The Audi E-Tron SUV concept will be the first proper battery electric vehicle from the brand when it launches in 2018 and it is planned for SA.     Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
The Audi E-Tron SUV concept will be the first proper battery electric vehicle from the brand when it launches in 2018 and it is planned for SA. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

The days when Tesla had the premium electric car business to itself are fast drawing to a close, with Audi confirming it will build a second zero-emission car.

The company had previously confirmed it will start production of its battery-electric E-tron SUV in Brussels in 2018. Now it has confirmed a second model will be built there from 2019.

The E-tron Sportback five-door will become its second full electric car, powered by a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery and based on the Audi-engineered C-BEV battery-electric modular chassis architecture.

That will leave its Brussels factory to build only one of the four Volkswagen Group electric car architectures and one of only two premium architectures. The group has Audi’s C-BEV modular platform for all its premium SUV and crossover models, including those from Porsche and Bentley.

The second Audi BEV will be based off the E-tron Sportback concept car, which debuted at the Shanghai motor show in 2017. The four-door grand tourer had 320kW of electric power in an all-wheel drive layout, with one electric motor on the front axle and two on the rear.

A competitor to the Tesla Model X and Jaguar’s forthcoming i-Pace crossover, the four-seat, four-door E-tron Sportback will have a claimed range of more than 500km from a single charge of either direct or alternating current.

Audi will put the E-tron Sportback concept into production in 2019.    Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Audi will put the E-tron Sportback concept into production in 2019. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

While the concept had 320kW of power as the standard claimed output, Audi claims it could jump to 370kW via an over-boosting mode, pushing the sleek crossover SUV to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. The liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery stores 95kWh energy and is housed beneath the passenger compartment, lending the crossover a 52:48 front-to-rear weight distribution.

The road-going version is said to be surprisingly close in its dimensions to the 4.9m long concept car, which also sat on a 1.98m wide stance and a 2.93m wheelbase. Just 1.53m high, its closest cousin in Audi’s internal-combustion range is the A7, due to be replaced by an all-new model in 2017.

The second of the Volkswagen Group premium BEV architectures is the Porsche-developed J1 architecture, which has been designed for low-riding sedan, liftback, coupe and even convertible work and will be the basis of BEVs from Porsche, Audi, Bentley, Volkswagen and possibly even Lamborghini.

The group boasts another two BEV architectures that have either been fully developed to production readiness or are almost there, including the MEB architecture for small-to-medium cars and SUVs and a larger chassis concept.

"With the decision on the Audi E-tron Sportback, we are showing that Audi takes the issue of electric mobility seriously," Audi’s board member for production and logistics, Hubert Waltl, said.

"A second battery-electric model will lead to optimal capacity utilisation at our plant in Brussels," he insisted.

The interior of the E-Tron Sportback concept is likely to be more mainstream for the production model.   Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
The interior of the E-Tron Sportback concept is likely to be more mainstream for the production model. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

While there’s no need for a traditional grille, with enough airflow to cool an internal-combustion engine, Audi has given it hints of its traditional single-frame grille, though it’s broken up with a few new interesting visual tricks.

It boasts trick new LED headlights that are not only full-beam headlights, but also use a set of mirrors to project their daytime running lights onto sections of the bodywork to act as reflected scrolling indicators. The concept car also used next-generation Matrix laser lights at both ends that stretch the high-beam illumination out to 600m and project information on to the road itself.

"Our Audi E-tron will be starting out in 2018 — the first electric car in its competitive field that is fit for everyday use," Audi chairman Rupert Stadler said at the Shanghai show.

Audi would make it the "must-have product of the next decade", Stadler said.

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