If you want a luxury all-electric sedan or SUV, it’s either a model from Tesla Motors or nothing. But that will change in the coming years as Volkswagen Group emerges as the most likely early challenger to the Palo Alto electric car company’s innovative battery-powered cars.
Volkswagen’s Audi division pulls back the cover from its E-Tron Quattro, an all-electric SUV boasting 310 miles of range that will go on sale in 2018. Meanwhile, the group’s Porsche division showed off its 600 horsepower 330-mile-range, all-electric Porsche Mission E concept four-door sedan, with a battery, the company claims, that can be charged to 80 percent capacity in less than 15 minutes.
Both vehicles show that if all-electric cars have a future, then the industry has the muscle, brains and scale to respond to what Tesla Motors and its chief architects, Elon Musk and Jeffrey Straubel, can throw at it.
"The Porsche Mission E and the Audi E-Tron Quattro concept are nothing less than a quantum leap for our industry,” Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn said in a statement Monday.
The Wolfsburg, Germany, automaker has plans to release 20 all-electric and plug-in hybrid models by the end of the decade and it already makes arguably one of the most advanced electric-gas hybrids ever made, the Porsche 918 Spyder Turbo S, an $845,000 supercar.
The Mission E, which borrows design cues from the Panamera, could go on sale by 2020. With an electric motor powering each axle the Mission E can reportedly hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, better than the nonperformance versions of the Model S but slower than the 2.8 seconds Tesla boasts for its $118,000 P85D with a speed upgrade. The Mission E also has range that's comparable to the Model S, even adjusting for Europe’s more generous electric-car range estimates. And perhaps most important: Porsche claims to have more than halved the amount of time the Mission E can charge compared to the Model S.
Porsche says the Mission E is more than just a concept, but a serious bid at the future of the brand. But the car isn’t out yet, and whether Porsche can create a car within the Model S price range is a big, bold question mark. The price for Audi's electric SUV is also yet to be announced.
Meanwhile, Audi’s E-Tron Quattro SUV that was unveiled on Tuesday in Frankfurt is expected to challenge the Tesla Model X when it goes on sale in early 2018. The SUV’s 95 kilowatt-hour battery pack is larger than the Tesla’s largest capacity. It will churn out 429 horsepower and travel more than 300 miles on a full battery charge, which is comparable to Tesla’s Model X, whose deliveries to customers are expected to start as early as the end of September. The Audi E-Tron Quattro’s charge time is comparable to what Tesla offers.
Both the Porsche Mission E and the Audi E-Tron Quattro are packed with cameras and screens and will come with the latest in-car technology. Unlike Toyota, which is committed to the future of hydrogen fuel-cell power, or the U.S. automakers, who seem perpetually focused on churning out trucks, muscle cars and giant SUVs, Volkswagen appears to be committed to electric power.
Tesla's Musk has said his primary goal is to see more electric cars on the road, whether they’re made by his company or not. It appears that Volkswagen Group is answering his call.