Is Tesla about to have a rival in the luxury electric car market? Volkswagen’s two premium flagship brands, Audi and Porsche, unveiled battery-powered sports cars at the Frankfurt auto show on Monday.
Although neither car will be available to buy until around 2018, the launches are aimed at stealing attention from Tesla’s first luxury electric crossover, the Model X, which is due to go on sale from Sept 29.
Porsche showed the prototype of its first battery-powered sports car, titled “Mission E.” Similar in appearance to its iconic 911, it has an 800-volt electric powertrain with 600 horsepower that can accelerate to 100 km per hour in 3.5 seconds.
“When we designed this car, we knew it had to be a real Porsche,” chief executive Matthias Müller said in an interview on the eve of the Frankfurt Motor Show. “It had to feel like a 911.”
Porsche’s Mission E a boasts over 500 km of range and is designed to be a little roomier than the 911. However, it probably won’t go on the market until 2018-19.
Audi said its e-tron quattro (pictured above) is to be launched by 2018 and would have over 500 km (311 miles) per charge. That compares with about 300 miles for Tesla’s new Model S P90D saloon, which is already garnering good reviews in the press.
The all-electric venture represents a change of course for Audi, which had previously focused on developing electric variants of existing models such as its two-seater R8 sports car rather than committing to serial production like German rival BMW with its “i” brand electric series.
The impact the announcement on Tesla is not clear cut, according to analysts. As two of the world’s most sought-after car brands, they represent serious competition for the attention of well off, environmentally conscious buyers. But they also boost the credibility of the all-electric market, which could help Tesla in the long run.
The Nissan Leaf is currently the UK’s top selling electric car, although a total of just 6,838 of the battery powered LEAF electric cars were sold in UK in 2014 (compared to 5,273 for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and 1,534 for the BMW i3).