Audi decides against all-electric version of its A8 flagship sedan

BMW and Mercedes-Benz will both have pure-electric, large luxury sedans in the next year or two. Those models will join the Tesla Model S in the field of full-size EV sedans. But Audi this week said that it decided against an all-electric A8. Instead, the German luxury brand will equip the A8 with a plug-in hybrid with about 30 miles of electric range.

The decision to ax any plans for an electric A8 contradicts hints about its potential from former company CEO Bram Schot. Speaking at a management meeting in May 2019, Schot said:

The next generation of the Audi A8 might well be all-electric. That has not been decided yet, but I can well imagine it.

Schot then added:

We are thinking about revolutionizing the top-end class with a completely new concept for the A8.

Critically, the current generation of A8 models is not due for a new version for a few years.

Schot became Audi’s interim chief in 2018, replacing CEO Rupert Stadler, who was arrested on fraud charges in connection with the Dieselgate scandal. Schot was replaced by former BMW executive Markus Duesmann, who assumed responsibilities yesterday.

Audi development chief Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler, speaking with Automotive News, said the automaker had intensive discussions before deciding against a battery-powered A8. Rothenpieler said:

We will instead expand the driving range of our plug-in hybrid to beyond 47 km.

We asked Audi about the company’s decision against an electric A8. An Audi spokesperson told Electrek today:

We do not have info on any models beyond the e-tron SUV, e-tron Sportback, Q4 e-tron, and e-tron GT. All other models are pure speculation.

An Audi A8 with a pure electric powertrain is off the table

An Audi A8 with a pure electric powertrain is off the table

Rothenpieler explained that Audi will focus on full-electric SUVs, which he considers a growth segment – while large sedans are not selling well.

The anticipated all-electric Mercedes EQS is not quite a full-size sedan, slotting in size between an E-Class and S-Class. There are few confirmed details about the EQS, other than high-level specs revealed in a January preview. The numbers include a 100-kWh battery pack, 470-horsepower, and 350-kW ultra-fast charging.

BMW’s 7-Series EV is not expected until late 2022. It will be launched first in China and Europe, according to Automotive News. So it might not arrive in the US until 2023 or later.

Large sedans are generally considered a showcase of a company’s emerging technology, rather than big-sellers. Large German EVs would likely compete against the Tesla Model S, which was introduced in 2012.

Electrek’s Take

Yesterday, we posted about Audi’s changing lineup of EV platforms. The company will migrate its electric models to the PPE platform – a long-term, flexible architecture for vehicles of all sizes. A company spokesperson told us:

The PPE will, in essence, be the equivalent to our current MLB Evo architecture only as a fully electric self-standing platform that can scale to accommodate vehicle sizes from A4 to A8, and from Q5 to Q8.

However, just because Audi (and other automakers) have the means to produce EVs of all sizes, it doesn’t mean that they will. And when executives say a model “might well be all-electric,” it could come to nothing.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.