Audi sets sights on Tesla with electric SUV next

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 10 March 2015

AUDI is expected to turn its sights on Tesla by starting work on an all-electric crossover after launching its all-new 2016 Audi Q7 at last week’s Geneva Motor Show, and a diesel plug-in hybrid model to follow.

With Tesla’s Model X currently scheduled to start deliveries before the end of this year, Audi’s chief of engineering, Ulrich Hackenberg, confirmed at the Geneva show that the company was working on the all-electric SUV.

He told the English magazine Auto Express that the lessons learned from developing the all-electric 2016 Audi R8 two-seat sports coupe would contribute to the development of the VW Group brand’s next fully electric vehicle.

While Auto Express notes that Audi’s press release referred to a “vehicle with a saloon (sedan) character,” a company representative later confirmed that the word was a mistake.

Tesla's Model X ,,, front running electric SUV that has a host of rivals, including Audi, nipping at its heels. Image: Tesla.

Tesla’s Model X ,,, front running electric SUV that has a host of rivals, including Audi, nipping at its heels. Image: Tesla.

The next electric vehicle will be more of a crossover utility in character, the Audi spokesperson said.

Hackenberg said the electric utility would be “more passenger orientated,” meaning it will likely have four if not five seats.

The electric Audi SUV “can be used by families that have some money, it is premium,” he said. And, “it will have a big battery capacity.”

Hackenberg said it would have a range of “more than 500 kilometres”, although that distance is likely to be derived from the gentle NEDC European test cycle.

He also revealed that the Audi electric vehicle will have dedicated bodywork, rather than adapting an existing vehicle and making the e-tron electric model simply one version of a broader lineup.

And, he suggested, battery capacity could be as high as 90 kilowatt-hours, which even in a large SUV-shaped vehicle should produce a range nearing 500km.

Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Range Rover are all in various stages of developing battery-electric vehicles of varying body styles to compete with the Tesla Motors lineup.

Those vehicles are not likely to launch before 2017, by which time the Tesla Model X will have been on the market for one to two years.