In late May, Audi announced the launch of a new agile team to push the envelope on electric and autonomous technology. Volkswagen’s luxury brand said the so-called Artemis project would work on a pioneering vehicle. Autocar reports today that Audi will develop an all-electric flagship sedan to showcase that technology.
The first vehicle, which would be introduced in about 2024, could take the form of an Audi A9 e-tron. The Artemis project will also leverage concept versions of all-electric race and off-road vehicles that could be put into production.
While 2024 seems far away, Artemis is a new project. Its goal is to introduce speed and innovation by remaining separate from the Volkswagen Group’s substantial existing EV efforts. VW plans to introduce 75 new electric vehicles by 2029.
Markus Duesmann, who was installed as Audi’s CEO on April 1, set up Artemis to break through the company’s bureaucracy and “implement additional high-tech benchmarks without jeopardizing the manageability of existing projects.” He said that the new group would also use rapid prototyping methods to develop new business models.
According to Autocar, the new flagship model will take inspiration from the 2017 Audi Aicon concept car. The electric flagship model will employ the company’s most advanced drivetrain, battery cell technology, and autonomous driving features. It will feature 5G connectivity, Car-to-X communications, and augmented reality.
The four-door Audi Aicon concept is mostly a design study. It doesn’t have a steering wheel or foot pedals. The 2+2 EV promised more than 400 miles on a single charge.
Autocar also reported that the Artemis project would consider production versions of the AI:Race electric sports car and AI:Trail 4×4 concepts.
Audi AI:Trail 4×4
The Artemis project is directed by Alex Hitzinger. He was briefly in charge of the Volkswagen Group’s autonomous driving group. Hitzinger previously worked in Formula 1 with Red Bull Racing, headed the development of Porsche’s Le Mans-winning 919 LMP1 car, and worked for Apple on its short-lived Project Titan electric car project.
Autocar described the A9 e-tron as a rival to the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQS and Jaguar XJ EV. The Audi flagship EV will have the external dimensions of an A7 and the cabin space of an A8.
The new model due in about 2024 should be viewed, first and foremost, as a technology showcase of AV and EV tech for the Volkswagen Group. Duesmann suggested that technology developed for the flagship model would migrate to other EVs.
In April, Audi said that it decided against an all-electric A8. Instead, the German luxury brand will equip the A8 with a plug-in hybrid with about 30 miles of electric range.
Key contributors to the Artemis project include VW’s new Car.Software organization. Last month, Volkswagen announced that it will develop its own operating system and software platform. Volkswagen has been reportedly struggling with software problems, especially related to the ID.3 electric compact.
Audi is also planning to work more closely with Porsche through Artemis, most notably on platform development. Audi’s current EV platform is a patchwork of four different architectures.
Volkswagen has its hands full with its existing EV goals – making and selling 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2023. That’s going from nearly zero to 1.5M in three years.
To keep innovating with electric powertrains, self-driving, and V2X communication, the company needed a more independent skunkworks team – hence Artemis.
Today’s news reveals that the company will use an Audi-branded full-size sedan to focus its efforts, and fully consider how new technologies will be integrated in a single model.
It doesn’t change the timelines of VW’s electric vehicles. But it shows a commitment to new features that those EVs could offer in their second generation.
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