Audi draws up plans for range of electric cars: sources

Thu Jun 19, 2014 2:16pm EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Audi has drawn up blueprints for a wider range of high-performance electric cars to help it take on German rivals and U.S. firm Tesla Motors (TSLA.O: Quote) if the market picks up, according to sources at the carmaker.

Consumers have largely shunned battery-powered vehicles because of their high price tags and limited driving range as well as the scarcity of charging stations, but many analysts predict sales will rise sharply by the end of the decade.

Tesla has managed to stay ahead of the pack with new technology, which has extended driving range and reduced costs. Its success and the excitement about BMW's (BMWG.DE: Quote) new "i" electric series have caught the attention of Audi, which some analysts have said risks looking like a laggard in an industry where innovation is a major draw for customers.

Audi, a unit of Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote), is about to launch its first purely electric car, a battery-powered version of its R8 supercar, which is due to hit European dealerships in 2015. It will offer a driving range of 450 km (280 miles), close to the 502 km of Tesla's top-selling Model S luxury saloon.

Meanwhile, Audi has scaled up its electric car plans, having devised blueprints for several high-performance electric saloons and sport-utility vehicles, two company sources told Reuters, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

VW declined to comment. Audi did not return calls seeking comment.The manufacturer has shown various hybrid and purely electric concept cars since about 2009, but the latest blueprints stand a bigger chance of getting the nod for production after it lately overcame range limits.

"Germany's major carmakers all have their electric car plans ready in the drawer," Hanover-based NordLB analyst Frank Schwope said.

"They want to be prepared when demand accelerates," he said, adding this could take another five to seven years.   Continued...

The Audi logo is shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook