Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

German luxury car brand Audi staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc. (File/Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2018

Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO: German luxury car brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
The Audi e-tron midsize SUV will be offered in the United States next year at a starting price of $75,795 before a $7,500 tax credit. It is one of a volley of electric vehicles coming from Volkswagen AG brands, as well as other European premium brands including Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover.
All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself.
“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also head of rocket company SpaceX, planned to mark the e-tron launch occasion by staging a SpaceX event in Los Angeles at roughly the same time on Monday evening as Audi’s unveiling.
Audi and parent Volkswagen are using the US launch of the e-tron SUV in mid-2019 to take aim at one obstacle to expanding electric vehicle sales — the lack of convenient ways to recharge their batteries.
Audi will partner with online retailer Amazon to sell and install home electric vehicle charging systems to buyers of the e-tron, the companies said on Monday. Amazon will deliver the hardware and hire electricians to install them through its Amazon Home Services operation.
Amazon’s partnership with Audi to provide home charging systems is the first time the online retailer has struck such a deal with an automaker, and signals a new front in Amazon’s drive to expand its reach into consumers’ homes beyond the presence of its Alexa smart speakers in living rooms and kitchens.
“We see charging installation as a very important business,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, told Reuters at Audi’s launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home’s electrical system.
Tesla offers wall connectors for home charging at a $500 list price, and will arrange for installation, according to the company.
At the same time, Electrify America, a company funded by Volkswagen as part of its settlement of US diesel emission cheating litigation, plans to launch next year the next round of installations of public charging stations, Electrify America executives told Reuters.
Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Electrify America plans to have 2,000 chargers installed by mid-June next year. Those will be open to any vehicle, and customers can swipe a credit card to recharge.
“We want to work with all” automotive brands, said Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive.

Lifting the Curtain

Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
The e-tron is electric, and has two electric motors — one in the front and one in the rear — driving all four wheels. The Hungarian factory building motors for the e-tron will start with a production pace equivalent to 200 vehicles a day, Audi officials said.
In Europe, the vehicle will use cameras instead of conventional mirrors to give drivers a view to the rear. That feature is still not approved by US regulators.
However, in many other respects the e-tron is a conventional, mainstream luxury SUV. It offers seating for five, and its length and wheelbase position it in the center of the market for midsize, five-passenger luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5. The e-tron is 5 inches (13 cm) shorter than the Tesla Model X, and it has conventional doors. The Model X uses vertically opening “falcon wing” doors.
The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the car within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.
Audi officials said they do not have official range estimates for the e-tron SUV under US testing procedures. The e-tron’s 95 kWh battery has less capacity than the 100 kWh battery used in the Tesla Model X 100D model, but more than the base Model X 75D.
The Model X 100D is rated at 295 miles (475 km) of range by the US government.


Screen star Shahad Ballan in new anti-speeding campaign

Shahad Ballan has joined forces with Dubai Autodrome for her new campaign. (Supplied)
Updated 04 February 2020

Screen star Shahad Ballan in new anti-speeding campaign

  • Shahad Ballan’s new campaign aims to safely channel youths’ desire for speed while driving

DUBAI: Syrian TV presenter Shahad Ballan has joined forces with Dubai Autodrome, the UAE’s motorsports and entertainment complex, in a new campaign called #SpeedLegally, which aims to safely channel youths’ desire for speed while driving.

“The whole point of the campaign is to tell people it’s OK if you like to speed. At the end of the day, people like this rush and adrenaline,” Ballan told Arab News.

Ballan hopes that by teaching youngsters to only speed on race tracks, it could lower the number of crashes on the UAE’s roads. (Supplied)

“Adrenaline is a hormone in our body. We can’t ignore that … Instead of just fighting it, let us encourage youngsters who like to speed to release this energy that they have and practice their love for speed and driving in designated areas such as race tracks.”

At Dubai Autodrome, people can book sessions to race using their own cars or those available there.

“It’s all about discipline,” Ballan said. “When you’re angry or stressed or excited, you release your energy in different ways. Some people eat, some people go to the gym, some people do kickboxing. So this call to action is the same thing.”

At Dubai Autodrome, people can book sessions to race using their own cars or those available there. (Supplied)

She hopes that by teaching youngsters to only speed on race tracks, it could lower the number of crashes on the UAE’s roads.

According to figures from the Interior Ministry, 3,123 people were killed and 31,829 injured in car crashes from 2014 to 2018.

Ballan herself was inspired by a crash she was involved in four years ago. “I wasn’t the one driving in the accident. I was with a driver,” she said.

“We weren’t the cause of the accident. Another driver … was going over the speed limit on the highway.”