NZ-cited e-tron in Swiss promo

Audi’s first big electric offering, the e-tron SUV, will be here next year.

TODAY it gatecrashed the Geneva motor show, stealing the thunder from a rival’s like-minded rival – and next year it’ll be intent on shaking up our own premium electric car sector.

Regardless that it will not fully unveil its new e-tron sports utility until August, Audi decided the most important annual motor show in Europe was a great opportunity to showcase the new model.

Thus, in an impressive publicity stunt, it is running 250 camouflaged examples of the car around the streets of Geneva, the drive route regularly passing in front of the show buildings where, ahem, Jaguar was unveiling to the world its own first all-electric offer, the i-Pace, in full production format.

Those models will bring their rivalry to New Zealand next year; Jaguar NZ has already confirmed it will start selling its mid-sizer here from early in 2019.

Audi New Zealand has not been so precise in its launch plan for the e-tron, but assures it will also be available locally next year.

Dean Sheed, general manager for the Auckland-domiciled brand that’s part of the European Motor Distributors’ stable, started expressing desire for the car two years ago. Comment today shows his enthusiasm is still running hot.

Sheed says the e-tron will redefine premium electric mobility.

 “It is the epitome of ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ with its superior charging performance ready for long distance driving.

“The Audi e-tron is a key model for the Audi model range and we’re excited to have it here in New Zealand in 2019.”

The naming culture for the car might confuse, because Audi already has an e-tron in New Zealand.

But the one we’ve seen for the past three years is something different and less sophisticated: A plug-in version of the small A3 hatchback.

Audi says the reason for putting its fleet of prototypes on Geneva’s streets the duration of the show is to remind people that it isn't far from launching its own EV. It also says the drive is part of the car’s pre-launch test programme.

Ingolstadt has still to provide a full low-down on the SUV’s technical specification, but previous reports have suggested it will pack performance stats that’ll usurp the Tesla Model X, including a range of 500kms.

The production version can also fill up on electricity at fast-charging stations with up to 150kW charging capacity. In just under 30 minutes, the SUV is then ready for the next leg of any journey, Audi says.

It seems that Audi rounded up every e-tron prototype it has for today’s exercise.

It has indicated the cars have been roaming far and wide, with testing on four continents; taking in cities and tough, remote terrain alike, in climate zones ranging from below -20 to above 50 degrees.

By the time the test programme wraps up, the cars will cover more than five million kilometres – roughly equivalent to 125 times around the earth and 85,000 hours on the road.

In addition, intensive tests of the charging technology are being conducted worldwide – an important safeguarding standard for battery-electric models, Audi reminds.

The individual charging standards are tested on proving grounds and in public areas to validate the full range of different charging options.