Audi Drawing Up Faster and Cheaper E-tron Crossovers: Report

Versions of the Audi E-tron electric crossover are reportedly on the way in both austere and ostentatious guises.

The Audi e-tron prototype
AUDI AG

Audi's debut mass-market electric crossover, the E-tron, isn't even in showrooms yet, but the German automaker is reportedly preparing variations on the vehicle to capitalize on a broader customer base.

A performance version is on Audi's mind according to Top Gear, which claims that the quick E-tron will add a second motor to the EV's rear axle, for a total of three electric motors. Because the rear axle supplies 240 of the launch E-tron's 402 horsepower, doubling the rear axle's output with two of the same motor could escalate power output to around 642 horsepower, level with the 641-horsepower Lamborghini Urus.

Unlike previous fast Audis, the performance E-tron will reportedly wear no S or RS badging. Arrival is reportedly slated for 2020, but before then, Audi will allegedly debut a more affordable version of the E-tron, undercutting the launch model's $74,800 MSRP (before tax rebate).

Said model is claimed to be due within 12 months. Despite cost-cutting measures, the entry-level E-tron is said to retain the launch model's dual-motor all-wheel-drive (AWD), albeit with lesser power output, and the possibility of a smaller battery pack.

A more affordable E-tron may pose a challenge for Audi, as options to move the costly EV downmarket appear limited. A BMW executive claimed in October that a battery whose size is similar to that of the E-tron's 95 kilowatt-hour (kWh) pack would cost roughly between $11,600 and $17,400 at current prices due to the high cost of lithium. Though the battery makes up a considerable portion of the E-tron's cost, downsizing the power pack likely won't shave a significant amount of money from its price.

A second problem worth consideration for the cheaper E-tron is the relatively poor efficiency of its powertrain, which extracts 249 miles' range (WLTP) from 95 kW. For reference, the electric Hyundai Kona—far downmarket at $36,450 before tax credit—achieves 258 miles' range (EPA) with a smaller 64-kWh battery. Also of note is that it does so on the EPA testing regimen, which is more conservative than the WLTP testing protocol used by Audi. 

Not only does reducing the battery size fail to decrease cost by a significant amount, but it'll also impact how much range the nearly-shortchanged E-tron can achieve on a charge. For that reason, we speculate that much of the margin by which the entry-level E-tron will reduce its cost could be found with cheaper interior materials and less tech—though presumably these can be added again via the options list.

The Drive contacted Audi for comment on its plans regarding E-tron variants, though the automaker declined to issue a statement regarding its plans for the model beyond promising the Sportback variant with a coupe-like profile in 2019.

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The Drive