Audi On The Attack With Plug-In Hybrids
Not content to sit back and watch BMW succeed with their impressive i3 and i8 plug-in hybrids, Audi is going on the offensive with at least four of their own. These vehicles will appeal to those who want environmentally friendly vehicles without giving up luxury and performance.
Arriving in North America during the second or third quarter of 2015 is the A3 Sportback E-tron, the German automaker’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle. This will follow a European launch this month and delivery in China early next year. Other plug-in hybrids are set to follow soon after.
“We strongly believe in plug-in hybrids and we will add a new model each year, beginning with the Q7 next year, followed by the A6 long-wheelbase sedan for China and the A8,” Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said during the A3 Sportback E-tron’s introduction. “Plug-in hybrids are electric vehicles for everyday driving, exactly what our customers are asking for.”
Audi’s take is that plug-in hybrids are the ideal solution for environmentally friendly cars, since range anxiety isn’t an issue, as it is with fully electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids are equipped with both electric and conventional internal combustion engine, allowing the vehicle to run on fuel if necessary, or on purely electric power when possible.
A3 Sportback E-tron, which looks the same as the conventional A3 can go for 50 km on purely electric power. The gasoline engine can take the car another 600 km. In comparison, the BMW i3 can get 160 km without an optional range extender. While BMW created entirely new vehicles to fill out it’s clean-air technology program, Audi is taking a different path and integrating e-mobility into it’s existing vehicles. This lightens the burden on the manufacturer, and allows them to be flexible with capacity.
While costs are contained by using identical cars, the price does not remain the same. The plug-in hybrid version of the A3 Sportback starts at about 15,000 euros (about $22,000 Canadian dollars) more than the gasoline powered version. There is also some discussion that well-heeled buyers are willing to invest in luxurious green cars, if they get noticed. This is a theory that works well for rivals Tesla and BMW, but an environmentally friendly A3 won’t attract the same attention.
Powering the A3 E-tron is a combination of 102 hp electric motor and a 150 horsepower 1.4-litre direct injection turbo gasoline engine, working with a six-speed dual clutch transmission. It reaches a top speed of 129 km/h in pure electric mode and 220 km/h in hybrid mode. On a household outlet, it’s 8.8 kWh battery takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to fully charge. In Germany, the A3 Sportback E-tron is being sold at 100 specially trained dealerships. These locations also offer use of an electric charging station free of charge.
By Linda Aylesworth – car-news.ca