German automakers (still) planning to challenge Tesla

Tesla Model S - BMW i8

Elon Musk hopes Tesla’s success will inspire other automakers to get serious about EVs. The latest buzz in the automotive press is that he may get his wish, as German luxury brands are rumored to be working on their own EVs to compete with the boys from Silicon Valley.

Automobile magazine reported earlier this month that Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche plan to invest a combined $7.5 billion to develop new EV and PHEV models to be delivered between 2018 and 2021.

The Germans are already taking the plunge into plug-in hybrids. Porsche’s Panamera and Cayenne PHEVs, and BMW’s i8, are available now, and Audi and Mercedes will be launching their PHEV offerings soon.

Tesla Model S - BMW i8  2
BMW i8 and Tesla Model S (via Bram Hilgersom)

However, as some seem slow to realize, the main reason for the success of Model S is that it doesn’t have a gasoline engine. Only a pure electric vehicle can really be considered “competition” for Tesla. When it comes to fielding a pure EV, the Germans’ plans seem to be much more long-range and tentative.

Earlier reports had Audi releasing a Q8 e-tron in 2017, but now Automobile tells us that the company’s first pure EV will be the Q6 e-tron, a “sporty crossover coupe” that “might take up to four years to materialize.”

Autocar reported in October that Porsche was “secretly” developing an all-electric mid-sized liftback. However, in a more recent interview (via Green Car Reports) with the same mag, the company’s R&D chief Wolfgang Hatz stuck the cork back in that bottle of Sekt. “A Tesla is a fine car, but you cannot drive it enthusiastically without losing range or performance too quickly,” said he. “Until the technology offers a solution to those problems, we will not be looking at launching such a car.”

Whatever Mercedes’ B-Class Electric Drive is, it isn’t a competitor for Model S or X. The company’s EcoLuxe project, however, might be a different story. According to Automobile, Mercedes-Benz is planning a family of at least four all-new, purpose-built vehicles, including two crossovers. The first model, known internally as Sport Utility Coupe, is supposed to hit the showrooms in 2019 with a price tag around $125,000, and a range between 280 and 350 miles.

BMW, the elder statesman of German electromobility, is said to have a new sedan (the i7?) in the pipeline that will feature twin electric motors and a range-extending combustion engine. A concept car is expected in about two years.

 

Sources: Automobile, Autocar, Green Car Reports
Images: Bram Hilgersom/ Flickr