Hooniverse Asks: What do you want to know about the Audi E-Tron?

No, I’m not going to type it out in lowercase letters. It feels wrong to spell it that way, even if Audi disagrees. Regardless, I’m off to drive it and I want to know what you want to know about the German automaker’s new electric vehicle.

Here are the basics on this one; the E-Tron is a battery electric crossover that slots in the lineup between the Q5 and Q7. This is Audi’s first fully electric production vehicle. And it boasts that styling edge that’s quasi concept like without pushing too far into TRON territory.

Audi claims its Q8 takes styling cues from the Ur-Quattro

Under that stylish skin lives a 95-kWh battery pack, which sends power to a pair of electric motors. One sits up front and the other lives out back. I’m curious if Audi pushed the front motor way in front of the axle just for old time’s sake, but I don’t think that’s the case. Either way, the combined power output is a respectable 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque. Apparently there’s a Sport mode that unlocked a bit more juice though, and power output rises to 402 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque.

All of the initial impressions, based on automaker photos and a spec sheet, show an interesting and attractive machine. The big sticking point, however, is the fact that the EPA-estimated range is just 204 miles. Even the Jaguar I-Pace breaks past 230 miles. Audi needs to get that range figure way up if it wants to make a dent in Tesla’s marketshare.

I’m flying to Northern California to give it a run. What do you want to know about it?

35 Comments

  1. As someone else posted here in the past (sorry, I don’t recall who, but it was a very good point!), it is realistically-speaking the required recharging time, not range limitations, that make people anxious about EVs. In that sense, does a 24-mile difference in range really matter?

    The average American commute is less than 20 miles one way. That leaves a comfortable 150 miles of additional running around before you exhaust the Audi. Plug it in when you get home and you’re good to go for the next day after 9 hours plugged into the grid. That’s an overnight charge only if you opted for the 240V, 9.6 kW home charger (which most people almost certainly will). With only 120V at your disposal, you’re biking to work for the next three days (80 hours) while the E-Tron recharges fully. Regardless, if you’re packed up for a family holiday, the 10-hour drive to the beach that took one day in the old dinosaur-swilling minivan now requires two overnight hotel stays in the E-Tron, just to reach your destination. Tack on another three days to return home, and your 10-day vacation has now shrunk to four.

    Of course, you might get lucky and be able to plan your trip around access to a quick-charge DC station site, of which there are currently (maybe) 150 for the entire United States (that’s about one location per area the size of West Virginia). Thirty minutes while grabbing a burger nets you another 160 miles in the Audi. That’s an additional 2.5 hours you can drive, at which point you are unlikely to find another DC station, and if you do, you’re still sitting for another 30 minutes for your next 2.5 hours of driving. Compared to the 10 minute fill-up that nets you 500 miles or more in a hybrid, why would you travel in an EV?

    So, the question isn’t how far can you go on a charge, but how long does it take to top it off? It’s not so much an issue with the car itself, but our infrastructure. Until we solve that problem, hybrids still make more sense than a pure EV, unless you’re using the car solely for short trips and daily commutes. However, who is going to pay $75k for a commuter?

    Therefore, what I want to know about the Audi E-Tron is this: “Why?”

    1. Tesla seems to be doing pretty good selling $75k commuters. Plug in hybrids make the most sense, not sure why there are more of them.

      1. My observations where I live suggest that buyers of Teslas (other than the Model 3) are very well-heeled and have at least two other (non-EV) vehicles– typically Mercedes– in their garages. They’re not dependent on their luxury EV as their sole transportation. I can’t imagine that niche of commuters is a very large percentage of buyers, and if Tesla has that small market covered, is there really room for Audi to share?

        Tesla sold less than 100,000 Models S and X last year, worldwide. Even if Audi wants to take half of that volume with the e-Tron, that’s only about 2% of their global 2018 sales. That’d be hugely ambitious, considering expected competition with the Jaguar I-Pace, Mercedes EQ, and BMW iX3. I would also guess that more affordable EVs like the Leaf, Kona, Niro, and Soul will start to cut into Tesla’s cornered market.

    2. Surely the current ‘long’ range EV’s are designed to be sufficient for say 90% of your driving needs and either use a second or rented vehicle for the rest. As opposed to the sub-100 mile range commuters that require a second vehicle for many.

      I’d like to see real-world range & energy consumption results (miles per kW), to compare with other EV’s. Also why make a separate EV rather than an EV version of the Q5?

      1. The e-Tron is dimensionally somewhere between the Q5 and Q7, but those cars start around $43K and $53K, respectively. That would put a theoretical Q6 at about $48K to start, which estimates the e-Tron to have an “electrification premium” of about $27K. Considering electrification costs you $20K more with the Hyundai Kona, this doesn’t seem unreasonable, but selling an e-Q5 at $70K might not make sense to buyers. My wife drives a Q5, and while it’s a nice enough vehicle, it wouldn’t be “$70K nice” with anything less than Doc Brown’s Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor powering it.

    3. Fact is that for those people that drive 20 mi per day it doesn’t really matter what the charge time is. You can replenish that overnight on 110 w/o a problem. Say you do go a little more on the weekend and you don’t get it full Sat or Sun night no big deal because Mon-Thur you’ll build back up to a full charge by fri.

      No it doesn’t make sense for a long trip but fact is most families in the US have at least two cars and it is rare that they will both be required to make a 200+ mile trip in a single day.

      Yeah for a one car solution a plug in hybrid that can do the week day needs on battery alone is a good way. Still cheaper to purchase than a EV with significant range, and you save money on your daily commute and some of the weekend use but can also hop in and go just like you would in any ICE vehicle. The number of PHEVs is increasing Ford just announced that the next Escape, Corsair (MKC) and Aviator will have a PHEV version in the US and the Explorer will in Europe. The F150 PHEV is also on the way also.

      1. As I replied to Sjalabais below, I don’t argue against a sub-$40K EV. They are a sensible purchase and the range of potential buyers to which they apply is broad. However, as the price rises, they become less a smart choice and more of a discretionary indulgence, and the market shrinks considerably. I personally can’t imagine buying even an ICE $75K vehicle, because the opportunity cost is too high for me. I’d need to give up too much, including any other cars. Given that our household income is comfortably above average, I’d say my situation isn’t that different from most. It’s the same reason I don’t buy a Porsche– yes, they make great cars and I’d love to own one, but they don’t make sense for my situation. Given that Porsche only sold 57,000 vehicles in the U.S. last year (and it was a record-setting year), I’m not alone.

        So, I think there’s a very compelling case for the EV formula being perfect for mainstream society, but adding the cost of luxury doesn’t balance the equation very well.

    4. When we recently bought the antique Leaf for my wife’s commute, all we wanted was basically a golf cart with a roof. I am surprised at how this glorified golf cart has replaced our fossil fuel cars.

      For one, there’s the subtle “good feeling” of driving something that a) pollutes less locally and b) doesn’t need to warm up any necessary gooey bits. So short drives are suddenly okay.

      Second, there’s the silence in the car. I am totally surprised by how much I like it.

      Third, the RC toy like acceleration from 0 to marching speed hasn’t worn off its fun effect on me just yet.

      What we end up with is having our 80-100km range vehicle on the grid all the time. I can charge it for free at work, which I do (46 km round trip).

      For loading/towing jobs and longer distance drives, it’s totally fine to drive any of the other cars still. Being a bottom marked dweller who buys other people’s old cars, replacing that end of the need spectrum with an EV is out of the question entirely for probably a decade to come.

      But I would imagine new car buyers to have little issue with that, too. You go far a lot? Keep a fossil car around. You go far once or twice a year? Rent something cool for that. Mr. Hypothetical e-trown-owner can afford a new Audi with a silly name, renting something different a few times a year won’t dent any budgets.

      1. An EV priced under $40k makes complete sense to me. While they aren’t my preference as an enthusiast, I completely understand why people buy cars like the Leaf and the Bolt. Even the Model 3, I think, is a good idea, which is maybe why it accounts for nearly 60% of Tesla sales. And if Audi wanted to get into the EV game with a $45K e-Q3 or something, maybe even that would make sense to me. But starting at $75K, the e-Tron doesn’t make sense because you need it, but simply because you want it.

          1. Absolutely. But the premium market is comparatively small, and Tesla’s had a huge head start in which to saturate that niche with its product. It’s admittedly easier to turn a profit with luxury vehicles, but if you’re a manufacturer that’s serious about making a dent in the expanding mainstream EV market, then the smarter move (in my opinion) is to go for volume. You do that at a lower price point.

          2. But that’s not Audi’s ambition or market? It looks like the high cost associated with relatively uncharted terrain goes hand in hand with making EVs desirable by “starting from the top”. I don’t understand 90% of average car buyer’s, yet I’m sure Audi knows their market exists.

          3. I think the ‘starting from the top’ is
            – Audi have not been bold enough to launch a hybrid/PHEV/EV sub-brand (like the BMW i3/i8) which might compete on the STRENGTHS of electric,
            – so the ‘e-tron’ is competing with the ICE vehicles in Audi’s range and those of its competitors’,
            – so it has to look like an over-muscled concept with 21″ wheels and a ‘coupe’ roofline,
            – and it needs oversized brakes, 4-wheel drive, heavy cooling etc. to allow a 155mph top speed and a Nurburgring lap time that makes headlines,
            – the form factor causes a conflicts between the obvious places to put the batteries and the obvious places to put people, so the wheelbase/width/height all increase to hide this — that’s why it is an SUV rather than a sedan/wagon,
            – it becomes an $80,000 car rather than a $40,000 car.

  2. I dislike when manufacturers name cars after whatever appears in alphabet soup, and appreciate the use of actual words in model names.

    Having said that, I don’t think they tried very hard with this one.

      1. They preferred his appearance in The Spy Who Loved Me. Same teeth, more Lotus submarine.

  3. Styling the name entirely in lower case makes e-tron look rather like étron executed with a limited character set. Was that their intention?

    1. Don’t know, but there is Something ironic about the all-lowercase stylized Name coming from a Company whose home Country’s native Language capitalizes every Noun.

  4. EV’s are still vanity projects for everyone involved. I want to see one turn a profit on its own, and would love to hear Audi’s economics on it, but that’s for investor press, not enthusiast press.

    The EV effort is keeping a lot of people engaged and involved in innovation, but the longer we go without the range/charging performance of the vehicles improving, the less hopeful I am. No one has topped the Model S, most notably not even Tesla itself, that’s a red flag.

    The cynic in me thinks a large part of this effort is aimed at keeping the regulators and politicians happy.

    1. “EV’s are still vanity projects for everyone involved. I want to see one turn a profit on its own, and would love to hear Audi’s economics on it, but that’s for investor press, not enthusiast press.”

      That’s kind of a catch 22: right now far more gasoline cars are being sold than EVs, so the economies of scale are strongly in favor of gasoline cars. And have been for the past century. Yet you don’t want to be the last car company to get a capable electric car driveline figured out, because electric car sales are increasing much faster than gas cars. And there are markets (cities in Europe and China) where non-EVs will be banned soon, so laggards like Ford could be entirely locked out of those markets. That’s the kind of thing that investors will start to care about.

      Additionally, there’s the whole “polluting where we live and breathe has never been a bright idea” thing. Eventually everyone in the world will figure that out, and act accordingly with either stick or carrot.

      It took a long time to go from “treating rivers as open sewers” to making sure our drinking water doesn’t contain someone else’s poo. Eventually we’ll figure out the air we breathe shouldn’t contain someone else’s partially burnt hydrocarbons either. Or at least they should pay through the nose for it. It may take a half-century to get there, but it’s unlikely even places like West Virginia or Illinois (with their EV tax) can afford to stay behind in EV infrastructure for long.

      1. I’m a huge fan of the internal combustion engine, and so it pains me to say it, but I think governments should just tax the shit out of gasoline. EVs are simply more expensive to produce than conventional vehicles, and the only way to level the playing field is to increase the operating costs of ICEs. It’s the right thing to do, assuming we can build the necessary infrastructure to allow the shift, and technologies can reduce emissions from power plants that supply the grid.

        1. Additional taxes to make a non competitive technology more affordable than the established tech would price a lot of people at the margins out of transportation altogether. EV’s are stone simple and a neat idea that should stand on its own eventually, given how well it fits most people’s needs.

          Under the most aggressive scenarios involving adopting renewables, the world will still need more HC based electric generation for as long as they have forecasts. The alternative is economic stagnation that would make people pray for 1970’s smog as an alternative.

          If we’re hellbent on getting off of carbon, nuclear seems the least worst alternative, but we’ll still have to give up more money to do it.

          1. Just today, some international agency adviced Norway to scrap its massive EV subsidies in exchange for a Zentropian tax change. I agree on that, really.

            But once people lift their perspective, like you did with nuclear energy (I violently disagree that this is the way to go btw) it becomes clear that personal transportation is a pretty slim share of human emissions. Just the flaming of excess gas at an oil processing plant outside of Bergen produces a whole year’s worth of our national vehicle emissions. It’s bonkers not to regulate that and put a sizable amount of national wealth into changing personal transportation…

            Better urban planning, more public transport options, better jobs with work from home, better energy production, utilization and conservation are way more important. And as the private consumer is well on their way to a new mindset and improved ecology, business and governments really need to follow suit.

          2. Just today, some international agency adviced Norway to scrap its massive EV subsidies in exchange for a Zentropian tax change. I agree on that, really.

            But once people lift their perspective, like you did with nuclear energy (I violently disagree that this is the way to go btw) it becomes clear that personal transportation is a pretty slim share of human emissions. Just the flaming of excess gas at an oil processing plant outside of Bergen produces a whole year’s worth of our national vehicle emissions. It’s bonkers not to regulate that and put a sizable amount of national wealth into changing personal transportation…

            Better urban planning, more public transport options, better jobs with work from home, better energy production, utilization and conservation are way more important. And as the private consumer is well on their way to a new mindset and improved ecology, business and governments really need to follow suit.

          3. That flaming gas could be charging Teslas, but permitting a gas fired power plant is presumably a non-starter, or at least building the pipeline to a place where it can be used is, so there’s a sanctioned unused burner tip wasting btu’s. This is what happens when solutions get political to address emotional issues.

            Meanwhile, Nord Stream 2 presses on.

          4. Exactly. The force of NIMBYism is colossal. Sometimes understandable, but ever present.

          5. I agree with you that vehicle emissions are only a small part of most people’s carbon footprint, but they are an area where incentives and/or taxes can easily be demonstrated to be making a change in consumer purchasing choices — so politicians can say “look what we are doing to reduce carbon emissions!” whilst leaving much larger (and more ‘difficult’) contributors untouched. Much of this is gesture politics/virtue signalling rather than prioritising which actions will result in the biggest cut in emissions.

            What has changed in the last year in the UK is a much stronger priority to reduce air pollution near to major roads and in urban centres. This favours pure EV’s (rather than hybrids or efficient ICE). A city such as London has so little remaining industry that almost all air pollution is from heating systems and particularly vehicle emissions. It is a side issue compared to carbon emissions, but an emotive one and this is likely to be the strongest push factor from combustion engines to EVs. (Fuel cells etc. still not having the infrastructure to make any impact).

          6. Yeah, you’re 100% right. Politics ≠ Rationality.

            Local emissions get reduced significantly and that’s worthwhile. In Bergen, we have been plagued by an atmospheric effect called “inversion”, locking in smog between the surrounding mountains in particular weather conditions. EVs have reduced that a fair bit, but what really matters is modern, clean burning fireplaces for wood, and prohibiting oil stoves that produce huge, sooty particles with no filtering at all.

            Also, in industry and commercial activity, a broader approach to pollution than just emissions makes sense. What I see everywhere from factories, to agriculture, to retail businesses is an overconsumption of chemicals and packaging, among other things. Money saving incentives do not bite hard enough yet, it seems.

      2. Everything is on a spectrum and has a tradeoff, but it cuts both ways. You might not drink poo instead of clean water, but you might be ok with drinking tea instead of coffee if it meant you had a growing economy.

        Overblowing the impact of carbon emissions is very costly and the “solutions” imposed to date are minimally effective even by proponents’ standards, and arguably counterproductive.

        I go back to wanting to see an improving product. The E-tron doesn’t look like it’s measurables are significantly better than a Tesla’s and they’re no cheaper. I find the electric Hyundai/Kia more compelling, it seems more like a step forward in product development, so long as they are not just willing to lose yet more money than Audi to make it look like progress.

        Until the concept makes money on its own, spend the cash on research at the university level if we must. Forcing automakers to trial and error their way through unproven tech by mandate is really inefficient.

        1. I too like the Kona and the Niro. These make more sense to me than top-down EV strategies.

        2. Airbags were an unproven technology once. As were seatbelts, catalytic converters, crumple zones/steel safety cages etc. A lot of those made it into our cars only because of government mandates, not consumers.

          1. Again, there are wide degrees of variation here, but I’m long winded on the topic, so…

            I personally don’t see catalytic converters on the same scope/scale of mandate as an entirely different type of drivetrain, though the end result could be much the same for consumers, though the benefits would be less so. The government would mandate electrics, and everyone who can afford to gets to pay more for a poorer performing product until the industry catches up three decades later.

            I don’t see the problem to be solved by EV’s as having as beneficial a result on the other side of the solution either, but that’s just my opinion. Air quality is a classic tragedy of the commons thing, so there have to be some mandates to do something where there is a problem worth fixing, but it will not be without tradeoffs, and pre-smog rule air pollution and whatever EV’s are supposed to be fixing doesn’t really meet the same level of concern in my mind, but you are free to disagree. The memory of smog keeps politicians and activists chasing after personal cars as their target even though personal transport accounts for way less that 10% of CO2 emissions. Germany is clearing new land for coal mines because the subsidized wind turbines and solar farms that are charging EV’s in the green movement’s collective imagination are proving unreliable.

            As for safety mandates, I don’t get those at all. Marketing with safety bona fides front and center was always an option, but people didn’t want to pay extra for that, they wanted to pay extra for something else. So instead of an automaker catering to that wish, people had to resort to going through the government and make the OEM’s build something that they demand? It doesn’t add up. I prefer to stop way short of forcing people into what anyone thinks is good for them when it doesn’t impact anyone else.

            It’s their hide on the line, they can ride a motorcycle if they wish (for now), I say let people choose how much protection they want to pay for, mandating it for everyone just prices out people at the bottom that would like to have the choice of driving a cheaper, though less safe private vehicle versus limiting other choices in their life such as where they can live and how long they have to wait on transit to get somewhere.

    2. Fact is EVs are about the regulators, and EVs will be required to make a profit in the future, or at least not give a big chunk of it to an other mfg. Fact is ZEV credits are a big part on the credit side of Tesla’s balance sheet and a big debit on FCAs thanks to state ZEV mandates and Federal CAFE requirements.

      Since most people don’t frequently take long road trips and drive well under 100mi on the average day that 200 mi range is just fine particularly when you can leave home with that range every day. I think we’ll also see a lot of mfgs start including a car sharing option with purchase that includes xx days of ICE vehicle use per year during the duration of the lease.

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