Van Meel, a 44-year-old native of the Netherlands, came to Audi in 1996 from ITT Automotive Europe. He managed several engineering projects at Audi before taking on the electromobility role in 2009.
Audi will stick with the "wow" factor when it launches its E-tron line with the R8-based sports car next year. But as Audi seeks to fill out its lineup of electrified vehicles, it will be painstakingly methodical.
The first step in that process comes this summer, when Audi begins testing A1 E-tron subcompacts in Munich. Using smartphones, Audi will track the "typical mobility behavior" of project participants before they get the A1, then assess changes as they use the car.
"We monitor their mobility behavior in the car, by bike, by foot, subway, whatever," van Meel said. "Then they change to the A1 E-tron, and we have a look to see if they still have the same mobility behavior or it if changes."
The A1 E-tron is a range-assisted EV that has a small internal combustion engine, which serves as a generator that recharges the battery. Audi showed the car at the 2010 Geneva auto show, referring to it then as "a near-series production vehicle."
Audi initially will retrofit existing vehicles as EVs, then move to vehicle platforms designed for electric drive, he says.
Van Meel says Audi's study of consumer habits will shape the E-tron lineup. But he adds that government policies will play a major role.
As an example, he cites the Chinese government's ban on gas-powered scooters in Beijing, a decision that will put 800,000 electric-powered two-wheelers on the streets there.
More broadly, van Meel says, the sprawling urban centers of the future could restrict internal-combustion vehicles.
Today, though, consumers need to see benefits from EV ownership.
"It's a question of incentives, it's a question of legislation, but it's also a question of 'Can I use car-pool lanes, bus/taxi lanes? Will there be preferred parking spaces? Will there be shopping malls with free charging?' " van Meel says. "Then, from the customer's viewpoint, it gets more interesting."