The Germans were never going to sit idle and allow Tesla Motors to take over the luxury electric car market. Now we have the first glimpse -- albeit in stylized renderings rather than photos -- of the direction Audi is going in its challenge to the highly anticipated Tesla Model X sport utility vehicle. The Model X will begin appearing on U.S. roads in the coming months.
The German luxury carmaker released sketches Wednesday of its e-tron quattro SUV. A concept version of the vehicle will debut next month at the 66th annual Frankfurt International Motor Show.
Like the Model X, “the Audi e-tron quattro concept is designed from the ground up as an electric car,” Audi said in a statement.
The unveiling of the electric SUV concept comes as Audi is poised to deliver the all-electric version of its standard gas-powered R8 sports car in select markets early next year. Audi hasn't released pricing information for the electric R8 e-tron, but it’s safe to say it will cost more than the comparable $112,500 Tesla Model S.
Audi claims the latest R8 e-tron gets 280 miles on an electric charge, compared with the 270 miles in a Tesla Model S, but because U.S. testing standards are more accurate, the Audi is likely to have a shorter per-charge driving distance under real-world driving conditions. Like the R8 e-tron, the electric SUV will also cost more and have less range than the Model X’s 300 miles.
Nevertheless, Volkswagen Group-owned Audi has made immense strides in its battery technology in recent years.
When Audi began toying with its e-tron family of all-electric and plug-in hybrids in 2009, its first lithium-ion battery packs had barely more energy storage capacity than some smaller, less expensive electric cars, like the BMW i3. The first R8 e-tron, whose 2010 limited release was put on hold, carried a 49 kWh battery pack, giving it a disappointing 133-mile range. Since then, Audi has managed to boost power density to 90 kWh, the same as Tesla’s recently introduced highest-capacity battery pack.
Tesla is ahead of the pack in the world of long-range luxury electric cars, but the Palo Alto electric carmaker will soon encounter some serious competitors. Last weekend at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California, Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer said an all-electric version of the Aston Martin Rapide four door sports car would be out by the end of 2018, boasting 600 horsepower and a 200-mile range, Automotive News reported.