Audi unveiled four E-tron prototypes at the Geneva motor show
The cars came from its 250-strong fleet of development vehicles
The move was seen as a response to the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace
Audi's electric SUV is due for launch later this year
The E-tron is predicted to have a range of at least 500km (311 miles)
It's built on a development of the electrified platform Porsche is using for its Mission E
It's powered by three electric motors, two of which drive the rear wheels while one powers the fronts
This set-up was seen in the E-tron quattro concept of 2015...
...which produced maximum combined outputs of 496bhp and 590lb ft
That enabled a 0-62mph time of 4.5sec and a restricted top speed of 131mph
This set-up will also be used in a second all-electric SUV model, which itself was previewed by the E-tron Sportback concept shown at this last year's Shanghai motor show
Audi has previously said that the E-tron will “cost about the same as a well-specced Audi A6”...
...suggesting it will have a price point of at least £60,000
Audi has chosen to launch the E-tron in 2018 because battery technology is mature enough to offer a range of more than 500km (311 miles)
That figure is “crucial” according to company executives because consumers won’t accept less
Charging infrastructure is also rapidly growing — another key reason for choosing a 2018 launch date
The first customer e-Trons are expected on roads at the start of 2019
The Audi e-tron quattro concept previewed in 2015
Audi has opened order books for the E-tron electric SUV, with £1000 deposits being taken for its first bespoke electric vehicle.
First deliveries of the car aren't due until early 2019, although the car goes into production late this year. A production version will be revealed ahead of the car's official sales launch. Deposits also gain potential buyers access to Audi events.
Audi won’t yet talk production or sales numbers but says it has test-marketed the E-tron in two EU countries and reports potential demand for the model to be in the “double-digit thousands”
“The E-tron will be a game-changer for Audi,” said marketing boss Bram Schot. “It’s our first electric model, and it's going to be a volume model.”
The production E-tron will be revealed at the Brussels motor show on 30 August, as the first of three battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that Audi will launch by 2021.
By 2025, the company promises to have 20 electrified models on sale, with half of those being BEVs.
The E-tron will have a range of models with different capacity battery packs and motor power outputs.
Audi has also raised the possibility of Audi Sport-tuned versions of the SUV. “The question is 'when?'” said Schot. “The electric powertrain gives really good performance, so the driving experience gives such a good feeling.”
E-tron models could also be sold on a monthly subscription, which would allow buyers to switch between different Audi models to suit particular driving demands. “We're actively looking at every option,” said Schot.
Audi has been using a 250-strong E-tron development fleet over the past year to rapidly build mileage and finalise the set-up of the EV.
The car's design looks to have been toned down compared with the 2015 E-Tron quattro concept (see gallery) that previewed it, with a slightly less butch front end and less raked rear windows. But the concept's light designs, which include a strip to connect the tail-lights, appear to have been retained.
The E-tron is predicted to have a range of at least 500km (311 miles) and is built on a development of the electrified platform that Porsche is using for its Mission E electric saloon. It's powered by three electric motors, with two driving the rear wheels and the other powering the fronts.
This set-up was used in the E-tron quattro concept, which was said to provide maximum combined outputs of 496bhp and 590lb ft, a 0-62mph time of 4.5sec and a restricted top speed of 131mph – a preview of what’s to come with the production model.
This set-up will also be used in Audi's second electric SUV model, which itself was previewed by the E-tron Sportback concept shown at the 2017 Shanghai motor show. This features a more swept-back design and will make it to market one year after the regular E-tron.
Audi has previously said the E-tron will “cost about the same as a well-specced Audi A6”, suggesting it will have an entry-level price of at least £60,000. The I-Pace is priced from £58,995.
Audi sales and marketing boss Dietmar Voggenreiter said that Audi has chosen to launch the E-tron in 2018 because battery technology is now mature enough to be able to offer a range of more than 500km (311 miles). This figure is “crucial”, he said, because consumers won’t accept less. Charging infrastructure is also now growing rapidly — another key reason for choosing a 2018 launch date.
“A 400-500km range must be possible and we must have a fast charging infrastructure,” said Voggenreiter. “Both things are coming in 2018. The battery energy density is there and there's already a lot of charging infrastructure in Europe, the US and Asia.”
Voggenreiter said Audi was involved through the Volkswagen Group with rival firms such as BMW, Daimler and Ford in ensuring that there’s a fast-charging network for longer-range electric vehicles to use.
“It’s not our job to invest in charging points,” he said. “We're pushing and organising this, though, and working with our partners on it.”
Voggenreiter referred to the ‘chicken and egg’ situation of limited charging infrastructure to date: there has been no need for third parties to install chargers because there are not enough cars to use them, and vice versa. “No cars, no infrastructure, but in the next two years there will be lots of investments,” he added.
First customer deliveries of the E-tron are scheduled for the beginning of 2019.
Audi has opted not to launch its electric cars under a sub-brand, like BMW has with its i models and Mercedes-Benz with its future EQ range. Instead, it's using E-tron, which has been a suffix on hybrid Audis, as a model name in its own right.
The new SUV is intended as a stand-alone, milestone launch model to introduce the technology, employing a similar strategy used by Audi with ‘quattro’ in the 1980s.
Speaking last year about the car's name, Audi boss Rupert Stadler said: “It's comparable to the first Audi Quattro, which was known simply as the Quattro. In the long term, the name e-tron will stand for a pure electric driveline structure.”
Voggenreiter said the e-tron name will be used on a range of follow-up electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, where it will appear mostly as a suffix, as is the case with the existing A3 e-tron. It’s likely that Audi’s next-generation models will all get electric versions, and an A8 e-tron is most likely to be the first candidate.
An SUV body is important for the E-tron, because it's the most on-trend bodystyle, said Voggenreiter. “A lot of customers have been asking when we’ll bring this car to market,” he said. “There's certainly demand in the premium segment; it’s the right product. It’s a real SUV, with Audi design language.”
Voggenreiter suggested that Audi's future range of e-tron models will have slightly different styling from the Marc Lichte-designed new look that's currently being rolled out across the rest of the brand's line-up.
“The e-trons are close to the designs of Lichte but in different packages,” he said. “There isn’t an engine in the front.”
The size of the E-tron suggests it’s a Q6 in all but name, but Voggenreiter hinted that the Q6 was a separate project altogether. He cited speculation that the Q6 should be a “four-door SUV-coupé” based on the Q5, in a similar style to the forthcoming Q8 being spun off the Q7.
But he said the E-tron isn’t the Q6 because it’s “not a four-door SUV-coupé, but a sporty SUV”.
Julian Rendell, Sam Sheehan and Mark Tisshaw