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Audi's first EV edges closer

Flynn rider: Audi's first electric car – the e-tron quattro – is looking like the most likely model to join the local electrified family after the Q7 e-tron, but a high-performance R8 EV is further off.

More e-tron models on the way but Australia still has EV work to do: Audi

11 Jun 2016

AUDI'S venture into electrification is set to continue despite an expected cool start to its Australian e-tron offering, but the German car-maker says it will take more than just customer demand to strike the EV spark.

The Q7 e-tron will join its pioneering A3 e-tron cousin later this year, doubling the plug-in hybrid range in local showrooms, and while Audi is yet to confirm that its first pure electric SUV will be offered here, the company says it has put faith in volts and amps, and the network is already prepared for EVs.

Production of the e-tron quattro SUV will start in 2018, but given the absence of any other confirmed EV models and Australia's appetite for the segment, it seems likely that the emissions-free Audi will be offered Down Under.

Speaking at the launch of another niche-selling model – the R8 – Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle said the company was not yet ready to officially announce the electric vehicle, but was keen to offer the e-tron quattro if it were available.

“From 2018 onwards would be a progressive rollout of fully electric models starting with an SUV, which is really exciting for the Australian marketplace,” he said.

“We haven't got confirmation that we will get it yet but, of course, we will be doing everything to make sure that it is available in Australia.”

But Mr Doyle went on to explain that offering desirable electric cars was only half the battle in driving the mainstream acceptance of alternative energy, and that charging infrastructure was critical in generating demand.

“2018 will be here before we know it and we would hope at that stage there would be some form of better infrastructure and support in the Australian marketplace as well, which would be warmly accepted from our side and, no doubt, the customers.”

In the case of the A3 e-tron small hatchback, Mr Doyle said the company was not expecting huge sales numbers from its foray into plug-in hybrids, but hinted that cost of ownership incentives would encourage more customers to put the more expensive A3 in their consideration set.

“It was always going to be not a big volume seller, like the R8, but for a different reason. This is a rollout of technology to the Australian marketplace and the volume itself is of a lower level that a standard A3. There's a price premium and there's no incentives in place in the market for that car.

“As much as it offers, and as much as it does provide a compelling argument, you have to really want to buy an e-tron. We knew that when we did our point of expectations and therefore it is a limited volume, but it's more about rolling out the technology.”

While the Australian federal and state governments largely sit on their hands when it comes to electrified car support, Audi has already laid the ground work, according to Mr Doyle, including the preparation for pure EVs.

“We have our dealer network fully e-tron-prepared. They have all the charging stations, all the infrastructure, we have all the servicing criteria and high-voltage specialists and technicians in the service department. We are ready for the next rollout with the Q7 and then into fully electric.”

Despite the challenges posed by the A3 e-tron in Australia, Mr Doyle said the company's carefully calculated targets were being met.

“We are hitting them. We're on track for what we planned to do in terms of low-volume levels.

“Of course we have target achievement as a key objective because we are a performance brand, but there are certain models – the R8 and e-tron where it's not all about targets.”

Audi is remaining tight-lipped about what EV or PHEV model will follow the Q7 e-tron or likely e-tron quattro, including an electrified version of the R8 company flagship that would sit alongside the freshly launched V10-powered versions.

Audi Australia corporate communications general manager Anna Burgdorf said the R8 e-tron was still under consideration, but the market would be tested with its first two models before making a decision.

“Most importantly, when it was initially shown, it was about the possibility that electric cars didn't only have to be small vehicles. It was about the fact that the concept works from the top end of the range to the bottom end,” she said.

“For Australia, we are not there yet – to understand whether there would be an appetite for an e-tron vehicle of that kind. Something like the Q7 and the A3 is the start and a great step in for us.”

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