Audi joins the charge

Bat­tery-pow­ered per­form­ers are the next big thing, writes John Carey

Herald Sun - Motoring - - NEWS -

A BIG new bat­tery-pow­ered model will join Audi Sport’s ex­ist­ing line-up of high­per­for­mance fuel-burn­ers. “It’s im­por­tant for us,” com­pany boss Stephan Winkel­mann says.

“Sus­tain­abil­ity — emis­sions and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, in other words — this is the big has­sle for a sports car brand,” says the al­ways dap­per Ger­man-born 52-year-old (pic­tured).

He ran Lam­borgh­ini for more than a decade and took over Audi’s per­for­mance car di­vi­sion last year. Both brands are part of the VW Group.

One of his first de­ci­sions was to ditch its old small “q” quat­tro name in favour of the sim­pler Audi Sport.

The elec­tri­fied Audi Sport is “three, four years down the road,” Winkel­mann says. “This shot has to hit the tar­get.”

It won’t be a coupe or a sports car, even though Audi has dis­played a se­ries of sleek, low-slung, bat­tery-pow­ered e-tron con­cepts at mo­tor shows over the past eight years (one of them even made a cameo ap­pear­ance in Iron Man 3).

To­day’s bat­ter­ies are too bulky to fit in a small ve­hi­cle and give it a good driv­ing range, he says. “The SUV and the limos (sedans) are more likely as a first step than the ex­treme small su­per­cars of to­day. And this is what we have to look into.”

Winkel­mann says Audi Sport isn’t likely to build mod­els that blend in­ter­nal com­bus­tion and elec­tric power.

“Hy­bridi­s­a­tion could be an op­tion, an in­ter­me­di­ate stop,” he says. “But if I have to fo­cus, and if I have one shot, I’d rather wait one year longer and do a BEV (bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cle).”

Audi Sport will work with other VW Group brands to pro­duce its elec­tric ve­hi­cle.

“It’s a must that ev­ery­body seeks syn­er­gies as good as they can,” he says, “and Audi Sport is no ex­cep­tion to this.”

More than that, he won’t say, but other VW Group brands are pre­par­ing bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles for pro­duc­tion.

Porsche’s high-per­for­mance four-door coupe, mod­elled on its Mis­sion E con­cept, is ex­pected to be­gin rolling off a new pro­duc­tion line in 2019.

Audi sig­nalled its in­ten­tion to pro­duce a sporty-look­ing elec­tric SUV with the e-tron quat­tro con­cept at the Frank­furt show in 2015. One of these could pro­vide the ba­sis for an elec­tric Audi Sport.

Winkel­mann be­lieves the day is com­ing when cus­tomers will want sporty and sus­tain­able from the same ve­hi­cle. He re­gards elec­tri­fi­ca­tion as a pri­or­ity but is less keen on be­com­ing an early adopter of au­to­mated driv­ing tech­nol­ogy.

“We can have sup­ported driv­ing — it’s for safety or traf­fic rea­sons — but not au­ton­o­mous driv­ing.

“As long as I can switch off ... the sup­port, it’s per­fect.”

Ions, man: Audi e-tron mo­tor show con­cept even made a movie cameo

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