CES 1, Audi 2(ish)

NAIAS happens to be the same time as CES, the Consumer Electronics Show.  I’ve been giving CES a whiff, simply because handheld gadgetry has been far removed from the energy domain.

No more.  Not only is telematics big, but vehicles themselves are falling in the gadget category.  Exhibit A, literally: Audi’s multiprong effort in 21st Century cars.  Besides NAIAS, they chose CES to show the Quattro Laserlight concept.  That’s “laser,” as in lasers = cool, and “Quattro™,” as in “we need 4 wheels to handle the 700 horsepower.”  Yup, not 170 hp, but seven hundred hybrid horsies.  It’s a concept car, sure.  But Volkswagen AG has committed to EVs and PHEVs, including two Porsches.  Now add Audi’s (planned) designs in (arguably) three segments.

And no mild hybrid, this Audi.  The electric motor gives 110 kW (147 hp), as much as the Honda Accord Hybrid, and backed up by a battery good for ~30 miles. Continue reading



NAIAS without gas?  The big (electric) news is that Audi is getting serious about clean vehicles.  They’re part of Volkswagen AG, which also includes Porsche (all intent on electrification, starting with hybrids).  Yet, Audi was on again, off again with their e-tron plug-in sports coupe.  Originally advertized for 2012, the company then wavered again and again.  No more.  The R8 e-tron has been (re)confirmed.  The official line is that better batteries made the vehicle competitive; rumor is that Tesla had made their 2012 plans uncompetitive.  Going deeper- or shallower, if we’re talking pocketbooks- Audi also showed an A3 Allroad e-tron.  This crossover is a big hatchback (“sportback”) with electric all-wheel-drive and good acceleration.  Though a concept for now, Audi placed it front and center, including in their publicity, as if to show they’re a serious competitor.

Combined with VW’s e-Golf and e-Up and XL1, and Porsche’s plug-in Panamera and 918 Spyder…whole lotta snakin’ goin’ on there in Wolfsburg.  Tesla meanwhile was coy and vague about 2014- no firm Model X date besides “future,” and nothing firm on the Model E at all.

Zie Ozzer Germans

Photo credit: Volkswagen

Photo credit: Volkswagen

We know what BMW’s doing, how about the rest?

Volkswagen appears set with the voltwagens.  Not only will the German Giant produce electric versions of their compacts (yielding the e-UP and e-Golf), but they have already begun limited production of their XL1 plug-in hybrid.

The name comes from “1-liter car,” as in the European definition of fuel economy.  There, “mileage” is measured in how much fuel is burnt to go 100 kilometers.  VW had tried multiple iterations of 1L/100 km vehicle.  The 2013 XL1 now claims 110 km per liter of diesel- or, 260 miles per gallon.  And that’s on trips; in town, electricity will take you a claimed 30 miles (at least, per the european test cycle) with no liters at all.  That’s coming up on Chevy Volt range (33-40 all-electric miles per US cycle), on about a third of the battery (~5.5 kWh).  How?

That XL1 body is about as aero as it gets, at least in a format people might actually buy.  Consider it the new GM EV1.  For example, there are cameras, not rearview mirrors.  The body is carbon fiber, and weighs a fraction of what’s average on a North American dealer lot right now.  And VW is about as good as it gets for small diesel engines. Continue reading