If Audi’s Prologue concept didn’t draw enough attention at the Los Angeles Auto Show, one would imagine the R8 rocket and fuel cell vehicles did. Then again, Volkswagen’s luxury brand was short on battery electric vehicles in L.A., so it was good to hear the automaker’s development chief tackled the subject with reporters at the event. According to the UK’s Auto Express, Audi officials said the company had an EV with 280 miles of range headed to market by 2017. This news follows reports an electric SUV and other models may be on tap for the luxury brand. Taken together, Audi’s ambitions in the green car scale are taking on epic proportions.
Behind the pack
With BMW nabbing awards for its i Series electric cars and Mercedes already on the market with the B Class Electric Drive, Audi is appearing late to the party in a segment where automakers can flash their development skills. Reuters reported in summer 2014 how analysts considered the lack of EVs a weakness for Audi. The arrival of the R8 electric vehicle — and its 280 miles of range — should change some of that perception, but company officials spoke of other cars implementing this technology in the near future.
Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s head of technical development, told reporters in L.A. the brand had a vehicle in the works that was “not a sports car” (i.e., not the R8) yet would be using the same powertrain, Auto Express reports. Hackenberg declined to go into further detail other than saying it would seat five, yet previous reports indicate Audi has an electric SUV up its sleeve among other potential projects.
Plans to pull ahead
Audi’s reluctance to jump into the electric vehicle game makes sense as sales continue to be low-volume for every company from Tesla to General Motors and Ford. Even the Nissan Leaf, the best-selling EV of all time, will be lucky to notch 30,000 sales in the U.S. during its record 2014 run. According to Reuters, Audi officials were waiting for the breakthrough that allowed the R8 electric model to hit 280 miles of range. Now that competition with the Tesla Model S is possible, Volkswagen’s luxury brand will bring more vehicles into development.
Being under the banner of such a enormous (and profitable) corporate parent, Audi will benefit from the scale in ways other EV makers — even large companies like Nissan — are unable to do. By the end of the decade, this logistics advantage could make Audi a leader in electric vehicles as they hit millions in worldwide sales. (Frost & Sullivan predicts EV sales will hit 2.7 million by 2018.) Reports suggest an electric SUV or crossover could be on the menu.
With its all-electric e-Golf under the VW banner and plug-in hybrid SUVs by Porsche on the market, Audi’s entry in the electric vehicle space may not be terribly late. Apparently, the luxury brand wants to make a grander entrance than its rivals once it finally joins the party.