Formerly standoffish about electrification, Audi has reconfirmed it’s at work on an all-electric vehicle it aims to roll out in 2017 to go head-to-head with Tesla.
This is not to be confused with a battery powered conversion of the R8 sports car also due next year, and Audi is considering the EV’s final form with an eye toward making it a crossover.
The news told by Bloomberg follows a story this summer of two EVs with up to 300-400 miles range as measured on the European cycle.
“Our engineers are working” on an electric car to meet U.S. regulations for a zero-emission vehicle, said Audi CEO Rupert Stadler to Bloomberg in Berlin. “It’s probably going to be a crossover, but development work is still ongoing.”
The move comes as automakers seek to combat the upstart Tesla which has seen solid initial progress with its Model S, and aims to launch its Model X SUV next year.
Audi’s own growth strategy of course still rests on non-electrified gas and diesel models but part of the marketing cool factor these days is ultimate fuel-saving technology, which an EV could deliver.
Not unlike in years past when just a gas-powered highly desirable supercar would be enough to imbue a halo effect, a green halo is now in vogue to help automakers play the role of environmentally responsible transportation technology leaders.
Until now, Audi has only converted its existing cars to hybrid or plug-in hybrid, such as the A3 E-Tron hatchback, and more to come.
Already, fellow German competitor, BMW has taken the path toward electrification with its i3 EV, and i8 dedicated plug-in hybrid.
As Audi plans to expand its lineup from 50 cars to more than 60 this decade, it is also spending 22 billion euros by 2018 to increase its manufacturing capacity and Volkswagen AG itself has also said electrification will play an increasing role.
Audi for now is behind BMW and Mercedes in sales, but has increased 15 percent this year and beat it previous record of 158,061. The new EV is part of the broader plan, and we shall see what they come up with.