Electric mobility only works as a system
Electric mobility is changing not only how we drive cars. It is also changing our lives. We will largely charge our vehicles at home – but we will also need a source of energy while out and about. That is why Audi is making electric mobility suitable for daily use for its customers – far beyond the market introduction of its first fully electric model, the e-tron. Audi is helping customers around the world to integrate electric mobility into their lives. Dr. Stefan Niemand, who is responsible for electrification in the Audi e-tron product line, talks about this integrated approach.
In September 2018, the Audi e-tron was presented in San Francisco. The fully electric SUV is being well-received by customers: At the end of 2018, there were already just under 20,000 advance orders. What does this model mean for Audi?
Niemand: For us, the Audi e-tron is more than just a standard new model. The e-tron takes Audi into the age of electric mobility. It is the first premium SUV for comfortable everyday use – plus it has an appealing design and innovative features. It was important to us to present a strong electric car in this rapidly growing segment early on. And our production planning for the Brussels plant shows we believe in the Audi e-tron as a volume model. Together with the e-tron Sportback, the Belgian site is fully booked out. Adopting an integrated approach in this area was equally important to us.
What exactly does your integrated strategy for electrification involve?
There is far more to electrification than the car – it only works as a system. Aside from the vehicle’s price and range, the charging infrastructure and charging duration are key factors in helping electric mobility become successfully established. Even if we are a premium manufacturer of cars, we want to play our part in helping build up an integrated ecosystem of electric mobility. Only then will our customers have access to a premium experience right across the board. Our involvement here spans everything from participating in the cross-OEM joint venture IONITY, which is establishing fast-charging stations along major European traffic routes, through expanding into the USA with Electrify America, to home-based charging solutions that are being offered in the USA in partnership with Amazon Home Services. We hope all this will also jump-start acceptance among the wider population and so help make electric mobility a success.
What are the concerns that you would like to address?
One is definitely the fear of lengthy charging times. With the Audi e-tron, we are offering our customers a car that is efficient and can be charged in quite a variety of ways: in the garage and in transit with alternating current, or in IONITY’s new direct-current charging network – there the battery can be topped up for the next long drive in around half an hour. Also, a lot of people think charging is more complicated than refueling. But they overlook the fact that charging at home or while at work guarantees that our customers will then set off with a full “tank” every day, and that it actually only costs ten seconds of their time: five seconds to plug in, five seconds to unplug. This means that, for ordinary day-to-day driving, going to a gas station is no longer necessary. If our e-tron customers do need to recharge on longer drives or at their destination, the Audi e-tron Charging Service is a very convenient solution. Just one card gives them access to 80 percent of public charging points – more than 72,000 throughout Europe. All that is also fully connected with the smartphone. In the course of 2019, the car will even authorize itself at the charger and activate it. That is what we mean by straightforward, carefree electric mobility. The route planner displaying charging stations along the planned route is hugely beneficial, too.
By 2025, the aim is for one in three sold Audi cars to be electric, and the company wants to sell around 800,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids. How do you propose to achieve these ambitious targets?
The Audi e-tron kicks off the roll-out of the comprehensive Audi Roadmap E for the coming years. The goal is to electrify all segments completely or in part by 2025. The next steps after the Audi e-tron will be the e-tron Sportback and the Audi Q2 L e-tron for China. The series-production version of the e-tron GT concept will follow in 2020, and shortly after that we will also be launching an electrified model in the compact segment.
A number of analysts and competitors claim that product profitability is the biggest challenge when it comes to electric mobility – primarily owing to the battery costs. How does Audi intend to make a profit?
Obviously new technologies involve high initial costs – among other reasons because we want to deliver our customary standard of quality. We will nevertheless achieve our goals with a competitive cost structure. For example, we are tapping Group-wide synergies with modular assembly matrixes, platforms and carry-over parts. Innovations specifically in battery technology and the electric driveline, ongoing improvements to the value chain, reducing complexity and localization decisions equally play an important role. Within the Volkswagen Group, we are working together on the electric architecture for the compact and high-end segments. Being able to exploit that synergy potential is a clear USP of the Group structure. Close cooperation, distinct areas of responsibility and scaling are what drive increased profitability – whether in partnership with Volkswagen or Porsche. The Premium Architecture Electrification (PPE), for example, will be taking effect from as early as 2022. This will help both Audi and Porsche to increase efficiency by up to 30 percent compared with separate development by the individual brands. Economies of scale also play an important role – and that is where the Volkswagen Group is clearly at an advantage, having annual sales of more than 10 million cars. Audi is also tapping into new sources of revenue, such as supplemental digital services that our customers can order via app, as well as charging and energy services. Someday, electric cars will cost just the same as vehicles with a combustion engine.
When is someday?
We will not have to wait too much longer. I am convinced that we will get there in the next few years.
Ensuring that charging does not take longer than your coffee break
- The Audi e-tron is the first vehicle in the Audi electric initiative that the premium brand is following to electrify every segment of its portfolio by 2025. That will involve bringing out around 30 electrified models in rapid succession: In 2019, the Audi e-tron Sportback will be the second electric car to go on sale, while the Q2 L e-tron will be introduced in China. The series-production version of the e-tron GT concept from Audi Sport will follow in 2020. Audi will also unveil an electric model in the premium compact segment in 2020.
- Audi wants to sell around 800,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids in 2025. To achieve that goal, around 14 billion euros are to be invested in future topics by the end of 2023, above all in areas such as electric mobility, autonomous driving and digitalization. The company benefits here from increased profitability within the Group as a result of clear areas of responsibility and scalability – whether in partnership with Volkswagen or Porsche.
- Alongside price and the cars’ range, the charging infrastructure and charging duration are important success factors for electric mobility. For this reason, Audi is contributing to the integrated ecosystem – for example, by participating in the cross-OEM joint venture IONITY, through the expansion with Electrify America in the USA or with charging solutions at home.
- Through its subsidiary company Electrify America, the Volkswagen Group is setting up a total of 2,000 fast-charging stations along main traffic routes in the USA where every electric car can be charged irrespective of brand. This initiative is based on settlement agreements with the US authorities as a result of the diesel issue.