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Audi says now is the time for PHEVs

Easy being green: Audi Australia MD Andrew Doyle says the secret to the success of its first large-scale hybrid – the A3 e-tron - lies in its 'regular' packaging, which makes it approachable by timid customers.

Slow-burn plug-in hybrid vehicles will become accepted like diesel power says Audi

12 Nov 2014

AUDI is confident the timing of its first large-scale hybrid vehicle is spot on, arriving in the marketplace as the tide of public perception is turning, says the German prestige car-maker.

While pure electric vehicles have struggled against the lack of infrastructure and government incentives in Australia, causing buyers to have 'range anxiety', Audi says the dawn of plug-in hybrids is here, offering pure electric short-range and long-range economy cruising.

The company's A3 e-tron, on sales here in March next year, differs little in appearance to the rest of the petrol and diesel-powered range and that, says Audi, is the key to success.

Speaking at a demonstration of the new vehicle, Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle told GoAuto he does not expect the petrol-electric plug-in to be a volume seller, but it will pave the way for hybrid acceptance and blossoming sales.

“It’s not about sales, it’s about carefully and successfully launching what is still, even though as much as we make it very easy, a different concept for a lot of people,” he said.

“It’s okay if we sell 10 a month because I believe it will organically grow over time.

“We talk about digital technology – there have been a lot of brands that have gone too early, too hard, or too late, too slow. It’s not always about being first to market. I think we have come to the market at the right time.”

Where other manufacturers have experimented with hybrids and electric vehicles that are visually very different to 'normal' cars, Audi's approach is to offer the benefits of a plug-in hybrid in a vehicle that looks no different to its siblings.

Under pure electric power the A3 e-tron can travel up to 50km, which could translate to an emissions-free daily commute for some motorists, who would charge the car each day at home with the included charger.

For longer journeys, the A3 behaves as a normal hybrid, using a combination of electric and petrol power with regenerative technology and in the absence of Australian EV infrastructure, Mr Doyle says PHEVs are the way forward.

Its second e-tron model will continue the plug-in push with a diesel-electric version of the Q7 large SUV following the A3 in 2015, while A4, A6 and A8 ranges are also chalked to get an e-tron option.

“Northern Europe in particular has incredible incentives from the government, tax incentives, charge point infrastructure, that makes it a hell of a lot more easier discussion,” he said.

“In my opinion that’s where plug-in hybrids solve the problem because we don’t really have the infrastructure in Australia just yet for charge points everywhere. So if I still feel I can drive 900km I am happy.”

Mr Doyle likened the uptake of the new technology to the rise in popularity of diesel fuel and said that the timing of the e-tron and future Audi hybrids is right to build popularity in the same way.

“Not that long ago we were talking about diesel and what will happen with diesel, it’s a dirty fuel etc. Now we sell 60-70 per cent of our cars in diesel. It just became a normal mix,” he said.

“So when we talk about mix of sales of A3 or A4 (hybrid) in the future, I just think that mix will grow like diesel did over time.

“I believe it will be more and more successful over time, but time will tell how successful. It will become more and more attractive over time”.

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