Transitioning From Internal Combustion To Fully Electric


Audi has dubbed the next 10 years its “decade of transformation” — and if you consider what the German automaker has planned between now and 2032, that’s probably an understatement.

Key components of Audi’s future product plan include:

  • 20 new electric models by 2026
  • No new combustion models after 2026
  • No combustions models, at all, after 2032 (with a possible exception in China)
  • Selling 3 million cars, globally, by 2030, with an 11% profit margin
  • A rumored large, fully electric SUV springing from the “Scout” name that its parent company, VW, acquired the rights to last year

Any one of these developments would be headline-making news for a brand like Audi. Accomplishing all of them in less than a decade reflects the speed at which modern automakers must evolve, or risk obsolescence.

I was fortunate enough to see several of the company’s near-term future product during a recent visit to its global headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany. While details are being kept under wraps, my overall impression is that Audi has a clear vision of how it wants to transition from a primarily internal combustion brand to an all-electric brand. Better still, this transition will not compromise any of Audi’s trademark, and tantalizing, design language. If anything, the future of Audi design looks better than ever, with the layout of electric powertrains allowing for even sleeker exterior shapes.

Of course Audi isn’t completely abandoning the internal combustion engine, yet. Company officials acknowledged the near-term need for gasoline and diesel powertrains even as its 20 all-new, all-electric models debuted over the next 4 years. Accommodating this dual-powertrain approach will be two dedicated, modular platforms it has developed, one to serve as a dedicated EV platform and one to replace the current MLB platform.

The PPC (Premium Platform Combustion) will serve the next-gen internal combustion and hybrid models, while the PPE (Premium Platform Electric) was developed with Porsche and will underpin all-electric models like the upcoming Q6 EV crossover. Audi says having two dedicated platforms makes the most of packaging and proportions for each drivetrain type.

Additional areas of focus include advanced electronics and connectivity, which will play an dominant role in the interior layout and driving experience of future Audi models. At the same time, company officials emphasized the need to retain Audi’s brand style and driving dynamics throughout this shift to EV drivetrains. “These new models must feel like an Audi, staying true to our brand’s DNA,” said Audi board member Oliver Hoffmann.

The near-production-ready models I saw, both all-electric and internal combustion, will make their global debuts and go on sale over the next 3 years. As mentioned, I have no concerns with how they’ll be received, at least in terms of design. But the current cost and supply chain complications facing every automaker are difficult to ignore, particularly as they relate to electric vehicles. Even as technology improves range and reduces charge times over the next 10 years, the issues swirling around EV raw material prices and availability loom large.

Are these just near-term concerns we’ll all laugh about in 2 years, or are they foundational hurdles automakers will continue to struggle with throughout the 2020s? Let’s hope it’s the former, because the all-electric cars Audi is planning to build and sell in the next few years fabulous look. I’m confident they will find buyers — if they can be produced at a high volume and sold at a reasonable cost.

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