With Volkswagen AG possibly the most hated automaker on the planet right now thanks to its misdeeds in the dieselgate scandal, the German automaker and its associated brands are working hard to prove that blatant disregard for emissions requirements to date doesn’t mean the brand can’t be environmentally friendly in the future.
Indeed, since the Dieselgate scandal broke nearly two months ago, Volkswagen has promised to invest more heavily in electric vehicle development, planning to release more electrified and plug-in vehicles than before and even develop a new electric vehicle toolkit that it can use in its MQB-platform vehicles.
While it’s not clear how long such a vehicle toolkit will take to come to market, there is at least some hope that Volkswagen’s promise to focus more on electrification is true with the news that Volkswagen’s luxury brand Audi is pushing ahead with plans to bring its all-electric 310-mile Q6 e-tron crossover SUV to market for early 2018.
That’s according to Autoexpress, which says Audi has now confirmed production plans for the e-tron Quattro Concept SUV it showcased at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September — although the final vehicle name has yet to be confirmed.
Quoting Dr. Rudiger Chmieleswki, head of total vehicle development at Audi, the British publication said it learned the news this week at Audi’s Future Performance Day workshop, where it heard that much of the design work on the all-electric SUV had already been tied down.
“This is an electric car suitable for the long haul,” said Dr. Chmielewski. “It will have a 500 kilometer (310-mile) range, and is tangible proof of our commitment to electric mobility.”
At this point, we should of course note that Audi had already dropped some strong hints that the all-electric, long-range Q6 e-tron would enter production long before the Dieselgate scandal broke. Moreover, it’s not clear if Audi or Volkswagen’s priorities have changed on the Q6 e-tron as a consequence of the events of the past few months. But while we’re guessing Audi’s production plans were likely already put in motion before the news of Volkswagen AG’s emission misdeeds, the position the Q6 e-tron occupies in a future Audi lineup is likely now much more central to the brand’s future than perhaps it once was.
To ensure the right wow factor, and to try and place the all-electric crossover in the same market segment as the Tesla Model X, the production version of the Q6 e-tron will be almost identical to the e-tron Quattro Concept from outside, with the same flush door handles, OLED lights and wireless charging capability. While it’s unclear at this stage if regulators will allow it, Audi is also hopeful the rear-view cameras shown on the e-tron Quattro Concept — which take the place of traditional door mirrors and lower drag considerably — will make it into the production vehicle.
“By the time we launch the e-tron, we will have a fast charge network in Germany,” he promised. “An 80 per cent charge will take 30 minutes. The success of a model like this will depend on the infrastructure.”
Unlike the Tesla Model X, which features two electric motors for all-wheel drive, the e-tron Quattro Concept SUV featured three electric motors — one driving the front axle and one electric motor for each rear wheel. Combined, they produced 370 kilowatts of power to give a claimed 4.6 second 0-62 mph time and an electronically-limited top speed of 130 mph.
That would make the Q6 e-tron slower than the Model X, although we should note it would likely be a little less expensive than Tesla’s high-end crossover.
As for batteries? Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said that Audi’s engineers and battery suppliers have a new battery chemistry which makes 300+ mile ranges possible — although we should note here that’s according to the overly-optimistic NEDC test cycle: real-world ranges would be likely closer to 270 miles.
“With our engineers and our battery-cell suppliers we are at a stage where we can say, yes, this is feasible and we believe that with the ongoing investments in terms of infrastructure development we think that 20188-2019 is the right time to come up with such a car,” he said. “It will look nice, it will have sufficient range and we think the infrastructure will be sufficient in terms of supercharging.”
With Audi now committed to production of the e-tron quattro concept, we’ll be playing close attention to see if other plug-in vehicles follow as the Volkswagen group tries desperately to reshape itself as a trustworthy, caring automaker. But does this vehicle have what it takes to save the brand?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.