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Get ready for the electric Audi crossover

Audi will launch an all-electric crossover in 2018, with long-range high-performance batteries. A car, if you will, to go up against the forthcoming Tesla Model X.

Audi’s R&D director Dr Ulrich Hackenberg gave Top Gear some detail on the car at the Geneva Motor Show last week, and then made some of the figures official in his speech at the company’s AGM today.

“In early 2018, we will launch a battery-powered sports activity vehicle in the large premium segment with a range of more than 500km [310 miles],” he said today. “It will have a new, very attractive design, which we are developing especially for the e-tron range and for battery-electric vehicles. This sports activity vehicle will be built on the second generation of the modular longitudinal platform (MLB2).” That platform is what’s under the new Q7.

Last week he’d explained it to me like this: “It’s a more passenger-oriented car than the R8 e-Tron, but I’m not saying saloon. It can be used by families, though they will need to have money. It’s a big car and needs a big battery capacity.” In other words it’s expensive. “It will have a specific design - it’s not just an A6 or Q5 with a battery drivetrain.”

He explained to me that it isn’t as tall as the Q5 or Q7 because that adds weight and air resistance. “But if you ask our sales people, everything has to be a Q,” he added, referring to the fact that crossovers are such hot sellers. The car is designed by Marc Lichte, who Hackenberg brought into Audi to develop a new design direction, previewed by the Prologue and Prologue Avant.

Years ago Hackenberg engineered the first MLB platform that today sits under cars all the way from the Audi A4 to the Bentley Flying Spur. The second version, MLB2, he says, was designed from the outset to have space for a battery.

He says capacity is getting better, and that by 2020 new batteries will drive, say, an electric Golf 70 percent further than now for the same size and weight. The new R8 e-Tron has a 90kWh battery, slightly more than the 85kWh of the biggest pack in the Tesla Model S. The R8’s range is quoted at 450km, so if the new Audi electric crossover is to get 500km it would need at least as much juice.

And it’s not just pure electric. He also said in his AGM speech: “We plan to have a plug-in hybrid in every model series in the coming years.” We’ve already tested the A3 e-Tron, and the new Q7 e-Tron was at the Geneva show.

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