, a production version would likely be offered in various different powertrain guises, including all-electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell variants.
While we can’t comment on the reliability of the sources, this does tie in with the current design ethos of Audi’s parent company Volkswagen, which prefers a drivetrain agnostic approach to vehicle design, choosing instead to design cars that can accommodate a variety of different drivetrain options. In addition to simplifying production, this also makes it possible for the Volkswagen group to develop new vehicles without being forced to put its metaphorical eggs in one basket, ensuring it can respond to market demand rather than dictating it.
To facilitate this modular drivetrain, it’s a given that the Q6 and the concept car that previews it will be built on the second-generation MLB platform. A modular design platform that will eventually underpin all of the Volkswagen-group full-size vehicles from the all-new 2016 Audi Q7 SUV through to the Volkswagen CrossBlue and Porsche Macan, the MLB platform is designed to facilitate a single production-line where different drivetrains are slotted into each vehicle as easily as different interior trims.
In terms of performance and range, Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s chief of research and design, said back in May that the sporty all-electric crossover would feature impressive performance and a range of more than 310 miles on the NEDC test cycle. That’s identical to the predicted 310-mile NEDC rating Tesla Motors hopes to earn when its dual-wheel drive Model S 85D goes on sale in the UK later this year.
Given the NEDC test cycle is overly optimistic however, that translates to a real-world range of around 270 miles per charge for both vehicles.
Onto styling. Audi’s early concept crossover teaser image suggests a design closer to that of a crossover SUV Coupe rather than a traditional go-anywhere SUV, and Automotive News says its sources talk of ‘extreme aerodynamic styling,’ hinting that the Q6 and the concept car ahead of it will be relatively low and sleek, perhaps with air suspension like the Tesla Model S to allow it to hug the road and lower its profile for improved handling and efficiency when travelling at speed.
Given its market competitor and Audi’s work with autonomous drive technologies and inductive charging, we’d expect Audi’s first all-electric SUV to feature both autonomous driving technology courtesy of its Piloted Drive program, as well as optional wireless charging.
Watch this space.
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