2013 Audi Q7 TDI S Line
For the most part, the selection of truly practical electric vehicles--or even hybrids, for that matter--has been relatively poor.
In terms of all-electric crossovers, there's the Toyota RAV4 EV and... well, the Toyota RAV4 EV. That'll change when Tesla launches its Model X crossover and now German automaker Audi is expected to launch its own rival by 2017.
Called the Q8 e-tron, Autocar says the model will be based on the next-generation Audi Q7 SUV, but will feature much sleeker styling with a high waist, low roof and narrower side windows. It should also be available in five and seven-seat configurations.
Audi engineers are said to be targeting a realistic range of 370 miles, greater even than Tesla's Model S, and like the upcoming Tesla Model X the Q8 e-tron will utilize electric motors at both axles for four-wheel drive traction.
The company is banking on improvements in battery technology to hit that range estimate, though even with denser energy chemistry it's likely the car will use a large, heavy battery pack of at least 80 kWh, similar to that of the top-end Model S.
Some of this weight will be offset by the car's new 'MLB-evo' platform, mixing aluminum and high-strength steels for a 660-pound weight cut next to the current Q7.
Rather than being an electric spin-off of the next Q7, the Q8 will also use regular Audi gasoline and diesel drivetrains, while halfway-house plug-in hybrid is also likely.
Audi's decision to offer more electric vehicles on the belief that many cities, particularly those in Europe, will increasingly push for zero-emission centers where traditional vehicles will be banned. For the company's customers, green attributes will be as important as the car's premium positioning.
A car that size with range that high is unlikely to come cheap--but it does signify the dawn of more practical, adaptable electric vehicles is on the way.