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Audi e-tron marks beginning of EV revolution

Freshly revealed e-tron to be the first of many fully electric Audis

Audi logo18 Sep 2018

AUDI has thrown down the gauntlet to current and future players in the electric vehicle space, declaring that its first all-electric production model is merely the opening salvo in a prolonged electrification campaign.
 
Finally unveiled in San Francisco this week following a lengthy teaser campaign, the e-tron electric crossover is locked in for an Australian launch next year and will take the fight directly to Mercedes-Benz, which revealed its own electric SUV – the EQC – just two weeks ago.
 
It also has other leading prestige marques in its sights, including Tesla Motors with its Model X. 
 
Audi AG board member for technical development Peter Mertens highlighted the significance of the e-tron’s launch – in Tesla heartland, no less – and touched on the wider rollout of electrified Audis.
 
“The Audi e-tron is definitely a highlight in the history of our company and the starting signal for our electrification strategy,” he said.
 
“In the future, virtually every market segment will include models powered by a combination of electric motors and a combustion engine, and that can be charged at an electric outlet.”
 
Audi AG temporary CEO and board member for sales and marketing Bram Schot described the unveiling as a “unique moment” in the brand’s history, and discussed moving on from the Volkswagen Group diesel emissions scandal.
 
“We have not forgotten about what happened over the past few years,” he said at the reveal. “We have to think backwards from our imagination instead of forwards from the past. 
 
“Our heritage is not our destiny. It was time for a fundamental change. We needed to improve ourselves – to assume responsibility and become better than ever before. 
 
“The e-tron marks a special moment in time. It marks the beginning of a new era – a new era in electric mobility. The e-tron is the first of many to come, delivering on our promise of vorsprung durch technik (progress through technology).”
 
Audi Australia has also declared its full support for the e-tron program, announcing that it will import every future e-tron variant that will be made available from head office.
 
This will include an e-tron Sportback and a “compact” model – thought to be similar in size to an A5 – that will launch overseas before 2020, as well as another nine vehicles before 2025 that will encompass B- to D-segment cars in both low- and high-floor configurations.
 
Audi Australia managing director Paul Sansom told journalists at the event that the company was fully committed to the e-tron electric vehicle rollout in Australia.
 
“There was a defining moment in the 1980s with the introduction of quattro as a brand, and we see e-tron launching as that (kind of) sub-brand,” he said. 
 
“We’ll be making the commensurate levels of investment into launching that sub-brand. For us it’s a really important step. We’re really looking forward to sharing this car in 2019.
 
“We believe the future of electric vehicles is healthy in Australia, and it’s going to take a little time to build that market up, but it’s inevitable that it’s going to come.”
 
Launched this week at a lavish event in San Francisco, the Audi e-tron SUV is likely to be more affordable, will have a longer range and a shorter recharging regimen than its Silicon Valley rival – the Model X – when compared price for price.
 
As well as Mercedes’ EQC, other key rivals include the Jaguar I-Pace and a forthcoming all-new BMW model due in 2020, based on the recent iX3 concept.
 
Teased out over the course of the past 12 months, the e-tron – which is comparable in size to a Q5 – is already in production in a redone CO2-neutral Audi facility in Brussels, with Australian deliveries expected to commence halfway through 2019.
 
Two-hundred cars can be built per day on the new modular production line, which has the ability to be ramped up if demand increases.
 
“We’re hoping it’ll arrive in Australia in June,” said Mr Sansom. “We’re not aligned to any other right-hand-drive market in terms of production. UK deliveries start early next year, and our cars will be on the water a bit longer.”
 
Mr Sansom said it was difficult to forecast sales figures for Australia when compared to more mature electric markets like Europe.
 
“With a car like this, you want to keep supply and demand in tight control,” he said. “We’re not going to be overly ambitious while the market is in its infancy. We’ll feel our way a little bit with modest volumes in year one, see how the demand builds, and we’ll expand as the demand grows.”
 
Mr Sansom would not discuss pricing, but comparisons were drawn with the plug-in hybrid Q7 e-tron SUV’s current price point of $140,000 plus on-road costs.
 
“We haven’t finalised pricing, but I think this car will be quite unique,” he said. 
 
“Cars like Tesla and Jaguar are seen in the premium basket, and I’d suggest Audi’s car will give as much consumer value as any of those cars. I don’t really think pricing will be the issue – it’s more about consumer mindset and the infrastructure around it.”
 
The Q7 e-tron PHEV was brought in as a limited-run variant in 2017. Audi also previously offered the A3 Sportback e-tron PHEV, but deleted it from the books late last year, with approximately 140 sales recorded from launch.
 
The five-door, five-seat e-tron SUV is built atop the VW Group’s MLB-EVO platform, and is powered by two electric motors – a 125kW unit on the front axle and a virtually identical 140kW unit on the back.
 
Combined, the two motors produce 265kW and 561Nm, while an 8.0-second duration Boost mode will create 300kW and 664Nm.
 
The energy for the motors comes from a 715kg water-cooled, floor-mounted battery array that can store 95kWh. The 432-cell pack is 15kWh greater in capacity than that in the recently announced EQC, but supports a claimed WLTP-verified range of 400km, while Mercedes announced a 450km figure for its 80kWh unit.
 
The e-tron can also absorb a 150kW-equivalent charge from a compatible fast charger. The e-tron’s standard 11kW charger takes 8.5 hours to charge up the battery pack from a low of 10 per cent to 80 per cent from a 240V socket
 
A quicker 22kW option cuts that time to 4.5 hours, but it will not be made available in Australia.
 
There is an in-built trip planner app that will assist e-tron owners pick the best route, find charging points and provide an accurate estimated time of arrival that factors in the time needed to recharge the battery with a sufficient level of electricity. 
 
This info can be displayed on a phone or on the car’s multimedia touchscreen.
 
The e-tron has not been modified for Australian conditions, and uses a Type 2 charging plug. The e-tron’s charging system is known as a CCS (Combined Charging System), which is used by BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and the VW Group.
 
CCS is different to Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger system, for example, so the e-tron cannot be charged at a Tesla Supercharger bay.
 
Externally, the e-tron adopts a styling language that is expected to debut on the Q5-based Q6 coupe-style SUV late next year, with few visual clues as to its EV heritage.
 
The e-tron itself has been extensively styled to reduce its aerodynamic profile to a 0.27 drag coefficient figure, including a fully flat underside.
 
The braking system is entirely new, and the e-tron will be offered with three levels of driver-adjustable regenerative braking that can contribute up to 30 per cent of the total range figure.
 
Inside, the design will be familiar to anyone who has seen the inside of a current-generation Audi, with a couple of key differences. There are five screens in total aboard a fully specced e-tron, with a new OLED multimedia screen complemented by a digital dash and climate-control touchscreen.
 
The much-vaunted externally mounted wing cameras project an image onto a pair of inset OLED screens tucked in the forward corners of each front window. 
 
However, the system is currently not approved for use in either the US or Australia, but Audi Australia officials indicated that the company is negotiating with governing bodies.
 
The e-tron’s dimensions fall within a few millimetres in all directions of the Q5, with its 2928mm wheelbase just 9mm longer than that of the Q5. There is no third row of seats in the cargo area, though the e-tron will mimic other Audis in offering Isofix baby seat mounts, a full array of airbags and highly featured driver-assist systems.
 
These include full-stop autonomous emergency braking with forward collision prevention, lane-departure assistance, cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic and side-traffic detection and more.
 
LED headlight and tail-light arrays also feature, along with 21-inch alloys. Final specs will be confirmed closer to the e-tron’s launch date.

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