Audi joins the charge
Battery-powered performers are the next big thing, writes John Carey
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.”