Audi previews its next-gen mainstay electric cars with the A6 e-tron concept

New Premium Platform Electric architecture will form the basis of Audi’s electric models from 2022

Shanghai, China

With the news of the cancellation of the 2021 Tokyo Motorshow, it’s looking like the current Auto Shanghai is set to be the star Asian motor industry event for the year. China ranks as Audi’s single largest market in the world, and it’s no surprise that the A6 e-tron concept has been unveiled here. 

It’s an important car for the brand as it previews the e-tron lineup’s immediate future: its styling is essentially a design prototype for the next-gen, electric A4, A6, and even the A8. 

They will be built on a new platform that Audi dubs the “Premium Platform Electric,” or PPE for short. The first production cars built on the PPE is expected to be rolled out in late 2022, and Audi has stressed that the design is versatile enough to accommodate SUVs, meaning that future electric Q series SUVs from Audi will likely use the same architecture.

The Audi A6 e-tron concept is 4.96-metres-long, 1.96-metres-wide, and 1.44-metres-high. Designed as a Sportback, Audi claims that ‘it is a foretaste of Audi’s future production models and provides clear indications of just how dynamic and elegant the electric-powered luxury class from the brand with the four rings will look.’

The A6 e-tron concept is in the same size category as the current A6, and features massively improved aerodynamics for efficiency at speed. It has a drag coefficient of just 0.22cW, one of the lowest in this segment and identical to the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This allows the car to slip through the air more efficiently, extending its driving range. 

Short overhangs, a flat cabin, and the wide coupe roof arch give the A6 e-tron concept proportions distinctly reminiscent of a sports car. How much of this edgy design will be carried over into the production models remains to be seen, but carmakers have been getting bolder about it since the Chevrolet Camaro proved that it was possible to go from concept to production model nearly unchanged in 2010. The new Lexus UX 300e went through a similar development cycle.

Like the Hyundai E-GMP, Audi’s PPE architecture is designed exclusively for battery-electric drive systems with no compromise needed to fit an internal combustion engine’s drivetrain. Audi states that the key element of the future PPE fleet is a battery module between the axles. In the A6 e-tron concept, it is designed to hold around 100 kWh of energy.

The relatively flat layout for the battery module means that for the first time in Audi’s production history, it will be possible to use a single platform for both vehicles with a high ground clearance like SUVs  and vehicles with a flat architecture like a sports coupe without any changes to the basic architecture.

The battery size and wheelbase of PPE vehicles are scalable, making them easily configurable for use in different market segments. One thing that PPE-based cars will have in common though is a longish wheel base, and a spacious interior is that is expected from all next-gen electric vehicles as the gearbox and exhaust systems no longer need space in the car.

Audi’s famous Quattro four-wheel drive system will continue to feature in PPE cars, with an electric motor over each axle instead of a central driveshaft. In addition, the e-tron family will also include basic versions optimised for minimum consumption and maximum range with propulsion will come from a single electric motor mounted to the rear axle.

The Audi A6 e-tron concept’s two electric motors are capable of delivering a total output of 350 kW and a torque of 800 Newton meters, and charging capacity continues to be ramped up at an incredible pace. Audi claims that the PPE platform will have 800-volt charging technology fitted to the upper tier cars of the brand. In theory, this means that cars can be charged with up to 270kW in a very short time at fast-charging stations.

At such fast rates, the claim is that just 10 minutes plugged-in is enough to charge the battery to a level sufficient to power the car more than 300 kilometers. In less than 25 minutes, you can charge the Audi A6 e-tron concept’s 100 kWh battery from 5 to 80 percent. Public charging stations are a long way from punching out so much juice though, and the best so far is the just-announced, 180kW Shell/Porsche charging network for Singapore and Malaysia.

The Audi A6 e-tron concept is designed to have a range of more than 700km, making the next-generation electric Audi cars perfectly usable as a daily driver. As of now though, the new Audi e-tron Sportback 50 presents a practical idea of what stage Audi’s electric vehicle game is at.

While Tesla may have the limelight and pulls in the clicks both good and bad online, other manufacturers are not going to be left behind in the electric car switchover. It’s still early in the design cycle though, and there is little information on how else Audi’s PPE platform interiors will be styled or how the operating systems will be updated. But given how automakers are tripping over each other to go electric, you can be sure that things will be moving along very quickly.

about the author

Lionel Kong
Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.