SHANGHAI -- Audi is set to launch a full-electric SUV with a 500km (310 mile) range that will challenge Tesla's Model X crossover, but CEO Rupert Stadler remains cautious about EVs.
For the next 10 to 15 years plug-in hybrids will be the preferred choice for customers looking for a vehicle with some form of electrification, he said.
Plug-in hybrids are the right answer to balance urban journeys under electric power with an internal combustion engine for longer trips, Stadler told Automotive News Europe at the auto show here this week.
Plug-in hybrids combine a gasoline or diesel engine with an electric motor. Audi’s first plug-in, the A3 Sportback e-tron, which went on sale in Europe in November, can be driven using only electric power for up to 50km.
Still, a longer range and a successively improving network of fast-charging stations will help to boost the acceptance of EVs, Stadler said.
Audi will introduce a large premium SUV with a range of more than 500km in early 2018, r&d chief Ulrich Hackenberg said at the company's annual press conference on March 10.
The model will have a new design that the company is developing for its EVs and plug-in hybrids, he said. It will be underpinned by Audi parent Volkswagen Group's second-generation MLB platform that will offer weight savings, helping to boost its range.
Neither Stadler nor Hackenberg disclosed any more details on the model. Company sources say it will be based on the next Q5. It will have the e-tron badge that Audi uses for EVs and plug-ins.
Stadler said Audi's new EV will be able to get 80 percent of its charge in 20 minutes using a fast-charging station. He noted that China is developing a network of fast-charging stations covering 16,000km of highways by 2020 with a station every 50km. Other countries have similar initiatives, he said.
The EV will be Audi's first foray into the mainstream market with an EV. The niche R8 e-tron supercar is the automaker's only EV on sale currently. For the second-generation R8 e-tron, which debuted at the Geneva auto show, Audi doubled its range to 450km because of its new battery cells.
Audi’s new battery-powered SUV will have a longer range than the Tesla Model X crossover, which will go on sale shortly. The Model X has a range of up to 430km. Tesla this month began sales of a longer-range version of its Model S sedan with a range of 386km between charges.