Audi plans to roll out gasoline-electric hybrid models in the next 18 months, but CEO Rupert Stadler is cautious about pure electric vehicles.
"We will start with the launch of a Q5 hybrid in Europe this spring, the A6 hybrid follows at the end of the year and an A8 hybrid in 2012," Stadler told Automotive News Europe. The hybrids will be launched in the United States and China within two years of their European launch.
Stadler said Audi will begin limited production of a battery-powered version of its R8 supercar at the end of 2012 and 20 electric variants of the A1 minicar will be field tested this summer in Munich, Germany. Audi's electric cars will be grouped under the brand name E-tron.
Stadler said he did not want to predict when electric cars will be mass-produced.
"We are still in the early phase with the electric vehicle, in terms of commercialization and whether the cars will be sold or leased, or will just be a collector's car, " he said.
Stadler added: "First of all we have to industrialize the lithium-ion-battery. This is happening with the hybrid cars which now have the role of a bridge technology."
Other electric car issues that need to be resolved are range, performance and crash safety. Said Stadler: "We should not overplay euphoria for electric vehicles. Our industry is in the middle of a system change and we still have a lot of challenges to solve."