Audi R8 e-tron track drive, Berlin Tempelhof AirportEnlarge Photo
The term 'e-tron' will soon be as familiar in Audi's range as TDI or quattro, as the German automaker makes plans to offer a plug-in version of every one of its cars by 2020. Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler announced the launch of the China-only A6 L e-tron, a long-wheelbase, plug-in hybrid version of Audi's executive sedan. But the automaker will globally launch a new e-tron model every year, the end goal to "have an e-tron version of all key model series by 2020".
e-tron is Audi's marketing term for all its electrified vehicles, whether all-electric or plug-in hybrid. It's named for the original e-tron concept, a two-seat electric sports car concept shown at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show. Since then, the name has spread to other concept vehicles, as well as a host of production models. The first of those to hit the streets will be the new A3 Sportback e-tron, a 204-horsepower plug-in hybrid version of Audi's four-door subcompact hatchback, on sale in the fall. Other confirmed e-tron models include an A8 luxury sedan and Q7 SUV--and Audi currently intends to put its all-electric R8 e-tron into production, too.
The range-wide e-tron plans means other popular models will gain a plug by 2020, most likely in the form of plug-in hybrids rather than battery-electric vehicles. That includes the small A1 subcompact, already previewed with a rotary-powered range-extended electric car, and the sporty TT--set to grow into a sub-brand in the coming years. The TT and its variants already sit on the Volkswagen Group's MQB platform, used by the A3 Sportback e-tron and other electrified models from the Volkswagen Group.
A plug-in range will also boost Audi's chances of success in China. Electric cars have been a particular slow-burner in the country so far, but several automakers, not least Tesla and luxury automaker Bentley, have plans to offer plug-in vehicles in the country to combat energy and pollution problems.