Porsche and Audi take on Tesla with two gorgeous electric car visions
Tesla, meet your new German rivals.
At the Volkswagen Group's press conference Monday, Porsche and Audi showed off two new electric concept cars, the Audi e-tron quattro concept SUV and the Porsche Mission E.
A production timeline for the Porsche was not presented, but Audi said it will launch an all electric SUV in 2018.
SEE ALSO: Why Porsche's new turbocharged 911 is a big deal
Tesla isn't much of a sales threat to companies such as Audi and Porsche just yet — but the auto industry is clearly watching Elon Musk's company closely. The Porsche looks like a rival to the Tesla Model S, while the E-Tron Quattro Concept seems to set its sights on the Model X.
In a shock move, Porsche unveiled its vision for an electric performance sedan — and lo, it was good. The Mission E promises a 310-mile driving range, 600 horsepower and most unbelievably, a charging time of only 15 minutes to charge the battery 80%.
Its performance targets are rather Porsche-like as well, with 0-62 m.p.h. (0-100 km/h) taking under 3.5 seconds. A lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife — a popular proving-ground in Germany — took under eight minutes. The acceleration figures are somewhat slower than Tesla's Ludicrous Mode, but Porsche is known to underrate its own cars.
In its press release, Porsche touts the fact that its electric motors helped it achieve a 1-2 finish at this year's 24 Hours of LeMans, one of the most difficult auto races in the world. In the Mission E, power output will be greater than 600 horsepower.
The fast charging is owed to the usage of an 800 volt charger, double the 400 volt charger of the Tesla Model S. Of course, this would require a circuit to supply 800 volts, which would be fairly difficult — if not impossible — to find at your local charging station. Porsche also says it can be charged with inductive charging, not requiring cables.
The design is distinctly Porsche, with the characteristic bulging fenders and downward-sloping hood. In profile, you can see echoes of the iconic 911 with more than a few nods given to the 918 Spyder. It looks futuristic, but still unmistakably a Porsche.
If it reaches production, some of the visual drama would be undoubtedly lost — but Porsche designers have a fantastic starting point on their hands.
That Porsche style extends to the cockpit, with five virtual gauges in the driver's line of sight. Things start to get a little odd and futuristic from there, though. The Mission E's dashboard is holographic, and uses an eye-tracking system to judge what instrument the driver is looking at, even allowing the driver to scroll through menus without needing to touch a screen. It uses eye tracking to determine how exactly a driver is sitting, adjusting the displays accordingly.
Replacing mirrors are two side mounted cameras with displays on either side of the of the windshield. For some reason, the car also has a camera that can read the driver's mood and display a corresponding emoticon — which the driver can share on social media.
Porsche is also taking a page out of Tesla's playbook with software updates enabled over-the-air. The manufacturer showed car lovers that "hybrid" didn't have to be a dirty word with the amazing 918 Spyder, so clearly the company has the capacity to make its electric cars just as desirable.
Audi e-tron quattro concept
Less sexy, though just as important, is this electric SUV concept from Audi.
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Board Member of Technical Development for Audi, said the company would "present" the production version of this concept in early 2018 and that this is a "concrete foretaste" of that car. It's going to make life very interesting for the soon-to-ship Tesla Model X.
The e-tron uses three motors and has a 95kWh battery pack, giving the Audi a range of 310 miles to a charge. It reaches 420 hp in regular driving, with nearly 500 hp available in a special boost mode.
Like the Porsche, the Audi offers wireless inductive charging, or can be charged with a conventional output. Its roof is a solar panel that can also give the battery additional juice.
The drag coefficient, a measurement of how well an object moves through air, is a low .25, thanks in part to cameras that replace the side mirrors. The Tesla Model S has a drag coefficient of .24. Expect a slightly higher number for the Model X SUV.
The interior is far less futuristic than the Porsche concept — but with a number of large OLED displays, one could hardly call it spartan. It's an expansion of Audi's so-called virtual cockpit, a configurable display that replaces traditional analog instruments.
Audi also notes that this car is "nearly" ready for autonomous driving with its inclusion of radars, a laser scanner, a camera and ultrasonic sensors. That may be the case, but don't expect to own a self-driving Audi in 2018.
As exciting as these two cars are, they're just concepts. No one will know if they'll be Tesla killers until they actually hit the road. Tesla has a few years on them with building all electric vehicles, but Porsche and Audi have many years more car building experience and competition success than the California upstart.
The world of electric cars just got more interesting and beautiful — and if this is what the future looks like, we can't wait to drive in it.