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Audi and partner FAW to cooperate on plug-in hybrid for China; Audi A6 e-tron on long-wheelbase A6

The Audi A6 L e-tron concept presented at Auto China 2012 in Beijing. Click to enlarge.

Together with its Chinese joint-venture partner FAW, Audi will launch a plug-in hybrid car for the Chinese market. The Audi A6 e-tron will be based on the long-wheelbase version of the Audi A6, which is already produced in China, and will be specially developed for the China market—Audi’s “most important,” according to the company. No details on powertrain specifications or market timing are yet available, according to Audi.

The full-size sedan will offer a 50-kilometer (31-mile) all-electric range when operating solely under battery power and is to be produced within the joint venture by FAW-Volkswagen in Changchun in northern China. In 2012, Audi unveiled an Audi A6 L e-tron concept at Auto China in Beijing with an all-electric driving range of 80 km (50 miles). At that time, Audi said that with its first e-tron technology study in the luxury class, it was showing what a locally produced New Energy Vehicle from Audi might look like.

Audi and FAW have been cooperating closely for more than 25 years. Together, we have built up the premium segment in China. Now we are cooperating on the next generation of automobiles.

—Zhang Pijie, President of FAW-Volkswagen

Audi is the first manufacturer to equip all of its models produced locally in China with start-stop technology and kinetic energy recovery systems. Audi was already a pioneer in 2012 with the integration of lightweight components in local production.

Since the beginning of the efficiency program with FAW-Volkswagen in 2011, Audi has reduced the average fuel consumption of the models it produces in China by more than 20%.

We are the market leader in China’s premium segment and will continue systematically with the application of efficiency technologies. Audi is thus supporting the Chinese government’s targets for the reduction of fuel consumption.

—Dr. Dietmar Voggenreiter, President of Audi China and Head of the China Region at AUDI AG

Starting this year, the company is producing engines complying with the efficient Euro 6 standards in Changchun. Audi already offers its Chinese customers a wide range of imported hybrid models (the Audi Q5 hybrid quattro, Audi A6 hybrid and Audi A8 L hybrid). The Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid will also come to China.

Strict efficiency criteria apply to the construction and operation of Audi’s new factory with FAW-Volkswagen in Foshan, southern China, where the Audi A3 Sportback is produced. The Audi A3 Sedan from Foshan will follow before the end of this year. In 2013, Audi delivered 491,989 cars in China (including Hong Kong), an increase of 21% compared with 2012.


Patrick Free

Audi, we need > 50KM (100KM even better) of full EV range in your new PHEVs in Europe too ! This is not just a China requirement, it's the obvious minimum sizing for the World, so average local commutes can be done with one charge per night practical to arrange at home only. You're just loosing another year with German groups comming out with another meaningless PHEV range with USELESS <10KHW battery. We need 25-30KWH mini to consider moving our real car to a new PHEV.

Roger Pham

Daytime charging at work can take advantage of solar PV energy on parking lot cover and rooftops of nearby buildings. To reduce cost further, the DC output of the solar PV is directly used for DC charging current of the car, eliminating the conversion losses of DC to AC then to DC conversion loss associated with using solar to grid then grid to car charger electricity, AND the cost of power inverter.

As such, 8-10 kWh per car ought to be more than enough to cover nearly all driving energy requirement when charged twice per day.
The world largest carmarkers like Toyota and VW need to see to it that there will be enough Lithium to make as many PHEV's as possible without causing an escalation in Lithium prices that will undo the whole EV industry!

The most important way to make PHEV"s appealing is to reduce the cost and weight and to increase internal cargo space. This can be done by downsizing the ICE further, to only 2-cylinder 600-1000cc max, and placing some of the battery under the hood, and the rest under the front seats. Furthermore, downsizing the fuel tank to 5-6 gallons will provide more space for battery or space for a small spare tire under the rear seat, while allowing maximum cargo space behind the front seats. If the rear seat bench can be slided forward while the back rest portion can fold rearward, forming a flat surface contigous toward the back, this will further increase useful contigous space capacity behind the rear seats and will the make the PHEV even more attractive. With a smaller fuel tank of 5 gallons and without the spare tire in the way, a third bench of foldable and stowable seating can turn a 5-seat hatchback PHEV into a 7-8-seat vehicle, similar to the Tesla Model S, and this will make a PHEV even moe appealing.

A plug-out capability for backing up of grid electricity will definitely seal the deal, and will make PHEV's MUST-HAVES!

In conclusion, PHEV's can be MUCH MORE appealing to customers WITHOUT the need for large battery pack that will increase the cost, weight, and reduce internal space...the 3 sins that auto designers MUST AVOID at all costs. As Kit P famously stated: "Hauling around a lot of batteries is never a good thing."

Patrick Free

Roger, you are missing the practicallity here. I'm not a green guy ready to accept any constrain, I'm a hassle free progress-minded executive, a little "geek", working >14H a day and buying my car with my own cash. I will only buy a better car than the BMW I have today, and only an as reliable and as comfortable and good looking one that can do the job entirely for me, including my few long business trips, and my very long summer vacation trips (sole car replacement, for my current world). What is not secured today, or not practical, just does not exist.
This said, I'm OK to help my local grid to a certain extend (75% carbon-free Nuclear based in France today), and charging my EV all night will contribute to that as after midnight demand is much lower on the Grid and our Nuclear Plants could produce a lot more then, but I'm worried that charging twice per day, in addition to be impossible to secure in my current environment, will wear these too small batteries far too rapidly (With > 700 x full charges cycles per year, they will never last 10 years = 7000 x deep charge cycles when undersized to that extend !)
I agree on the benefits to keep the PHEV and other EV cars connected to my local grid day and night and used (not sure that should be for free, as it wears the EV owner battery) as the local storage that the Grid is missing dramatically today, so Grid can take any benefit from the renewable energies mostly wasted today w/o energy storage in place, at least for solar that provides the bulk of its energy when my nuclear-centric grid is already in excess supply, at the end of the morning or in the afternoon. But that needs to be done practically, and reliably. My company has no Solar panels on its roof nor is panning for any yet. They don't even have plugs to charge in new building car park... So will take YEARS to happen, still not solving my cycle issue. When in place with a 3OKWH larger battery I could still charge once per day only at work and further help Solar energy usage on my grid, by the way. But this is just not under my control. I will only buy a PHEV car that can work, within what I can control. Hence no way out to my >30KWH battery request.

Roger Pham

You have a fairly unique situation / circumstance / preference that is not in common with most people. IMHO, you can't go wrong now with a Tesla Model S-60-kWh, with plenty of space for you and your family.
France has a great network of TGV (Train a Grande Vitess) that can zip you to places at 300 kph in short amount of time, no need to drive from cities to cities for business trips.

For vacation trip by car, simply rent one, including total insurance, and you'll be able to travel much more carefree no matter what'll happen to your rental car, you'll get a replacement, knowing that you beloved personal car will be safe at home. Rent a lower profile car so that you won't be a target of thieves and thugs...given the dire economic situation of many European countries. Soon, Tesla will have enough SuperCharger stations for complete traveling throughout Europe, but I'd still rent a low-profile car for the vacationing trip to stay out of trouble!

Roger Pham

I must hasten to add that Tesla's battery Panasonic 18650 NCA has been tested to 5,000 deep cycles at nearly 100% DOD and only has 18% loss of capacity after 5,000 cycles. BYD's LiFePO4 battery can withstand 3,000 cycles with similar loss of capacity of ~20%.

You don't want to keep a battery for 10 years because you'll lose a lot of capacity just from battery aging. You'd rather use the heck out of a small pack of 8 kWh and replace 'em after 5 years or so with much better battery technology at much less cost (5-5-5 or so) after 5 years for perhaps $200/kWh, or $1,600 total. Current batteries probably costing $500/kWh or more. The amount of money that you'll pay for a replacement battery pack will be very small in comparison to the money that you had saved from gasoline cost ($7,000-10,000 USD).


For the next 6+ years, a PHEV with limited (10 to 15 miles) e-range is a Wise economic decision. You could always trade it in by 2020 when improved equivalent volume 5-5-5 batteries (good for 50 to 75 miles) hit the market place.

Alternatively, affordable 5-5-5 batteries will equip Tesla Model S-160 (and many other future BEVs) with 500+ miles range, rendering most PHEVs obsolete.

Roger Pham

As I just stated, due to battery aging issue, usually after 7-10 yrs, it is not practical to use a large battery pack and allowing it to age without using much of its cycle life. You should have a first-hand experience that a lead acid car battery will need replacement every 5 years. Advance automotive Lithium battery can increase the lifespan of battery up to 10 years. Laptop battery needs replacement every 3-5 yrs regardless of use.

Battery electrodes corrosion is the main reason for aging loss of capacity and power. Internal resistance increases sharply thus greatly reduce the power potential of the battery. The rate of corrosion increases significant with increase ambient temperature, such as in tropical areas, as well as when the battery is stored at high charge or at low charge. Thus, a 85-kWh battery should keep only about 40 kwh of charge on average in order to ensure battery longevity, or else, the battery will age even much faster, may be after a few years.

A 160 kWh battery, even if it is 5-5-5 battery, will still cost around $20,000-30,000 because of its sheer size. Throwing away this much money every 10 years is not a good practice. A PHEV with 8-10 kWh of 5-5-5 battery will cost 1/20th of this every 5-7 years, or $1,000-1,500, which is much more practical.

5-5-5 batteries promise 5 fold increase in energy density, and 5 fold reduction in cost , in about 5 years, but do not promise any increase in shelf life.

As such, the best bet is to use a PHEV with a small battery pack to reduce cost and weight, and use the heck out of its cycle life and to replace it after a few years before it get to age significantly. This is especially true if one lives in a hot, tropical country, or in the desert SouthWest USA where it gets very hot in the summers.

Patrick Free

Roger, Harvey, I really appreciate your insights, ... but I won't buy into that with my hardly won money, sorry guys...
1/ Never mind a (smaller) <10KWH Battery weared after 5 years with 2 x charges per day may only cost BMW $1600 or less on its OEM components market, you can bet clever BMW will resell its corresponding Proprietary spare-part well above $10K, plus add hours of costy labor on top. I had to buy a number of BMW parts since my 530DA warranty expired and I can tell you it will cost consumers an arm, whatever it costs to BMW here, if forced to buy it at anytime. Full proprietary & critical part, bet it ! Another reason why I'll only start with a much larger battery, that in my real average usage could last more than 10 years without any replacement, & with greater than 80% capacity left. With my preferred 30KW capacity for 65KM = 40M daily commutes, I may be able to do one full charge every 2 x days, not sure but my best dream, or one every day but with half-feed only, so it wears more slowly... One time per day means 3650 charges over 10Y, one every 2 x days means 1825 charges over 10Y. Both sound sustainable to me, vs usual 3K to 5K cycles mentioned on this WEB for modern EV batteries. If TESLA can put 65 to 85KWH in their marvellous world-benchmark Model S, then the Germans can put 30KWH ... if they whish.
2/ Another reason to pick a higher capacity like 30KWH, is it allows you to reach a much higher Instant power output too, allowing vendor to move to a Tesla Like all-electric drive train, without compromising motorway and mountains climb performances, only using their ICE engine as a range extender generator, never directly tracting the car. This allows much more radical designs that can save tons of weight, and huge $ too (No more Big central ICE engine required, no more big central gearbox, or big central transmission... in all electric drive trains with one engine per wheel or axis and only electric cables in between, to free weight and $ for much larger battery...). This may be too radical for BMW, I know, hence why I'm ready to change brand as I plan to move to 1st PHEV, and I don't see them seriously pursing best-PHEV goal, too occupied by their iGadgets for the press.
3/ 130KWH to 160KWH is a sort long term target for all EVs for me too (Nirvana 500M EV range) but that's for many days after tomorrow, and the time when even the cars baring that capacity could survive without a little Range Extender ICE engine generator embarked is more than 20 Years from now, if ever, in Europe. Hence why I bet on a limited success for Tesla here, since they don't want to hear that evidence, unfortunalty, leaving more time to the other vendors to come out with endless un-successful Hybrids, although again thids eDrive is the closest to the pin than BMW ever designed so far.

Roger Pham

You've raised many good points, Patrick.

1/ OEM's do charge too much for original parts. For this reason, those who want to save their hard-earned money may want to buy a popular model produced in enough numbers that there will be after-market parts that will be much cheaper. If I want to replace my car's lead-acid battery, I do not look for original part, but just pick an equivalent battery at the auto parts store.

2/ Bigger battery pack will give more power at a given C rating. However, a 10-kWh pack at 10 C rating will put out 100 kW of instantaneous power, and that'll be plenty power to drive on electric motor only, without requiring power boost by the engine.

On a mountainous route, keep your battery at maximum charge before the mountain climb so that the battery and the motor can assist the engine to make the climb, without having to slow down the car if the ICE is small. You can recharge the battery on the way downhill. 10-kWh pack with additional engine power is more than enough to scale the tallest mountain without having to slow down behind other traffics. I'd bet 5-kWh would be enough for most mountainous climb.

3/ BEV purists certainly would not have anything to do with an ICE on board, but for most people, a PHEV would serve all their purposes just fine, while being more affordable.

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