German automaker Audi has unveiled their new EV factory in Brussels – part of the company’s plan to unveil a new EV every year from 2018. The Brussels facility entered the car manufacturing sector as a Studebaker assembly plant back in 1949, and will now be manufacturing the future of Audi’s brand.
This newly refitted plant will be the birthplace of 50,000 examples of the Audi eTron Quattro, a handsome SUV with a 95kWh battery and an expected range of 311 miles (497.6km). Does it sound suspiciously like a certain winged SUV from Fremont? Let’s compare; Tesla’s Model X, fully featured, comes with a 100kWh battery with a range of up to 295 miles. But in my humble opinion, the eTron looks smarter.
The Brussels facility is gearing up for both a ramp-up of the Quattro, and a ramp-down of the incumbent A1. A bit on the nose for Audi’s competitors if they know what the former Auto Union is up to in there. Professor Doctor Herbert Waltl gave the following statement on Audi Digital Illustrator:
The whole project is a huge challenge for the Audi team due to the use of completely new technology, paired with a highly ambitious timing plan. We will also learn all sorts of new things and garner wide-ranging experience in using new materials that we’ve never worked with before. However, I have absolutely no doubt that our team is up to the job.
This implies that the German marque’s Belgian facility is expecting nothing less than a challenge as they adapt to production of the new vehicle. And they are probably right – appliance manufacturer Fisher & Paykel may currently know more about making electric cars than they do. Although going by their new EV, that may not be the case after all.
Audi joined the ranks of aspiring EV manufacturers in late 2015 – a time when most car manufacturers were still twiddling their thumbs in the early stages of Dieselgate. Of course, Dieselgate, which was thought to be an isolated incident involving a couple of manufacturers, has now exploded into a world-wide series of scandals as automakers are caught out one-by-one cheating emissions tests. The latest company to get caught up in this one is Bosch, which despite making no cars, may be the company that made both Volkswagen and Fiat cheat their tests.
I personally find it hard to believe that Volkswagen and Fiat were unwitting participants at any point – every car maker knows emission standards, and they have the resources and the technology to rig them. Regardless of my opinion, it is clear that Dieselgate has become to big for one industry to contain, and is now spilling over into the primary industries which support vehicle production.
General Motors was also caught up in Dieselgate earlier this year, according to the Financial Times, with defeat devices which may be installed on up to 700,000 of GM’s heaviest polluting trucks. Alongside GM, Fiat Chrysler was also caught up in the same situation.
Dieselgate may well prove to be the nail in the coffin for the internal combustion engine – since Dieselgate started, almost every major automaker has been implicated for similar misdemeanors. The list is staggering:
- Fiat Chrysler
- General Motors
- Renault Nissan
And it is probably growing. A study conducted at the University of Innsbrück found that we may be significantly underestimating our nitrogen oxide output from vehicles. If this is the case, and the white paper makes a pretty strong case for it, then internal combustion vehicles have entered a death spiral that they cannot escape.
What does this mean for Audi?
Audi, as one of the many manufacturers caught up in this scandal, plans to announce a new electric vehicle every year, which will be accompanied by the discontinuation of almost all existing models.
This will ultimately kill the oil industry, set back the military industrial complex (with no further need to deploy troops to defend oil pipelines), and revolutionize the automotive industry. Audi, meanwhile, will either get destroyed by a line of uncompetitive EVs, or ride the surge of electric vehicles into the future. The switch represents investments going well into the billions, but with a strong and experienced team of Belgians leading the switch, I am sure they will do just fine.