Audi is planning a huge expansion of its e-tron electric range over the next five years – and now a senior official at the firm has admitted to Auto Express that this wider range will stretch to a small car based on the VW Group’s entry-level EV platform.
Known as MEB Entry, the architecture was revealed at the VW Group annual conference last spring. It’s designed to support vehicles of around four metres in length, about the same as a Polo or an Audi A1, while keeping down costs sufficiently for these models to be able to sold from around €20,000 (£18,000).
Responsibility for the project – which is due to deliver its first model by the end of 2022 – has been handed to SEAT and its chief engineer Axel Andorff. The focus on cost-cutting has led to speculation that the platform will be restricted to cars from VW, Skoda, SEAT and a Chinese sub-brand.
However, speaking exclusively to Auto Express, Audi’s board member for product marketing, Fermín Soneira Santos, said that the premium brand intends to use MEB Entry as another element of an extremely broad EV portfolio – everything from supermini-sized models up to the e-tron GT super-saloon, which is based on the running gear of the Porsche Taycan.
When asked if Audi is involved in the MEB Entry project with a view to launching a car based on it, Soneira Santos told us, “It is on our horizon, yes. It’s not yet designed, but yes, we have a chance to have cars on MEB, maybe tomorrow on MEB Entry, then also the e-tron GT. We have so many different platforms to choose from and where we can have input into.”
He added: “If you would talk about segments, Audi is going to be the one with the widest portfolio over the next years, compared with our competitors. We can go smaller and higher with less investment than our competitors. It’s an advantage.”
Our exclusive illustrations give an idea of how the baby Audi EV could look. They draw inspiration from a sketch issued by VW on a Christmas card, suggesting a radical roofline that still manages to accommodate the slightly higher floor that is needed to house the car’s battery pack.
Sources have told Auto Express that the cheaper nature of MEB Entry may leave less scope than usual for bodywork modifications – perhaps resulting in common profiles across more than one brand, as per the VW up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii. Audi would then have to rely on more premium cabin materials and in-car technology to help differentiate its version.
The new model could allow Audi to capitalise on an emerging sector of the electric-car market, where customers are willing to pay more for premium products with still-modest battery ranges. MEB Entry models are expected to have between 130 and 150 miles of range, but in theory this would be enough for the car to rival the recently launched MINI Electric and the Honda e – both cars that prioritise image and design over outright battery range.
Audi’s first car on the regular MEB platform – which is set to make its debut with the VW ID.3 this summer – will be the Q4 e-tron. Soneira Santos told us that more extreme ‘halo’ versions of that car are feasible, as Audi seeks to maintain enthusiast appeal during its transition towards a more electrified range.
“There are ways we can do this through e-tron,” he said. “I cannot tell you everything we have planned, and there are some things we haven’t planned to the end anyway. But you can just imagine a completely new platform, MEB, and it would make no sense to have just one derivative – the Q4 e-tron, with one certain range of powertrains. We will extend the portfolio and platform and have some emotional versions.”