Audi Australia began its move into vehicle electrification this week with the A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, but it’s also looking beyond this technology to its first fully electric car.
As we know, Audi will premiere a concept car called the e-tron quattro in a few weeks at the Frankfurt motor show. This crossover SUV concept runs solely on batteries, will have a Tesla Model X-like range of 500km-plus, and will spawn a 2018 production car.
This production model, to be the company’s second series-production EV after the new R8 e-tron, is tipped to be called the Q6 e-tron, given it will sit between the Q5 and Q7 in terms of size. And, Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle says the company’s local arm is very interested.
“[It’s] very early days, we don’t have a lot of detail just yet, [but] clearly with SUVs in Australia, Audi has been hugely successful, therefore we’d be very much inclined to take any SUV that makes sense if and when it becomes available,” he told us this week, adding he was keen to learn more from Frankfurt.
“If it’s available and when we get more details we’d be happy to offer it.”
We asked Doyle if the success of Tesla — whose imminent Model X will be the Q6 e-tron’s most obvious rival — here with the Model S had given Audi the confidence to offer an EV in Australia, a market where the technology remains a definitive niche.
“Clearly we respect all other brands that are doing good things in terms of tech, it’s what we’re about as well, they’ve been successful and therefore that gives us good confidence also, yes,” he said.
We then asked if Audi would, in the frame of mind, consider following in Tesla’s wheel tracks and offering a broad charging network, or whether it would continue to lobby government to get involved as it has in the past. It seems unlikely.
Many car makers have for years criticised successive Australian federal governments for the lack of subsidisation and other forms of incentives to facilitate a great EV rollout. Time and again, we’ve seen the carrot works as well or better than the stick.
“I think putting Audi aside, the right thing is that the government should actually control infrastructure,” Doyle said.
“Therefore, first and foremost I think it would be the right thing for the government to step in to really look at this holistically, to consult with industry. We like to consult when we can, either through individual channels or the Federal Chamber (FCAI).
“But I guess we’ve proven that we have a dealer network ourselves which we’re investing in, so we’re not afraid to invest, but I think the better thing for Australian consumers is that the government would offer both infrastructure, and I think there should be incentives.
“A lot of the… some US states, but mainly Northern European countries offer great incentives and we’ve seen great success where they're on place. Government should reward companies investing in technology, I think that's the right thing to do.”
Consider Norway, for instance, where the Tesla Model S is among the top-selling cars.
Doyle’s comments indicate that it may set up chargers at its dealers, or at least its main network — potentially kicking off with the 16 sites that will sell the A3 e-tron. This is largely moot until the ‘Q6’ arrives in 2018/19.
Audi has also set its own precedent by offering a wallbox charger with installation to people who buy the A3 e-tron.