Audi is pouring money into its electric car program.
Audi is pouring money into its electric car program.

Outrageous cost of electric cars

ELECTRIC cars are the future - but how much will their next-generation technology cost?

As more brands ramp up electric car production, the cost of developing the next big thing in motoring is becoming apparent.

Audi this week announced it is drawing forward 14 billion euros ($21.6b) to be used by 2023 to fast-track its electric car production. That's about one-third of the company's total expenditure for the next five years.

Audi e-Tron electric SUV.
Audi e-Tron electric SUV.

Audi is preparing to launch its first electric vehicle, the e-Tron. A mid-size SUV, it's aimed at the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X.

Its ambitious goal for 2025 is to sell about 20 electrified models, only half of which will be fully electric.

Audi has shown its next two electric cars in concept form. The e-Tron Sportback and e-Tron GT are respectively a coupe-style SUV and a luxury four-door coupe.

The Audi e-Tron GT concept, unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show.
The Audi e-Tron GT concept, unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show.

"We are taking a very systematic approach to electric mobility and will be much more focused in future," says temporary Audi board chairman Bram Schot.

"We are consistently prioritising our resources for future-oriented products and services that are highly attractive and relevant to the market.

"With models such as the recently presented Audi e-Tron GT concept, we want to electrify people again for Audi and at the same time be an agile and very efficient company."

However, Audi's investment is just a fraction of the greater Volkswagen Group's total electric car development budget - VW will spend about 44 billion euros ($68b) over the next five years.

The first Volkswagen EV will be the ID small hatch, which is most likely to arrive in Australia in 2021.

Volkswagen’s ID electric hatch will be one of the first mass-market EVs.
Volkswagen’s ID electric hatch will be one of the first mass-market EVs.

VW boss Herbert Diess says: "One aim of the Volkswagen Group's strategy is to speed up the pace of innovation. We are focusing our investments on the future fields of mobility and systematically implementing our strategy."

Mercedes-Benz is tipping more than 10 billion euros ($15.5b) into its electric car program in the coming years. The brand's EQ program is about to deliver its first production vehicle, the EQC. An SUV, it is due in Australia in about 12 months.

"With the EQC - the first fully electric SUV from Mercedes-Benz - we are flipping the switch," says Mercedes- chairman Dieter Zetsche.

"Electric drive is a major component in the mobility of the future. We are therefore investing more than 10 billion euros in the expansion of our EQ model portfolio, and more than one billion euros in global battery production."

Mercedes-Benz EQC is due in Australia i about 12 months.
Mercedes-Benz EQC is due in Australia i about 12 months.

However, it is not just about building the hardware. Charging infastruture needs to be developed to keep up with vehicle numbers.

In Europe, the Volkswagen Group has put aside rivalries and joined Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Ford to build the Ionity network of ultra-fast chargers. The chargers will be able to charge 150kW in an hour, toping up most electric cars to 80 per cent capacity in about 30 minutes.

In Australia, Porsche is planning to provide owners of its electric models, such as the coming Taycan, with access to fast charging.

The Porsche Taycan will be the brand’s first electric car.
The Porsche Taycan will be the brand’s first electric car.

The German brand is hoping a fast-charging network will serve 80 to 90 per cent of Australia's population, according to Porsche Australia head of product and smart mobility Ingo Appel. "We are currently, together with other (brands), working on a third-party provider solution here," he says.

One of the main gripes with electric cars is the recharge time.
One of the main gripes with electric cars is the recharge time.

"We want to make sure with the launch of Taycan that our future customer has the possibility to drive from Melbourne up to Brisbane if they wish to do so."

However, among the great unknowns in the electric car revolution are how the providers will generate the power and how the grid will handle spikes in demand.


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