Audi e-tron: A Mix Of Want, Courage, Ignore, And Force

With illuminated drones, forming the Audi logo over the skyline of San Francisco, Audi opened the presentation event of their first electric car. And you have to give them some kudos: they have better showmanship than some other German car makers, who also presented their first electric car to the public. But it’s more important, what exactly Audi unveiled, and just to give an upfront notice: the product as well convinces more on a first glance. The Audi e-tron has apparently been really designed from the perspective of creating an electric car, and not just retrofit a combustion engine car. From four internal designs the one wit the best aerodynamics was chosen. Presumably with the goal to maximize range and reduce drag. A plus right here for Audi. Because no engine sounds are competing with wind noise, minimizing latter became a design goal as well. And Audi claims of having achieved exactly that. But even with an Audi e-tron a radiator grill is still a radiator grill. Industry wide there seems to be some perplexity of what to do with it. Should it be replace and still have some distinct face of the brand? Audi_e-tron_15 The EPA range of the 95kWh battery is not yet official, only the European WLTP numbers with over 400 kilometers are available. A test drive on September 6th of 175 miles (280 kilometers) from San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe (the very lake that the show Bonanza was located around and which you can see in the trailer on the map), which required an ascent of 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), 12 miles (19 kilometers) range were left. After a full charge and returning 94 miles (150 kilometers) range were left, thanks to an efficient recuperation system. The battery itself consists of 36 cell blocks, which are held at temperature through a cooling system attached to the bottom of the pack. Audi_e-tron_05 An interesting aspect is the structure of the battery. Those are designed for being protected during a crash. Audi has apparently observed some of the spectacular battery fires after Tesla-vehicles crashed. Acceleration is 5.5 seconds from 0 to 60 miles per hour. The central role that Audi had at the Diesel emissions scandal led to some unexpected and certainly not intended ramifications. First, the Audi-CEO Rupert Stadler was taken into custody, where he still remains. This changed the dynamics around the vehicle’s presentation, which was scheduled for Brussels (the location where the e-tron is manufactured) a few weeks earlier. The new temporary CEO (as written on the screen at the presentation) Bram Schot moved the presentation to San Francisco. Second, the other side effect of the Diesel scandal is the fact that Volkswagen had to settle with the government and use 2 billion dollars to promote electric mobility by building a charging station infrastructure through a daughter company named Electrify America. In this initiative those charging stations must be accessible for all electric vehicles, independent of their make. Until July 2019 the company is planing to have almost 500 charging stations with 2,000 charging points in 40 U.S. states. The stations are located not farther than 120 miles (192 kilometers) from each other. Just imagine having the audacity that Volkswagen gets the same settlement in Germany and Europe. But no, European politicians still whine about ways to finance electric mobility and charging stations. No money. Hey! For every crap you look at the USA as an example, but here you look the other way? But I am deviating… Here is the advertising that Volkswagen was forced to broadcast and promote electric vehicles. Just as a side note: that’s also the only nationwide commercial promoting electric vehicles. But the reasons why nobody us advertising could fill another blog post… Charing at home is also solver for Audi. A partnership with Amazon brings a turnkey solution by the retail giant. Alexa is another element integrated in the car and included in the Audi data plan. Availability of the car in the U.S. is targeted for Q2 2019, the base price MSRP at 74,800 dollars, before federal tax credits and other rebates. Reservations for the U.S. market are now open. In Europe Audi entered partnerships with providers offering a total of 72,000 public charging station in 22 countries, including fast charging stations by Ionity. Fast charging is a topic where Audi is setting the pace. The e-tron is the first electric vehicle on the market able to use the power of Ionity’s fast charging station (150 kW to 35 kW) with 150 kW charging rate. This charges the car from 0 to 80 percent in 30 minutes. Tesla’s fast charger are at 120 kW. Let’s take a look at the exasperating topic of frunk (the front trunk). I use the frunk (among others) as an indication how a car’s design looks behind the shiny surface and how much effort designers really spent there and considered electric vehicles. And prominently, Mercedes completely failed that test at their EQC. How is the situation with the e-tron? The e-tron has a frunk, but that’s al about it. It looks small, but hey, there is one. I just ask myself what the heck is filling now the gap that was once the engine? Is this the electric motor? Are they wasting space by sloppily putting in their other garbage?
A playful new feature are the virtual mirror, replacing side mirrors with cameras, and projecting the image on a screen at the doors. Those smaller cameras are better for drag, but we will see how much drivers will like it. Finally something about autonomous driving or driving assist systems. I couldn’t hear a single word about that, at least not in the presentation. Is there something? Is the car prepared for that? We probably have to wait until they are hit by the Waymo-shock. There were also no news about over-the-air-updates. Audi’s offers more passenger space and for their feet with the e-tron, as can be seen in the pictures below. And the cooling system is place at the bottom of the battery pack (unlike the Mercedes EQC design, that interferes with passenger space). You see, if you want to, everything is possible.
We would like to have wanted, but we didn’t dare to be allowed. Karl Valentin
Until 2025 more than 20 new models are scheduled to come, of which half of them will be fully electric, the others will be hybrids. Why hybrids, Audi? Carl Benz didn’t keep the horse in his Motorwagen, in case there is a problem with the engine. Conclusion: a more solid presentation of a more convincing car than the EQC was. The car is certainly not the Tesla-killer, but will kill combustion cars, helping to make electric vehicles in Germany popular. From a digital and autonomous driving perspective there is more audacity and will required. The virtual mirrors and Alexa alone are not sufficient, although they are certainly adding some bonus points. One can see the will, but Audi’s not yet completely leaving their history and understanding of design behind. Also they were forced to do certain things that are now turning out to be the best thing that happened to them in a while. Here are more images: Here is the recording from the presentation event. And here another video with some more detailed views at the car: This article has also been published in German.


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