Audi’s First Three Electric Vehicles Take Shape, Will Arrive By 2020

Audi e-tron quattro concept

Relatively unscathed by the Volkswagen diesel scandal, the VW Group’s profitable Audi brand is charging ahead with big plans for electric cars and autonomous-driving technology. Recently, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler told the Ingolstadt-based newspaper Donaukurier that his brand will launch three fully electric models by 2020.

The first of the three is no surprise, as it will be the electric version of the Q6 crossover previewed by the e-tron Quattro concept pictured above. If you weren’t a fan of the somewhat crude, chiseled look of the concept, don’t fret: We hear that was just one proposal for the series-production version—and the one that was discarded. Whatever its final styling, the EV version of the Q6 (there will be hydrogen fuel-cell and hybrid versions, too) promises a range of more than 300 miles, and it will be powerful enough to take on competition like the upcoming Battery-Electric Vehicle (BEV) by Daimler and versions of the Tesla Model X. Moreover, the Q6 EV is said to provide its top performance consistently, and not be limited to just a few bursts of same.

The crossover SUV will spawn the second EV, which will be a variation on the same theme with sportier bodywork. The concept for the third vehicle is still being defined, and it is likely to be an executive sedan. But it is unlikely to be slotted above the A8, as a company source told us that Audi doesn’t “want to make an electric and price it out of the market.” In other words: Don’t hold your breath waiting for an A9.

Audi e-tron quattro concept

So bullish is Stadler about electric vehicles that he predicts a 25-percent-to-30-percent take rate by 2025. And there’s more: A hydrogen-fueled Audi is indispensable, he says. Stadler’s other plans in motion include the formation of a subsidiary to Audi that is internally called SDS, which stands for “Self-Driving Systems.” Stadler said that the company’s current focus for autonomous-driving tech is the next-generation A8, which will have “piloted driving” functionality, which is to say it may be able to steer itself through a traffic jam.

Asked about his feelings on the Tesla Autopilot accident, in which a Model S driver was killed while his car’s semi-autonomous system was active, Stadler said, “In this case, the company probably suggested too much to the customer. And the customer imagined capabilities into the system that it didn’t have. It is necessary to be careful and honest. At Audi, we will include sufficient safety measures. And we won’t promise more to the customer than they will get.”

Audi’s ultimate development target for the SDS division is extremely ambitious: A fully autonomous car, “perhaps even without pedals and steering wheel.” That’s all well and good given the direction of the industry, but while we’re shooting for the stars, how about resurrecting the Urban Concept?