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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Audi aims to be luxury EV leader; plug-in hybrid due in 2014

Audi has big plans for its electric vehicle business.

"By 2020, we want to be the leading premium seller of electric vehicles," Franciscus van Meel, Audi's manager for electric mobility strategy, said at a recent technical workshop at the company's headquarters here.

"We will successively bring out a variety of hybrid models and electric vehicles, such as our first plug-in hybrid in 2014," he said, without sharing more details on the plug-in hybrid.

Audi's alternative powertrain plan includes: full-hybrid versions of the A8 upper-premium sedan and Q5 SUV, both due in late 2011; a hybrid A6 that is likely to arrive in 2012; plus a range of high-priced electric cars starting with the limited-edition battery-powered e-tron version of the R8 supercar in 2012.

Audi set up the e-tron division to develop and produce EVs. The brand's electric-car approach is different from that of rival BMW AG, which is developing the smaller so-called Megacity Vehicle designed for urban commuting. The Megacity Vehicle is due to launch in 2013.

"Today we're assuming that our sales of Audi e-tron electric cars will rise to a six-figure volume by 2020," van Meel said.

By 2020, Audi wants to increase the efficiency of its internal combustion engines by 30 percent and wants 5 percent of the brand's lineup to be electric, Michael Dick, Audi's board member for technology, said earlier this year.

To help it meet that goal, Audi recently opened a 65 million euro (about $89 million), 14,000-square-meter electric-drive development and test center at its headquarters. It plans to hire 840 people to help develop electric powertrains and batteries.

Audi parent Volkswagen AG wants the group to be No. 1 in hybrid and electric cars before the end of the decade, increasing its EV market share to 3 percent of its forecast global sales of 10 million vehicles by 2018.

Globally, VW Group plans to launch a full-electric version of its Up minicar, the E-Up, E-Golf and E-Jetta in 2013. VW recently announced they will invest $71.2 billion focused on hybrids and electric vehicle development over the next 4 years.

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