Electric cars from Audi, Porsche: Explaining platform magic Page 2

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2019 Audi e-tron quattro, in European trim, at San Francisco launch event

2019 Audi e-tron quattro, in European trim, at San Francisco launch event

Meanwhile, over at Audi

The Audi e-tron, the automaker’s first all-electric production car, will be a compact to midsize SUV. The production design was revealed in September, three years after the debut of the concept at the same Frankfurt auto show in September 2015 that saw Porsche show the Mission E.

The Audi e-tron utility vehicle is built on an adaptation of the brand’s existing architecture for gasoline and diesel vehicles, known as MLB-Evo. The version for internal-combustion vehicles is designed around engines placed longitudinally for front- and all-wheel-drive, which makes the e-tron’s two transverse electric motors (one per axle) slightly ironic.

ALSO SEE: One quarter of all Audis to be electric in 10 years, company says (Nov 2015)

The Audi e-tron SUV will soon spawn a sleeker version, called the e-tron Sportback. It’s also a utility vehicle, but with a more raked tail and less wagon-like lines. That vehicle was shown in China and elsewhere as a concept during 2016.

2019 Audi e-tron quattro, in European trim, at San Francisco launch event

2019 Audi e-tron quattro, in European trim, at San Francisco launch event

The e-tron will arrive at Audi’s U.S. dealerships in late summer next year and is the first long-range battery-electric vehicle sold by any VW Group brand. The Sportback derivative likely will follow during 2020.

Electric MLB: Two Audis, plus …

So that makes five battery-electric vehicles from VW Group’s two high-volume luxury brands. Given that Porsche shares its J1 platform with Audi, symmetry might suggest that Audi provide electric MLB-Evo underpinnings to Porsche for a future all-electric “high riding” vehicle, in the words of one Audi engineer.

Indeed, that appears to be what will happen. That Porsche utility vehicle likely will be about the size of its Macan (the brand’s bestseller), but using an all-electric powertrain. A concept version will probably appear at one of the big global auto shows sometime next year.

Unlike the pair of Porsche Taycans, however, the Audi-derived Porsche electric crossover (and the two e-tron utilities) will be limited to 150-kw fast charging. That’s because the electronic architecture created by Audi was not intended to accommodate anything higher.

The future: PPE

While the first of these vehicles are likely to start appearing at dealers next summer, the platforms they ride on may not last for the two complete generations that VW Group plans for all its high-volume architectures.

Instead, Audi and Porsche are now collaborating on development of a next-generation platform for larger all-electric vehicles capable of very fast charging. It’s called PPE, and each of the makes is responsible for different aspects of the shared specifications.

Porsche, for instance, is the lead brand for the charging system, since it pioneered the 350-kw charging that uses an 800-volt electrical architecture. Audi will have its own spheres of responsibility, although we gather the discussions among the two brands’ engineers—each justifiably proud of their way of approaching vehicle design—has been spirited at times.

Nevertheless, by this tally, Audi and Porsche together will have at least six new battery-electric vehicles on sale globally by 2022 or thereabouts. That’s six more than they offer today, and unlike Porsche’s flagship 911, they share quite a lot under the surface.  

Which, if the engineers and designers do their jobs properly, no buyer will recognize.

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