Audi Plans to Become an EV-Only Brand, but Acknowledges Risks

Audi indicated this week it intends to phase out production of internal combustion engines by 2033, and that it will only launch new EV models starting 2026, representing an acceleration of Volkswagen AG’s electrification plans. The goals were revealed this week by Audi CEO Markus Duesmann.

The bold plan, part of Audi’s goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, states that production of the last newly developed internal combustion engine model will begin relatively soon, in just four years, with the Ingolstadt-based automaker transitioning to an an all-EV lineup.

“Through our innovative strength, we offer individuals sustainable and carbon-neutral mobility options,” Duesmann said. “I don’t believe in the success of bans. I believe in the success of technology and innovation.”

Of course, Audi also has to account for a variety of markets where demand for gas engines won’t fade so fast, including plenty of countries in Europe and Asia not quick to adopt EVs. Audi acknowledged this issue a bit in respect to China following Duesmann’s comments, but didn’t say whether the automaker had a similar plan for eastern Europe and other regions. Still, the automaker noted that the timing of these goals was not written in stone and would depend on several external factors.

“The exact timing of the combustion engine’s discontinuation at Audi will ultimately be decided by customers and legislation,” the automaker noted. “The company expects to see continued demand in China beyond 2033, which is why there could be a supply of vehicles there with combustion engines manufactured locally.”

Another external factor that could affect Ingolstadt’s timing, of course, is the development of charging infrastructure—something that continues to be a thorn in many automakers’ sides. There are some worries in the industry that if charging infrastructure does not keep pace, EVs may remain a niche, alternative technology that could be permanently stuck at some minor level of market share, perhaps not even exceeding 20% a decade from now. That would certainly affect the plans of several automakers that had announced long-term plans to switch to all-EV lineups in the next two decades, and force them to backtrack.

There are also concerns that the level of EV adoption among countries even in the same region, like Europe, could vary sharply by the end of the decade. We’re already seeing in countries that neighbor each other in northern Europe and Eastern Europe: Norway has a high rate of EV adoption, while some of its neighbors that either share a land or maritime border are nowhere close, or barely have any for sale. The problem is that Audi sells cars in all European countries, and that in a decade the levels of disparity could only widen as EV sales could accelerate wildly in a wealthier country like Germany, but not among some of its neighbors. Audi would then be forced to either lose market share in up to a dozen countries where it now has a presence if it doesn’t continue to offer gas-engined cars, or have a parallel lineup of gas-engined offerings for those countries. Both would be expensive propositions for Ingolstadt.

“The expansion of a widespread charging infrastructure and renewable energy sources is also crucial for the ramp-up of e-mobility and its acceptance by society,” the automaker acknowledged. “Audi is actively involved in both areas. For example, just a few weeks ago the company from Ingolstadt unveiled the Audi charging hub pilot project as its own premium charging solution with a reservation system and lounge. On top of that, the carmaker has partnered with energy suppliers to promote the expansion of renewable energy sources.”

Audi is certainly becoming one of the more EV friendly automakers, but there are plenty of segments where it does not offer EVs, especially among the least pricey of its offerings. The Q4 e-tron is on its way to make electric Audis more accessible, but it migh be a while until we see EVs in other segments that Audi has covered with gas-engined vehicles, such as sedans, coupes, station wagons and hatchbacks.

Will Audi be able to stick to this timeline? Let us know in the comments below.

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