With its first long-range battery-electric SUV set to make its launch later this year, Audi is setting the stage for its entry into the emerging market with the upcoming debut of the PB 18 e-tron Concept.
The name is a bit of code, though one not difficult to figure out, as the electric supercar will be unveiled during this coming month’s series of classic car events capped off by the Aug. 26 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
“It also recalls the LeMans-series winner Audi R18 e-tron, whose technology inspired the solutions for various details,” the German automaker says in a statement accompanying this teaser image, adding that, “The Audi PB 18 e-tron was conceived and designed by the new Audi Design Loft in Malibu, California.”
While there’s not much that can be made out from that image – even using some Photoshop magic – what we can say is quite intriguing. The PB 18 e-tron Concept sits low and wide, with bulging wheel arches, a large rear spoiler that barely peaks over a slim cabin, and the Audi logo framed by slit-like LED headlamps that angle back into the fenders.
(Audi rolls out all-new 2019 Q3. Click Here for the story.)
From the carmaker’s terse description, meanwhile, we’re betting that the PB 18 borrows liberally from the R18 but, rather than the racer’s hybrid drivetrain, it goes all-electric.
“Emotion instead of emissions,” Audi says in its release, revealing it goes with a “powerful electric drive” aimed at the “performance enthusiast driver.”
That would almost certainly require a twin, perhaps even a triple or quad, motor system punching out well north of 500 horsepower considering what key competitors, such as Porsche, Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are looking to do in the performance electric space.
In fact, you can expect to see a flood of all-electric and plug-in hybrid models positioned as the pinnacle of performance for these manufacturers. Alfa Romeo, for example, is developing a new PHEV version of its 8C and sibling Maserati will soon offer electrified versions of all its models which, brand boss Tim Kuniskis recently told TheDetroitBureau.com, will be positioned as the highest performance option packages, a step up from turbo-eight models.
As for Audi, we know that it promises to have three battery-electric vehicles in showrooms by 2020, part of the flood of BEVs being developed by parent Volkswagen Group.
(Click Here for details about Audi’s new partnership with Hyundai.)
The first model to roll out will be an e-tron alternative to the latest-generation Q5. Specific power and performance numbers haven’t been released but it will use a 95 kilowatt-hour battery to drive twin motors, one on each axle. Using the new European WLTP rating system it is expected to deliver 248 miles per charge, though it will come in slightly lower under the EPA test.
The e-tron crossover is expected to debut this autumn, though Audi reportedly pushed the date back slightly. Advance orders, requiring a $1,000 deposit, were set to begin in September.
Audi’s commitment to electrification comes as the automaker tries to dig itself out from under the mess created by its diesel emissions scandal – which recently resulted in the jailing of its CEO. The company has gone so far as to abandon Le Mans after a decade of dominating the granddaddy of the endurance racing circuit. It is now focusing on the Formula E series which is, more broadly, gaining traction with a diverse array of automakers.
Audi’s entry into the electric vehicle market spells potential problems for Tesla, particularly its quality-challenged Model X battery-SUV. Indeed, within the next two years, the California carmaker will be facing a broad mix of new competitors in both the mainstream and luxury segments.
Tesla isn’t rolling over, of course, and not only plans to bring out the Model Y, a compact electric SUV, and an all-electric pickup, but a second version of its original Roadster model. Could the PB 18 e-tron Concept mean that Audi is picking up the challenge with a battery supercar of its own?
(For a first look at the new Audi Q8, Click Here.)
Perhaps we’ll find out more when the concept model debuts on the Monterey Peninsula.