Audi wants to make ‘cool’ electric cars, executives say

The Audi e-tron quattro concept unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show previews an all-electric SUV Audi plans to put on sale in 2018. The German carmaker says it’s very confident about the future of electric cars, boasting that by 2025, electric cars (along with plug-in hybrids) will account for a quarter of its U.S. sales.

But will those cars be like, exactly? Perhaps seeking to rival Tesla Motors, Audi will focus as much on style and performance as on efficiency, said Audi of America director of project management Filip Brabec and electric powertrain development chief Siegfried Pint in a recent interview with Ars Technica. They said Audi wants electric cars to be mainstream, which is why its first volume model will be a crossover.

“As the technology becomes more mainstream it will be less about differentiation and more about “is it a cool car,'” said Brabec. The three-motor powertrain shown on the e-tron quattro will also be a selling point, Audi hopes. It uses one rear motor for each rear wheel, allowing for torque vectoring the carmaker says is more precise than that of previous systems.

This should make the big and heavy electric SUV suitably athletic, but will require some serious computing power. The system can handle  much greater difference in torque between the rear wheels than a mechanical differential, but getting the software to keep up is challenging, the executives said.

The SUV, which is expected to wear Q6 e-tron badging, will also reportedly share components with other upcoming Volkswagen Group electric cars. The Porsche Mission E concept that debuted alongside the e-tron quattro in Frankfurt will go into production, as will an electric version of the Volkswagen Phaeton luxury sedan. The three brands share “science, software, and battery management systems,” said powertrain development chief Pint.