Embattled Audi boss Rupert Stadler used the company’s annual conference to announce a swooping, sexy battery-electric vehicle (BEV) flagship for the brand will be on sale by 2020.
The four-door E-tron GT will be sold through the Audi Sport high-performance offshoot and will be Audi’s third full BEV after the E-tron SUV which is coming to SA in 2019 and the E-tron Sportback that will follow it.
The E-tron GT has already been given the green light for production, based on the platform and electric vehicle technology of the E-tron crossover.
"It’s a car that thrills at first glance, a fully electric gran turismo that stands for a new kind of sportiness," Stadler says.
"This highly emotive spearhead from Audi Sport is to be produced at our Böllinger Höfe plant near Neckarsulm as of 2020. This prototype gives you a preview of the world premiere in Brussels this summer.
"It proves that electric drive can also deliver high performance. I am sure this sporty four-door will certainly have many fans and customers. We will lead our high-performance brand Audi Sport into the electric future with models like this."
While Stadler was coy on details, sources insist the E-tron GT will use a variant of the E-tron SUV’s asynchronous motor powertrain, with one electric motor on the front axle and one for each rear wheel.
The Q6 E-tron was confirmed for production, yet again, at the Geneva Motor Show, with the E-tron Sportback following later in 2019.
The four and five-seat GT will be larger than both and roughly the same size as the A8 limousine with sleeker, braver styling.
It will be the flagship of a full line-up of full BEV Audis, which will start from an electrified A3 E-tron and also include a full-sized SUV.
Stadler insists its first E-tron has already promised huge sales in Europe, with the company taking reservations on the car even though it will not be in showrooms for a year. "In some markets, demand for the E-tron has already started: lots of customers have already reserved this SUV. We have received 3,700 reservations from Norway alone. The Audi E-tron stands here as a representative of many more electric cars that we will present to you in the coming years. The Audi E-tron Sportback will follow in 2019."
Its plant in Gyõr, Hungary, will supply the firm’s electric motors, just as it has supplied more than 33-million internal combustion engines to Audi, Bentley, Porsche and Lamborghini over the past 25 years.
"In the next 25 years, our Hungarian employees will certainly produce just as many electric motors," Stadler says.
But these aren’t the only zero-emission Audis headed for production, with the company also confirming a limited number of hydrogen fuel-cell cars for 2020.
The fuel-cell EV, which is a follow up to the 2015 H-tron concept car, should deliver more than 700km of pure electric range, using mostly the same electric motors as its conventional BEV stablemates. But even that will be far from the end of Audi’s EV surge and with half of its global sales coming from China, it’s giving the Asian powerhouse special attention.
"We will launch 10 new SUV variants to the market, of which we will produce seven locally (in China). Four of them will be fully electric," says Stadler.
"All of that belongs to our comprehensive market initiative in China until 2022."
All of Audi’s electric cars will sit on three main chassis platforms. The first will be the E-tron’s pioneering J1 architecture. Its cheaper EVs will use the Volkswagen Group’s high-volume MEB electric architecture (just as the A3 uses the Golf’s MQB platform today), while its higher priced models will use an architecture jointly developed with (and shared by) Porsche.
"We make electric mobility profitable thanks to unique synergies: on the one hand, with the Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) that Volkswagen is developing for the compact segment; on the other hand, with our premium architecture electrification, which we are using for electric vehicles in the mid, upper, and luxury range," Stadler says.
"Through this co-operation with Porsche, we will reduce development costs by a three-digit million amount. By 2025, we will have about 20 electrified models in our product offering across the entire portfolio. More than half of them will be fully electric; the others will be plug-in hybrids. Furthermore, we will equip all core model series at least with mild hybrids. We already offer cars with electrified drive systems in half of our core model series."
The Audi-Porsche architecture differs from the MEB in areas to deliver extra luxury, speed and grip. Its battery chemistries will be different to the mainstream VW-branded EVs, to deliver a lower ride height, a lower floor and a lower centre of gravity to improve handling. It will be largely aluminium, whereas the MEB cars will use a steel-alloy mix.
Having a higher spec chassis for the Volkswagen Group’s higher cost brands is not a new concept, though, because Audi and Porsche (among others) already share the MLB Evo internal combustion architecture for cars like the Panamera, the Cayenne, the Q7, the A8, the A7, the A6 and the A4. The only Volkswagen-branded vehicle to use the MLB Evo will be the upcoming Touareg.