Both vehicles are still concepts, but Audi executives are promising to deliver on electric-drive vehicles.
Earlier this week at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, Volkswagen promised to lift hybrids out of its niche status and to produce electric cars. Audi, Volkswagen’s luxury brand, echoed the sentiment, making a commitment to full hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars.
Rupert Stadler, Audi AG’s chairman of the board of management, said, “We shall offer electric power in the best possible forms for a wide range of mobility needs. The hybrid driveline will be followed by all-electric vehicles.” Michael Dick, Audi board member for technical development, added, “In due course plug-in hybrids will demonstrate their strong points when drivers expect to cover longer distances in the pure electric mode, in combination with a conventional engine.”
Audi plans to use the name “e-tron” for electric-drive vehicles, much the way the company uses “Quattro” as a synonym for all-wheel drive. In Geneva, Audi gave shape to its new commitment to hybrids and plug-in cars by unveiling two concepts: a full hybrid version of its Audi A8 large flagship sedan, and the A1 e-tron, a plug-in hybrid subcompact.
First Up: Audi Q5 Hybrid SUV
Unfortunately, Audi provided no details about the company’s first and only hybrid slated for production so far: the Q5 hybrid crossover SUV. It’s due in the US in early 2011. The Q5 hybrid, like the BMW X6 Hybrid, will try to compete with the Lexus RX 450h, which in recent months has become the best-selling hybrid SUV on the market. Sorry, no news on price or other specs are available for the Q5 hybrid.
Audi Q5 Luxury Hybrid Sedan
The only clues about the Q5 come from the Audi A8 hybrid concept on display in Geneva. It’s a full hybrid promising about 38 miles to the gallon—and
245 horsepower. Zero-to-60 times should be about seven-and-a-half seconds. The base price for a conventional Audi A8 is around $75,000, so the hybrid version likely will get grouped with other niche luxury hybrid sedans, like the Mercedes S400 Hybrid and the less expensive Lexus GS450h. If Audi can deliver on its promises, the Audi A8 will become by far the most efficient hybrid in the high-end luxury set.
The Audi A8 hybrid uses a parallel full hybrid configuration—combining a powerful 33 kWh electric motor and a 211 horsepower four-cylinder gas engine. According to Audi, the hybrid drive can propel the car on electric power alone up to 40 mph for a little more than a mile. The engine, which combines direct fuel injection and turbocharging, is a good example of Audi’s downsizing strategy. Small and compact lithium ion batteries are mounted in the car’s rear section, without interfering with luggage capacity.
Audi A1 Subcompact Plug-in Hybrid Concept
The A1 e-tron is the follow-up to the e-tron electric sports car shown earlier in Frankfurt and Los Angeles. That vehicle, while gorgeous, is mostly show. Four electric-drive motors, one for each wheel, pump out more than 300 horsepower. Electric fuel is stored in a sizable 53-kWh lithium ion battery pack. Edmunds reported that Audi is aiming for a selling price of around $160,000, with limited production volume of one or two hundred in 2012.
The A1 e-tron is a tiny, yet more practical, approach. The much smaller, and therefore more affordable 12-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery, is matched up with a front-mounted 102-horsepower electric motor and an efficient lightweight 252cc Wankel rotary engine. That’s right, a gas-burning engine on board—an acknowledgment that a plug-in hybrid can solve the pure electric car’s problem of limited range. After 30 miles of all-electric driving, the gas engine allows for an additional 125 miles, according to Audi. The car is a subcompact, meaning that it’s probably targeted to crowded urban centers in Europe.