Audi has told us about two forthcoming electric vehicles: an SUV that will be launched next year (above), followed by a smaller hatchback. But that’s just part of the brand’s plan to take over the plusher parts of the world with a wave of electric vehicles. Peter Mertens, Audi’s new development boss and the former head of R&D for Volvo, has confirmed that Audi wants to build a range of variants under its “e-tron” name that will effectively cover almost every part of the premium market.
As with BMW and Mercedes EVs, Audi’s electric models will be distinct from their combustion equivalents, meaning no shared sheetmetal. Mertens admitted that the e-tron branding on plug-in hybrid versions of both the A3 and (in Europe) the Q7 has mainly confused customers. In the future, hybrid models will be designated g-tron, and the “e” badge will be reserved for pure electric models.
“We’re going to have e-tron in every segment in the future,” Mertens told journalists earlier this month at the Formula E race in Berlin. “By 2025, we’ll have a significant share. Up to one-third of all our vehicles will be electrified, including plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles.”
Mertens said he thinks the e-tron range eventually will shadow most of Audi’s existing model lineup, although without the same plethora of variants, from the A3 upward. Plug-in hybrids will be a large part of the mix, but they are seen as an interim solution, with faster charging technologies and bigger battery packs ultimately replacing them.
“I think that plug-ins give people a way to get used to electrification in a smooth and easy way,” Mertens said. “People might not need more than [30 to 40 miles] of range in a day, but they want a bigger number. It’s psychological. It’s different from segment to segment, but for an SUV, I think something like [300 miles], for a car like an A3 maybe [150 miles].”
Mertens said Tesla has proved buyers will pay more for bigger batteries or additional performance—or even for extra-cost software enhancements like additional performance modes or more advanced autonomy systems, so future Audi EVs will offer more variants.
“I think that is something that Tesla has really shown the way on,” he said. It also seems likely that faster versions will get to wear the same S and even RS branding as their combustion sisters. “The chances of [that] being part of a lineup regardless of whether it’s combustion or electric, is very high,” Mertens said, “It’s important—a big part of our brand DNA.”
While Audi will use more lightweight materials in future models, it won’t follow BMW into major carbon components. “We are working on magnesium in cars. Materials mix is the right answer,” Mertens said. “It includes carbon, but not in big parts or monocoques, because it is very difficult to manufacture right now.”