Audi’s parent company Volkswagen may still be fighting fires set by its ongoing dieselgate emissions scandal, but the luxury German automaker — while part of dieselgate too — is keen to give itself a new image as a cleaner, greener firm.
At the heart of that new image is a drive towards a goal of having plug-in vehicles account for between a fifth and a quarter of all Audi’s sales by 2025, a journey which will begin with the launch of a production all-electric crossover SUV based on the e-tron quattro concept car Audi unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.
That’s according to Audi of America president Scott Keogh, who told a group of journalists at a special dinner event last night in Los Angeles ahead of the LA Auto Show that Audi was committed to a plug-in future.
As our friends at Autobloggreen recount, Keogh was about as positive on electric vehicles as any high-level Audi executive has ever been. Indeed, given some less-than-stellar attitudes voiced in recent memory by former Audi of America executives — not to mention the agonising delay in bringing the Audi A3 e-tron to the U.S. more than a year after it launched in Europe — Keogh’s upbeat take on electrified vehicles is incredibly refreshing.
“When you look at what needs to happen and you look at what we see happening in the marketplace, we’re probably looking at a world where 25 percent of Audi’s sales, over the next ten years, just to throw out a rough point in the future, are either going to be full electric or have some plug,” Keogh said. “This is the reality as we see it.”
Speaking today at Audi’s LA Auto Show press conference, his message remained resolutely the same.
“We are, in full force, joining the electric revolution,” he said. “The electric driving revolution isn’t impossible. It isn’t merely likely. It is inevitable.”
The Audi e-tron quattro — whatever its official name becomes when it enters production in 2018 — will be at the forefront of that. Powered by a next-generation battery pack offering a claimed near 310-miles of range on the (overly optimistic) NEDC European test cycle, the Audi e-tron quattro concept we saw in Frankfurt featured all-wheel drive, a 4.6-second 0-62 mph time and an electronically-limited top speed of 130 mph.
It also featured inductive wireless charging, and powerful CCS on-board charging capable of power transfer rates as high as 150 kilowatts, recharging its battery pack from empty to 80-percent full in around half an hour.
While Audi isn’t mentioning competitors for this vehicle directly, it’s easy enough to figure out what an electric vehicle crossover marketplace could look like in the near future. A few months back, Tesla Motors launched its Model X full-size crossover SUV. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn recently admitted that Nissan would likely enter the mainstream crossover marketplace with its own electric crossover.
Meanwhile, German automakers Mercedes Benz and BMW have both hinted that an electric crossover vehicle of some sort could be in the pipeline. Even Jaguar, a stalwart of the V-6 and V-8 engine, is rumored to be considering an all-electric crossover SUV.
But while the Audi e-tron quattro (which we’ve been calling the 2018 Q6 e-tron but for which Audi engineers reportedly use the internal name of ‘C-BEV’) could make significant waves in a global marketplace where crossover SUVS are king, it won’t be enough to account for a one-fifth to one-quarter plug-in car Audi market share by 2025.
Sadly, Audi hasn’t detailed which other vehicles it plans to offer alongside an all-electric crossover, but given the brand’s market share around the world and its popular sellers, we’d guess it will need luxury mid- and full-size electric sedans, as well as a sporty hatchback like the A3 with a real-world range in excess of 200 miles per charge to compete against cars like the next-generation Nissan LEAF and upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
There’s also the R8 e-tron of course, the high-performance coupe Audi is making available as a build-to-order option and whose existence is only possible thanks to a next-generation, super energy-dense battery pack Audi has been developing at its technology centres.
We mustn’t forget the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid either, which Audi should have in dealerships some time before the end of the Holiday season. Based on the same 1.4-litre TFSI engine and plug-in hybrid drivetrain as the Volkswagen Golf GTE, the Audi A3 e-tron is a plug-in hybrid capable of around 20 miles of real-world driving in electric mode before switching over to gasoline.
While that range isn’t anything to get excited about, its sporty heritage and compact form factor make it a fun and enjoyable ride, and could be enough to convince existing Audi fans that the brand’s future is electric. Although customers in the U.S. have been forced to wait more than a year for the car to arrive in the U.S. after its official European launch however, Keogh had some good news about the model’s planned rollout.
Of more than 210 Audi dealerships in the U.S., less than 10 have failed to sign up to sell the plug-in car. And as Autobloggreen notes, that means that nearly ever Audi dealership in the U.S. will be ready and waiting for the arrival of the 300+ mile crossover SUV when it finally launches in 2018.
Maybe there’s life for Audi post-dieselgate after all.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.