So far, Audi has created special electric models. The e-Tron crossover was the brand’s first, and now it is following up with the e-Tron GT. Now, the company seems to be heading toward making existing nameplates electric with the Audi A6 e-Tron concept.
Audi has done this a couple times before, with the Q4 and Q2 L e-Tron models, the latter of which is only available in China. With the A6 e-Tron, it’s clear that the company intends to keep existing nameplates, but also offer an electric version.
Dedicated Electric, But Not MEB
Unlike the Mercedes-Benz EQC, Audi is not messing around with reworking a gas-powered vehicle to run on electric. It is using dedicated platforms. The A6 e-Tron concept is the first built on the Volkswagen Group PPE platform (PPE stands for Premium Platform Electric). Like the MEB, the platform is dedicated to electric drive, but it’s meant for vehicles too large for MEB or vehicles that need to have a premium feel, so not only SUVs, but other cars will be built on the platform.
Dedicated electric platforms are important because they keep everything where it needs to be for safe operation, especially for handling ability during spirited driving or emergencies. With all the weight an EV battery pack has, it’s important to keep that weight and the weight of drive units, inverters, etc., low as well. Failure to do so has led to vehicles that were not only not fun to drive, but potentially dangerous.
“PPE is the first platform designed to accommodate an unprecedented range of high-volume automobiles – including SUVs and CUVs with a high ground clearance as well as cars with a low ride height that are part of Audi’s core product range, such as the Audi A6 series.” The company said in its press release. “But there are also plans to expand the PPE range into the B-segment, which has been the highest-volume market segment for Audi for decades. And even when it comes to the top-of-the-line D-segment, the PPE is an excellent technological platform to build on.”
In the case of the A6 e-Tron, Audi will include 100 kWh of battery capacity between the front and rear axles. Like other PPE vehicles, it will build this one with a long wheelbase and short overhangs (the space ahead of the front wheels and the space behind the rear wheels). This not only gives more space for batteries in the idea spot, but also more interior space, as well as better performance. It’s a great way for Audi to get a dedicated EV right.
With front and rear drive units, Audi was able to replicate the performance of its gas-powered quattro systems. There won’t be a central differential like in the gas-powered models, but power can be split and redistributed between the front and rear axles by varying how much power is used in each. Computer controls are set up to allow for performance at least as good as the gas quattro.
The two electric motors are capable of delivering a total output of 350 kW (470 HP) and 800 Newton meters (590 lb-ft of torque).
Audi A6 e-Tron Body Design
While the underpinnings and even the body aren’t the same as the gas-powered A6, it shares the same overall dimensions, which are popular in the luxury class. It even features the common Audi fastback shape.
Where it differs is that it’s a lot more optimized for aerodynamics than the typical gas-powered Audi. The company designed it with the wind tunnel in mind, and worked on it more to get it to a drag coefficient of .22. This is important for range, but at the same time, Audi did lead the market in aerodynamics in prior decades, so it’s not an entirely new thing for it.
It still has an ICE grille look like many ICE EVs, but it also is mostly for looks. There’s some intake area for required battery and drive unit cooling, but the rest are blocked off and decorative. This is a bit of a tightrope for manufacturers to walk right now, as they need to keep a good fit with their current gas vehicles, but also can’t just have a big open grille that would add a lot of drag and lower range.
New Lighting Technology
Another area where the A6 e-Tron concept innovates is in lighting technology.
The front and rear lights use digital OLED and matrix LED technology to give a variety of different light signatures, most of which can be personalized. One use for the matrix headlights is that they can make the light in different shapes, and this can be used to play a video game projected by the headlights onto a wall. Audi says this is for people to mess with while charging, but it’s likely just a side project for the overall customizable light patterns that were meant to be adaptive high beams.
The rear OLED act as tail lamps, but it’s really more of a big display strip. This allows for nearly unlimited customization by the owner. Instead of looking like any A6 on the road, one’s vehicle can be uniquely tailored to just that driver. It also includes a 3D spatial effect that makes it look like the lights are bigger than they are.
“In addition, the projections around the vehicle allow its communication range to be extended beyond the vehicle for the first time.” the company said. “With the help of intelligent connectivity in the vehicle, the A6 e-tron concept provides information to other road users with visual signals.”
After reading all this, it’s pretty clear that the A6 e-Tron is a fairly serious entrant into the EV market. It’s not only built to actually be capable, but it’s also trying to introduce new things into it. Audi did what it had to so that it would handle well, get decent range, and make a good EV, but the company also needed to make it an Audi and not just a Tesla clone. The lighting might be a bit of a gimmick, but it could provide important safety benefits in the future.
I’m excited to see how much of this makes it from concept to production.