Audi Goes Electric, Tackles Tesla With New e-tron Electric SUV

German automaker will initially target Tesla Model X.

by on Sep.18, 2018

Audi is ready to take on the industry leader, Tesla, with the all-new e-tron.

With the launch of the new e-tron SUV, Audi becomes the latest in a growing list of automakers to introduce a long-range battery-electric vehicle aimed directly at industry pioneer Tesla.

The luxury arm of Volkswagen AG traveled to San Francisco, Tesla’s backyard, to unveil the new model during a splashy ceremony that drew hundreds of journalists and dealers. Audi already offers a number of hybrid and plug-in models but it is planning to now introduce an array of all-electric offerings, joining such high-line competitors as Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Electrifying!

The push into electrification could be particularly important for Audi in its bid to recover from the diesel emissions scandal that tarred several Volkswagen brands, resulting in penalties and settlements totaling around $30 billion. Though the company will continue to produce some diesel models, it now sees electric vehicles as key to its future.

“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told the Reuters news service.

(Audi sparks race for fastest EV with debut of PB 18 e-tron. Click Here for the story.)

While Mercedes is targeting the lower end of the battery-electric spectrum with its recently unveiled EQC model, Audi’s first all-electric entry pushes into premium territory, at $75,795 – before a U.S. tax credit of $7,500 – it takes aim at Tesla’s Model X electric SUV, as well as the new Jaguar I-Pace. Lower-priced Audi battery-cars are expected to follow.

Audi's new e-tron sport-utility is the first of several battery-electrics the brand plans to unleash in the U.S.

The Audi e-tron is a five-seater measuring just slightly smaller than the Tesla Model X. And it will feature conventional doors, rather than the “falcon wing” doors the Tesla uses. While that approach might not be as visually distinctive, it should also avoid a key source of the numerous quality problems the Model X has suffered. The Tesla is rated as the lowest-quality vehicle on the market by Consumer Reports.

The e-tron will come with a 95 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, slightly less than the highest-power version of the Tesla Model X. While the German maker is waiting for official numbers from the EPA, Tesla’s Model X 100D can deliver an estimated 295 miles per charge.

The e-tron’s battery pack will drive two electric motors, one on each axle creating what is sometimes referred to as a through-the-road all-wheel-drive system. Together, the motors will produce up to 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque, and since electric motors make maximum power almost instantly, e-tron will deliver a sports car-like launch, while hitting 60 in about 5.5 seconds. Top speed is rated at 124 mph.

The decision to go with an SUV, rather than a sedan, however, reflects the rapid shift in the overall automotive market, traditional sport-utility vehicles and crossovers now accounting for more than half of all U.S. new vehicle sales, even as four and two-door models continue losing momentum.

It’s another matter when it comes to electric vehicles. While sales have been growing – largely due to the entry-priced Tesla Model 3 – plug-based offerings still account for barely 1% of the U.S. market. They’re gaining momentum more rapidly in China, however, as the government there enacts new rules designed to address that country’s endemic smog problem. With Audi currently the number one luxury brand in China, e-tron and other models could prove critical to its future there.

(Click Here for details about Audi rolling out all-new 2019 Q3.)

How much demand in the U.S. will grow is uncertain, in part because of the Trump Administration’s plan to roll back the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that were expected to require manufacturers to rapidly expand the use of battery powertrain technology, including hybrids, plug-ins and full battery-electric vehicles. But a number of industry officials have told TheDetroitBureau.com that they plan to move ahead with their original plans as it is not clear whether the planned fuel economy rollback will be put in place – or survive the anticipated legal challenges.

To help enhance the appeal of the new e-tron, Audi has launched a partnership with Amazon to sell and install home charging systems. The Level 2 systems, which use 240 volt current, will cost about $1,000 for the typical buyer, according to Audi, with Amazon handling both the delivery and installation. It is the first time Amazon has directly worked with an automaker to install charging technology, though it does already offer some chargers through its online retail service.

Meanwhile, buyers will have the opportunity to tap into a new network of high-speed chargers that are being installed across the country by Electrify America. That’s the company that was set up as part of parent Volkswagen AG’s settlement with U.S. and California regulators over its diesel emissions rigging scandal. A number of Audi models were equipped with some of the engines covered by that settlement. Electrify America will eventually set up thousands of high-speed chargers, including more than 800 at WalMart outlets, as well as Level 2 systems.

While all-new on the outside, the new e-tron ute has all of the luxury interior appointments one expects from an Audi.

Audi also is partnering with Arcadia Power, e-tron customers offered the opportunity to sign up with the renewable energy provider to provide more power to the grid.

“We believe Audi e-tron owners are conscientious about how they’re contributing to our collective future,” said Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America. “Wherever they live, Audi is proud to help provide a solution that lets e-tron owners invest in and support renewable energy.”

(For a first look at the new Audi Q8, Click Here.)

The new Audi e-tron will be produced at a plant in Hungary. It is expected to roll into U.S. showrooms by mid-2019.

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