Audi's Long-Range Electric SUV Is Aimed at Tesla's Model X

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Aug 14, 2015

Audi has got Tesla’s new Model X solidly in its sights with an all-electric e-tron SUV with what the company said would be 310-mile range (maybe 240 miles in the U.S. testing cycle, but still).

Audi has relseased this photo, but to be honest, we're not sure whether it's an ad for their new electric SUV, or for whoever did this hand model's manicure. (Audi photo)Audi’s being pretty cagey about the car, providing only the hands-on photo above, and a teaser shot of the Q6 crossover (below) it will reveal at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month. The press release is all about the batteries for the car, which will come from Korean suppliers LG Chem and Samsung SDI. The cells will be made in Europe to supply the factory in Ingolstadt, Germany. Audi isn't saying when the car might be on the market.

LG Chem is becoming quite an EV player, having inked deals with General Motors, Renault/Nissan, Audi, Ford and Volvo. Samsung is a more recent player.

Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg promised “an attractive overall package of sportiness and range” from Audi’s first-ever battery electric car.

The new Q6 coupe concept, to be shown in Frankfurt. Hopefully with better lighting. (Audi photo)How is Audi getting range like this? LG Chem had said it would supply a 200-mile battery to an auto manufacturer in 2016, but this new Audi (which could be very lightweight with carbon fiber, aluminum or other materials) goes further. Samsung is pursuing solid-state batteries without a liquid electrolyte (and more range promised) but Brad Stertz, an Audi spokesman, put the kibosh on the idea that those cells will be in the new SUV.

“No solid state yet,” Stertz said. “I think this deal gives flexibility to adopt the different cell designs quickly as we ramp up plug-in electric vehicle plans. Ingolstadt isn't talking about chemistry per se, deferring to LG and Samsung.”

An A3 Sportback e-tron getting charged in Germany. (Jim Motavalli photo)Audi's more immediate sights are on the A3 Sportback e-tron, a plug-in hybrid, that it will start selling to U.S. customers in October. That one has 30 miles of electric range and is quite fun to drive. The Europeans already have the car, and one owner in Northern Ireland told me he's very happy with it.

When you are driving around, you realize that electric vehicles are unquestionably the future of transportation. Hybrids like the A3 and BMW i8 will be great transitional vehicles for the next decade or so while we transform and disrupt other areas of motoring like charging infrastructure and autonomous driving capabilitues. For those interested in electric motoring the A3 gives you a high quality way to experience this without having to let go of the petrol era, make compromises or shout about your lifestyle choices with radical styling. I'd definitely like to see the e-tron option on more cars in the Audi range. When [the technology] flows down into the VW range it will really help bring electric driving to the mass market.

Audi showed a battery-only A3 e-tron, and did test programs with it. I was even able to drive that car around Manhattan, but it was shelved as a production model in favor of the plug-in hybrid e-tron. But now, it seems, that Audi is liking what it sees in battery technology.

My test A3 e-tron in New York. Audi wasn't yet satisfied with battery technology. (Jim Motavalli photo)I’d just written a piece talking about the lack of competition Tesla has in the high-performance EV field. Tesla actually opened up its patents for other automakers to use, but three years later there hasn’t been a clear rival. Tesla had plenty to say off the record, but for attribution spokesperson Alexis Georgeson said only, “Tesla was created to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation and we applaud other companies who bring compelling electric vehicles to market.”

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