Audi unveils its first all-electric vehicle, the E-tron SUV

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Hot on the heels (or wheels) of Jaguar announcing its plans to roll out more than 80 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations around South Africa by the end of November, Audi has taken the wraps off its first all-electric car, the E-tron SUV, at a press event in San Francisco.

The E-tron is powered by a pair of electrical motors producing over 300kW of power that’ll send it from 0-100km/h in a totally respectable 5.5 seconds. The range per charge is expected to be between 360km and 470km, presumably depending how heavy footed you are… or how heavy your passengers are.

Four circles, four wheels

“A new generation of the quattro drive, the electric all-wheel drive, ensures excellent traction and dynamics,” Audi says in the preciously light on detail, but heavy on waffle, release about the E-tron. “It ensures the continuous and variable regulation of the ideal distribution of drive torques between the two axles – within a fraction of a second.”

Like other EVs, the E-tron recoups power during deceleration and braking. Audi claims this dual recuperation system makes it “the world’s first carmaker to use such a system in an electrically powered series production vehicle”.

Also like its rivals, Audi’s focused on the E-tron’s aerodynamics to minimise drag and improve efficiency. This focus includes optional “virtual exterior mirrors”… which is a fancy way of saying instead of wing mirrors there’s the option to spend more on small stalks with cameras in them. It’s certainly novel, and it’ll be pleasing knowing no one’s going to take your fancy Audi’s wing mirrors off with a wayward trolley in a Makro parking lots (though how trolley resistant the cameras will be remains to be seen), but we can’t help thinking that if it’s a feature Audi’s so eager to trumpet it should come standard.

Smart car

Audi’s also promising on-board route planning (including info about charging station locations), automated billing at charging stations, and a BMW ConnectedDrive-like remote control app for smartphones. Buyers can also expect the company’s MMI navigation system, LTE Advanced and Wi-Fi hotspot support, all as standard features.

Will we see the E-Tron on South African roads? Audi SA isn’t telling, but given the growing interest in EVs locally, and the growing infrastructure to support it, we certainly hope so. The first units are scheduled for delivery to European buyers before the end of the year, at a starting price of €79,900, which at today’s exchange rate is a little shy of R1.4m. What, you didn’t think the future was going to be cheap, did you?

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