Audi unveils electrification plan

It was during a day called TechDay e-mobility that Audi presented its plans to us in terms of electrification of its range. Between current and future models, rechargeable and electric hybrids, an overview of the essential electrification, under the seal of the Rings.

Whether in the form of hybridization or 100% electric vehicles, electrification is an essential step for all manufacturers if they want to meet the drastic CO2 emission targets set by Europe. This is valid for generalists, but also for premiums which take turns in the electrical box. 

At Audi, it started a few years ago, with an A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, cousin of the Volkswagen Golf GTE, both taken out of the catalog for approval reasons. We also remember the concept A1 e-tron (2010), combining an electric motor and a range extender in the form of a rotary engine, which Mazda is preparing to market elsewhere.

Today, Audi launched the famous e-tron a few months ago , its first 100% electric car, which is joined by the plug-in hybrid version of the Q5 SUV in a version called 55 TFSI e. An offensive on two fronts which will very quickly be completed, with in the long term, no less than 30 models electrified by 2025, including 20 all electric, all of which should constitute 40% of sales. 

This represents for the manufacturer a substantial investment of no less than 14 billion euros by 2023. The CO2 footprint is doubly in the sights of Audi, with a reduction of 30% of emissions from its fleet of vehicles by 2025 (in comparison with 2015) and the achievement of a carbon neutral balance in all its production sites announced by 2050. 

The rechargeable hybrid is now!

Like what Mercedes-Benz has just presented with the electrification of its range with plug-in hybrid models, Audi is launching an offensive to electrify its existing models. Thus, the Q5, Q7, A7 and A8 are offered in TFSI e versions, the small name of the plug-in hybrids from the Ingolstadt brand. The A6 is of course not forgotten and it will receive its TFSI e version in a second time, followed next year by the brand new generation of the A3, as well as the Q3 Sportback.

The Q5 and A7 Sportback share the same solution, composed of a 2.0 TFSI 4-cylinder engine with 2.0 cubic capacity, developing a total of 367 horsepower (105 kW for the electric motor only) and a total torque of 500 Nm. The battery of 14, 1 kWh (80% of which is useful) authorizes a given autonomy for more than 40 km according to the WLTP standard, which is enough to trigger European aid for this type of vehicle. The electric motor can recover up to 80 kW of energy, in decelerations of 0.3 g maximum.

By default, the vehicle starts in electric mode, but it is possible to choose a hybrid mode, or a battery hold mode, preserving the battery charge for later use. But the most effective is probably to let the system choose with PBS (predictive operation strategy), which takes into account the coming route with the help of GPS navigation, topography analysis, traffic , urban areas and other criteria such as the driver’s driving habits to better optimize energy management.

We were able to verify its effectiveness during a short loop carried out on board a Q5 55 TFSI e, the first to be put on the market (€ 67,080). The plug-in hybrid SUV thus proves to be particularly efficient in terms of energy management, until reaching just 0% of battery at the end point of the route stored.

The driver, when not using the adaptive cruise control, is notified in the pedal when he can anticipate upcoming braking and release the accelerator pedal, by means of a haptic feedback in the pedal even. A visual signal completes the information.

The Q5 loses 85 liters of trunk and 11 l of petrol tank (54 l remain) in the transformation into a plug-in hybrid, while it gains 300 kg on the scale. Driving is very pleasant and smooth, with remarkable discretion when the petrol engine comes into action.

But braking remains the weak point of this type of vehicle because it must combine mechanical action and electrical action as well as possible. Result, the feeling on the pedal is just right and it takes a bit of habit before you dose the decelerations perfectly. Nothing to worry about, but it is above all a (slight) concern for comfort.

The other rechargeable hybrids, the A8 and Q7, for their part receive a very pleasant 3.0 TFSI V6 of 449 and 456 hp respectively, with a huge torque of 700 Nm and a range, also, greater than 40 km, thanks to the battery. 14.1 kWh for the A8 and 17.3 kWh for the Q7. A quick tour of A8 TFSI e allowed us to appreciate the smoothness of this mechanical solution, perfectly supplemented by the electric motor for reminders and, during village crossings, discretion ensured in pure electric mode for the German limousine.

In the furrow dug by the e-tron, the purely electric vehicles from Audi are expected to grow and multiply, retaining this name affixed to the name of each model. Electric Audi cars will therefore recognize their e-tron label. Starting with the founding model, which will be available in a coupe SUV version, logically named e-tron Sportback.

The formula is the same as that developed by BMW for the first X6: adopt a drooping roof line and a very inclined rear window on the basis of an SUV, just to make it look more sporty, even if it means losing (a little ) in headroom in the rear seats, a method applied wonderfully on the Q3 Sportback. Technically, nothing should change on this vehicle, based on the MLB Evo platform, an evolution of an existing platform and not a platform dedicated to electric models, unlike the three (!) Other platforms in the program.

The first is known, it is the MEB, shared with Volkswagen for its ID.3 (+ Seat and Skoda) and promised at Audi to the compact SUV Q4 e-tron, seen in the form of a concept car at last Geneva show and expected for 2021. The advantage of this optimized platform is that it optimizes living space to the point of offering the Q4 e-tron an interior volume worthy of a Q5, for a footprint close to that of a Q3 (4.59 m): the best of both worlds, in short!

Another shared platform, much more exclusive this one, the J1 that we find under the Porsche Taycan, and which will also be the base used for the magnificent Audi e-tron GT, presented in the form of a concept at the show of Los Angeles 2018. A concept extremely close to the production model expected at the end of next year, as the people at Audi told us.

Particularity of this platform, in addition to its dynamic qualities adapted to the very high performance of these ultra-powerful models, it is designed to leave space at the feet of the rear passengers, like two hatches in the floor allowing a comfortable leg position on board these very low cars.

Finally, a brand new platform will complete this rich technical base. Shared with Porsche, the PPE (Premium Platform Electric), that’s his name, will serve as the basis for premium models that are less radical than the Taycan and e-tron GT.

Clearly, it will be the electric platform dedicated to touring models and sedans more typed comfort than pure performance, also covering SUV, Sportback, Avant and crossovers. This technical base is planned in propulsion or quattro, with a system under 800 volts allowing a load which can reach the 350 kW, in other words, the fastest possible!

An example in the form of a design study model was shown to us, but we were unfortunately forbidden to take pictures of it without a tarpaulin. How to describe it? It is a coupé-like sedan that inevitably brings to mind the A5 Sportback.

Slender lines, significantly less low, sculpted and sporty than the e-tron GT, a front panel cleverly and elegantly incorporating a false grille, variation on the theme of the brand’s Single Frame, edges and glass surfaces limited: this is what we can say about this development concept (without interior) which has the function of showing the direction that high-end electric Audi could take. Elegant and flattering, this design model does not differ from the current range at first glance, however.