German luxury auto brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
Audi is launching what it claims is an "electrification offensive" with the world premiere of the Audi e-tron in San Francisco. The high-end electric SUV wave - which includes the Jaguar I-Pace going on sale this fall, as well as the coming Mercedes-Benz EQC and BMW iX3 SUVs - will challenge Tesla's lead in luxury electric vehicles. Two models of the Audi e-tron will be available next year: The Premium Plus starting at US$74,800, and the Prestige starting at US$81,800.
While it might not generate the excitement of a Tesla unveiling - that company received hundreds of thousands of dollars in deposits for its Model 3 within hours of that car's debut - the E-Tron increases the competitive pressure. Audi is not disclosing the e-tron's range, but it's expected to be competitive with Tesla's vehicles, which all get more than 295 miles when fully charged. They stated the vehicle should gain a range under less rigorous European testing standards of approximately 250 miles or 400 km.
As with all electric vehicles, the battery charge is partially assisted by regenerative braking. The e-tron's MMI infotainment system has even been fully integrated with Amazon's Alexa digital assistant, so drivers can use voice commands to listen to music, control connected home devices or use Alexa skills as they would on their home-based Alexa-enabled device.
Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
Looking to take on Tesla in its very own backyard in partnership with Amazon, Audi has launched its very first, product ready electric vehicle.
If more power is summoned or if the system detects wheel slippage, the e-tron will automatically activate its front electric motor.
In the name of efficiency, the e-tron will operate in two-wheel drive under most driving conditions.
The Audi e-tron rolls off the assembly line at the CO2-neutral plant in Brussels.
In Europe, the E-Tron won't have traditional side mirrors.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home's electrical system. Audi is partnering with Amazon (AMZN) to offer in-home EV charging installations. "But if you look at charging, fast charging, and the range, you are going to see a range that is at or better than the Model X with the e-tron". That technology can't come to the USA until receiving approval from federal regulators. The Model X uses vertically opening "falcon wing" doors.