Audi has just taken the wraps off its first all-electric production car, the e-tron. The unveil took place in San Francisco, USA, symbolically not too far from Audi’s rival in the electric car space, Tesla, whose headquarters are in Palo Alto.
The e-tron SUV is the first of multiple Audi EVs in the pipeline and is all set to go on sale in key regions like Scandinavia and USA in 2018, before a phased launch programme for other countries the world over.
The big news is that India figures in the list of countries earmarked for the e-tron. Audi India has confirmed it is working to bring the model to India in the last quarter of 2019, though a final decision will be taken in the weeks to come.
The five-seat-only e-tron slots in between the Q5 and Q7 in size, though it’s closer to the larger of the Audi SUVs in overall stance and dimensions. Audi India officials are tight-lipped on positioning but what’s clear is that the e-tron will be a niche product targeted primarily at tech-savvy ‘early adopters’.
Pricing will be “competitive” we are told, but it will be significantly more than traditional combustion engine models like the Q7. Expect e-tron prices to easily breach the Rs 1 crore mark, after accounting for the subsidy of Rs 1.5 lakh or so on electric cars.
What also has to be finalised is charging solutions for India. India is way behind the curve in terms of charging infrastructure for EVs but company insiders say Audi’s plans to go ahead with the e-tron’s launch stems from the confidence in the SUV’s range. The e-tron is rated with a 400km range (as per the WLTP test protocol) which Audi India believes is enough to surpass the typical requirements of Indian buyers.
Audi is also looking at bundling charging hardware with the e-tron in India, rather than setting up a network of chargers. Remarkably, the e-tron boasts a charge time of just 30 minutes to 80 percent with a 150kW DC fast charger. A typical 240V AC wall charger (with an 11kW charger) juices the lithium-ion battery pack to 80 percent in 8 hours. There is only one specification of the e-tron for the moment; a 95kWh lithium-ion battery pack that supplies charge to dual electric motors (125kW at the front and 140kw at the rear). A boost mode takes combined power up to 300kW (or 408hp) for 8 seconds allowing a 0-100kph time of 5.5 seconds.
There are other intricate details to be worked out as well. For one, the e-tron’s futuristic wing mirrors that house cameras in place of mirrors are not destined for all markets. The absence of regulation regarding this type of wing mirrors in India puts a question mark on if they’d make it to the e-tron for our market.
New-gen Q7 buyers who are interested in the e-tron are sure to appreciate the latter’s dedicated storage space for a space saver spare wheel under the boot floor. Audi has got flak for the Q7’s odd positioning of the spare wheel in the passenger compartment, especially from markets like India and the Middle East, and that feedback has been incorporated when designing the e-tron.
While there has been a lot of talk about electric vehicles in India, especially in the mass segment, Audi’s announcement to bring the e-tron to India is the first confirmed plan from a luxury carmaker in this area. Jaguar has disclosed it will look to bring the I-Pace in the future, while Mercedes-Benz has not revealed plans for its new EQC SUV for India and Tesla’s India plans seem to be on the backburner, even though Indian buyers were welcome to place a $1,000 (about Rs 72,500) deposit on the Model 3 back in 2016. The e-tron could just be the start of the shift towards electric cars among India’s luxury car buyers.
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