Audi makes e-tron 50 even more company affordable
One of the biggest barriers to the uptake rate of EVs is astronomically steep price tags, reports Iain Robertson, but Audi, which normally does not shirk from high prices, has determined that a lower entry-point will help move more e-trons.
It sounds anachronistic to suggest that high prices put people off, when six-figure Teslas are markedly more popular than most people ever believed that they would be. Yet, consistent analysis of the Electric Vehicle market, which is vital, as we course ever closer to broader electrification of the transport scene, continues to highlight list prices (not something that has bothered us much!), range anxiety (even though it is vastly improved) and questionable recharging (unreliable network) as good reasons to avoid EVs.
Yet, if Tesla can be regarded as the real pioneer in the EV sector, with most of its ‘rivals’ doing their level best to play ‘catch-up’, while Audi is only a recent contender, rest assured, with the financial support of the enormous, world-leading VW Group behind it, the company will be in the forefront very soon. Its EV development programme is rolling along at a modest rate at present but, then, as much of its existing R&D has been with the internal combustion engine (ICE), it is hardly a surprise that EVs are not a priority.
Due to be launched in the UK early next year, the Audi e-tron 50 quattro will complement the existing e-tron 55 quattro model (listed at £68,020), its 71kWh battery and two electric motors providing a range of up to 186 miles according to the WLTP test cycle and its 120kW charging capability enabling 80% capacity in around 30 minutes at fast-charging stations (where available and operational). Audi has perceived that a slight reduction in power costs it less in production terms, a factor that it is ready to pass on to its customers, in a slowly-surely-catchee-monkey manner.
The appeal to the company car market is compelling, not least from zero road tax, no congestion charge fees (although the vehicle still needs to be registered for them), Benefit-in-Kind taxation removal and reduced fuel costs, even though outright purchase propositions are resisted due to high invoice prices. Yet, with judiciously underwritten (by Audi/VW finance) contract hire and leasing rates available, most of the other issues can be ignored effectively, not least that of depreciation, which is in flux at the moment.
The car also features ‘e-quattro’ all-wheel-drive, a keen selling point, delivered by an electric motor mounted on each axle (combined total of 230 kW and 398.3 lb-ft of torque). They are capable of propelling the electric estate car from 0-60mph in 6.7s to an electronically limited top speed of 118mph. The rear electric motor is active in most driving situations, while the front electric motor is activated predictively, as required. It is an intelligent system that demands no intervention from the driver and minimal complexity at the helm. The battery unit comprises 324 prismatic cells, combined in 27 modules, which store up to 71kWh of energy and deliver it via a newly calibrated drivetrain.
Reduced kerbweight reduces running resistance and contributes to overall efficiency, as does the advanced thermal management system that regulates the temperature of the interior as well as the battery and cools the electric motors, the power electronics and the charger all of which is better for longevity and ease of recharging. Naturally, the car can be charged domestically too.
The optional connect charging system adds smart charging functions, such as off-peak that helps customers to benefit from variable electricity rates by charging their EVs at more inexpensive times. In combination with a home energy management system, customers can benefit from options like charging by solar power, when a home photovoltaic system is installed. Using the myAudi app, customers can control all charging processes and timers, as well as pre-entry climate control, via their smartphones.
Like the more powerful version of the electric SUV, the e-tron 50 recuperates energy via its two electric motors, with priority given to the rear motor, during more than 90% of all deceleration, which is fed back into the battery. A newly developed wheel brake system, with electrohydraulic actuation, works only when the force of deceleration exceeds 0.3g. This results in shorter braking distances in most situations. A standard efficiency assistant also encourages the driver to adopt an economical driving style using the Audi virtual cockpit readouts. They rely on radar sensors, camera images, navigation data and Car to X information to detect both environmental and route changes.
Thanks to placing the battery pack (Tesla-like) in the platform of the car, neither cabin, nor boot storage space is compromised. Its chassis dynamics are similar to the 55 e-tron model, which means firm damping and generally good on-road manners. The quattro system is not intended for off-road excursions, although it will tolerate soft-road surfaces, providing traction as needed.
Costing from an estimated around £59,000 (to be confirmed nearer to the early-2020 launch date), the new e-tron 50 quattro does offer tangibly better value-for-money than many of its rivals, as Audi grows its EV offering in light of increasing competition.