It’s an announcement from Audi that’s been a long time coming – the confirmation that the company will officially be moving forward with an “electric mobility” strategy that will see battery-powered editions of the brand’s luxury automobiles hitting the streets within the next year. Inside Line is reporting that Audi’s electrification plan will consist of a $17 billion investment in electric vehicles over a four-year period.
Unlike competitor BMW, which offers a number of hybrid models across several different niches, Audi has been slow to implement a full-on electric drivetrain program. The company has brought several intriguing battery-powered concept cars to shows around the world over the past few years but none have enjoyed a smooth pathway to production status.
That will all be changing soon with the introduction of the Audi R8 E-tron, a version of the current two-door halo sports car that will make use of an electric motor. The R8 E-tron wowed crowds at the Frankfurt Motor Show this fall, and it borrows heavily from the original E-tron concept car that was previously featured at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Audi R8 E-tron will go on sale in 2012 and could offer up to four electric motors – one for each wheel – with the prototype producing over 300 horsepower and a phenomenal amount of torque said to be measured in the thousands of lb-ft. The Audi uses an advanced computer system to control power delivery in order to maximize traction and offer a 0-60-mph sprint of less than five seconds, with Audi predicting a battery range of roughly 150 miles.
Audi will buttress the R8 E-tron with a hybrid edition of the Audi A8. Audi’s flagship sedan will gain a gasoline / electric drivetrain that will allow it to compete head-to-head with BMW’s ActiveHybrid 7 and the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid. Also a 2012 model, the Audi A8 Hybrid will come with a direct-injected four-cylinder engine and a single electric motor that is capable of propelling the sedan on battery power alone at speeds of up 60 miles per hour. The gasoline engine offers 211 horsepower in European trim while the electric motor kicks in an additional 54 ponies. Although the A8 Hybrid will be offered in front-wheel drive only across the Atlantic, Audi has yet to confirm whether American buyers will be able to avail themselves of quattro-equipped version of the luxury car.
Exact sale dates for the U.S. market are still up in the air, but the coming 12 months should prove to be interesting for fans of the premium German brand – and its Teutonic rivals – as it finally steps up to the electric car plate in a serious way. The Audi A8 Hybrid and the Audi R8 E-tron look to be the tip of spear when it comes to the automaker’s efforts in the greener segment of the market over the next few years with Audi releasing recent concepts like the Audi A1 E-tron Concept (shown here) and Audi A3 E-tron Concept.