Audi, Jaguar Or Tesla? Which Automaker Can Win The eSUV Race?
PSFK's automotive expert Dave Pinter provides an analysis on the race to the electronic finish line
2018 is shaping up to be a big year for new electric SUVs. Among traditional automakers, Jaguar leapt ahead and debuted the production version of its I-Pace in early 2018. Audi is following closely behind with the debut of the e-tron SUV sometime during the summer. Established car makers are catching up to Tesla’s newcomer strength at being able to quickly develop battery and recharging systems from scratch and get them to market.
Tesla’s growing pains have come from challenges in scaling up and delivering on quality. For traditional automakers, it is almost the opposite. They’ve had to spend a lot of research and development time on developing the technology side of their electric vehicles. The mass production and finish quality are things they’ve already worked for decades to refine.
Audi, like Jaguar, is using the SUV as a platform for its first electric vehicles. There are both smart market and engineering reasons for this. SUV sales are outpacing sedans with no end to the upward trend in sight. The taller profile of an SUV makes it a bit easier to package batteries and save on engineering time. Both Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen also have electric crossover/SUV models in the works as well.
Traditional car buyers could look at fuel economy, horsepower and torque to help identify vehicle that fit their needs. In the early days of making the switch over to electric vehicle ownership, charging time will also be an important consideration. This gets a bit complicated as it ties into the expansion and further development of charging infrastructure.
At the time of writing, Tesla’s superchargers can deliver 120kW of electricity to a vehicle. An 85kW Model S can be half charged in 20 minutes and 80% topped up in 40 minutes. Tesla is said to be working on a new generation of Supercharger that will supply 350kW, cutting recharge time by more than half. Older models of Tesla vehicles though won’t be able to accept that rate of charge. Another company developing high rate chargers is Ionity, which is working on a 350kW network to expand across Europe.
Audi’s debut e-tron will be the first SUV offered to accept 150kW at high power direct current charging stations. Audi says the e-tron will be ready for its next long distance journey in under 30 minutes of charge time. The company didn’t specify if that charge is to 80% or a full charge. Often 80% charges are specified because charge times increase as batteries get more fully charged.
For comparison, Jaguar’s I-Pace launches with 50kW charging and will later be offered to accept 100kW. Jaguar says the I-Pace can be charged 0-80% in 85 minutes at 50kW. So, Audi has a bit of an upper hand in terms of shorter charge times with the e-tron. But that also heavily depends of having access to a fast DC charger that can provide that amount of juice.
It’s still very early days for consumer electric vehicles. The next 24 months are sure to see some rapid evolution in both available products and infrastructure and shorter recharging times for owners.