Watch - Audi E-tron Quattro Concept on video: a taste of Audi's first production electric car

Confirmed production of battery-powered SUV hints at Audi’s future. We meet it in Frankfurt

Audi has revealed the E-tron Quattro Concept, at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show. It's an all-electric SUV, it’s powered by a lithium-ion battery housed under the middle of the passenger cabin, and it's a 'concrete foretaste' of a future production Audi electric car.

Those were the words of Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi board member for technical development. A full-scale production, all-electric SUV will make its debut in 2018, and that car will be heavily influenced by the vehicle you see here.

The key figures are competitive with the current star of the electric car world, Tesla's Model S electric saloon. Range of 310 miles on a full charge closely matches that of the range-topping Model S, and like that car it sends drive to all four wheels.

The Audi does this with three electric motors - two located on the rear-axle, while the third sits at the front in a system Audi is calling E-tron Quattro. Total system output is 429bhp, with up to 496bhp and 590lb ft of torque available in a 'boost' mode. The resulting 0-62mph sprint takes 4.6sec, while top speed is an electronically-limited 130mph.

While the all-wheel drive system is clearly effective in performance terms, it's also been designed for high efficiency. As is common with electric vehicles, those motors can become generators when the car decelerates, and the driver can select the level of regeneration (and therefore deceleration) depending on the Audi drive select mode.

With two motors at the rear, the Audi also features torque vectoring on its rear axle. Handling should be enhanced further by the low-mounted battery - another common feature in modern electric vehicles - whose 95kWh of lithium-ion cells (5kWh more than the top Model S) supply that 310-mile range.

Frankfurt video

In order to achieve this impressive claimed figure, Audi says the SUV’s chunky body has been chiselled into the slipperiest shape possible. Clear signals for these efforts are a sleek coupe glasshouse and flat underbody, while above 50mph, active elements on the bonnet, flanks and rear move to better direct air around the body. There are no door mirrors on the concept, either - instead, exterior cameras are used to show the road behind.

The result is a drag co-efficient of 0.25, which, to put things in to perspective, is just 0.06 Cd off the super-sleek looking VW XL1 and a substantial 0.08 Cd less than the smaller Q5 SUV. If it were to make production as it is, the e-tron quattro would be the most aerodynamically efficient SUV on sale. 

A common bugbear of electric vehicle ownership, that of charging time, should be mitigated by the full charge time of only 50 minutes on a 150kW charger. Like the Porsche Mission E concept also shown at Frankfurt, Audi has also prepared the car for wireless inductive charging - sure to become a more common charging method by the car's 2018 launch.

The interior is thoroughly modern, too. Much will be toned down for production of course, but Audi's Virtual Cockpit instruments are very much a production feature already, albeit presented here using OLED technology. These OLED displays can be precisely cut to shape and used virtually anywhere - and every control surface in the concept is operated using touch-sensitive technology.

Aside from the electric SUV model it will spawn, the e-tron quattro concept confirms Audi still has plans to grow its all-electric range in the future. Earlier this year, the latest R8 was unveiled in rear-wheel drive e-tron concept form, with promise that it’ll influence a forthcoming Tesla Model S-rivalling sports car. With this in mind, the e-tron quattro could be the first of several purpose-built all-electric production models to enter Audi’s line-up from 2018.

For more news from the 2015 Frankfurt motor show, head over to our Frankfurt show hub page.

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