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Audi’s all-electric concept SUV is already being called a Tesla killer

August 19, 2015, 8:07 PM UTC
Audi AG

Audi released a teaser photo of an all-electric SUV concept car this morning and like every other luxury all-electric vehicle to be unveiled in the past year, it’s already being called a Tesla killer by the media.

The e-tron quattro concept vehicle, described by Audi as a sporty SUV, is the company’s first large-series electric car. Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group (VLKAY), will unveil the e-tron quattro concept at the International Motor Show 2015 to be held next month in Frankfurt. The SUV will go into series production beginning in 2018, Audi says.

Tesla Motors is diminutive—in size, sales, and employees—compared with its luxury automaker counterparts. For example, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company is expected to deliver 50,000 cars this year. Audi sold 146,000 vehicles in July alone.

And yet major automakers, including General Motors (GM), BMW, Porsche, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit and Audi all seem to be responding to Tesla’s (TSLA) success in building a luxury all-electric vehicle people want to drive.
Many of these automakers are developing electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to comply with emissions regulations in Europe. However, Audi’s new project seems geared more for North America, where SUV sales continue to soar. But will it offer U.S. buyers an alternative to Tesla’s gulf-winged Model X SUV, which customers who preordered are expecting to be delivered in September?
We won’t really know until the Audi e-tron quattro goes into production, which isn’t expected to begin until 2018. That gives Tesla more than two years to gain market share in the all-electric SUV segment.

The Audi e-tron quattro SUV will have a battery range of more than 500 kilometers, or about 310 miles. This is the same range that was floated earlier this month when Audi, Samsung, and LG Chem said they were teaming up to develop a battery designed for an all-electric SUV. Under that deal, LG Chem (LGCLF) and Samsung SDI (SSNLF) will supply Audi with batteries produced at their European plants. The South Korean tech companies will also invest in cell technology in Europe.

A couple of notes about this concept car: Audi isn’t modifying an existing SUV. This concept car was designed from the ground up as an electric car. The underbody is completely closed—just like Tesla’s Model S—which makes it more aerodynamic. The drive system is based on the Audi R8 e-tron sports car. Three electric motors—one on the front axle and two on the rear axle—drive the Audi e-tron quattro concept.

Seating is one major difference between the Audi e-tron quattro and the Model X. The Audi e-tron quattro will have space for four people, while the Model X has seating for up to seven people.