As billionaires are engaging in the space race, here on earth automakers are racing towards an all-electric future. Both Audi and Renault are looking into new long-term EV projects. Audi has revealed plans for a “high-tech project” called Artemis. The Ingolstadt automaker has not revealed a lot of details but, so far, we know that the project will be headed by Alex Hitzinger, who is currently in charge of Volkswagen’s autonomous driving effort and was also the technical director of the Porsche LMP1 campaign.
According to company officials, Hitzinger will be developing a “highly efficient electric car” that could be launched as early as 2024. There is a chance of a synergy for this project, as the team will be able to use resources and technologies from other members of the Volkswagen Group.
The company also suggested the model could have new electric vehicle technology as well as a “highly automated” driving system. Audi said its creative team will “develop an extensive ecosystem around the car, thus designing a new business model for the entire usage phase”.
As details are limited just yet, the new high-tech model will presumably use one of the company’s previously announced electric vehicle platforms. The MLB evo platform, which Audi has used on many of its models such as the A4, A6 and original e-Tron quattro and that it has also been used on the Porsche Macan, which is also part of the VW group, doesn’t seem a front runner for now.
However, Audi also has other platforms it could use as it has built electric vehicles based on the J1, MEB and PPE architectures. The J1 platform, which made its debut on the Porsche Taycan, is focused on performance, while MEB models are designed to be affordable. The PPE platform, on the other hand, is designed to underpin full-size and luxury vehicles and can be used on everything from wagons to crossovers and sportbacks.
The Artemis project is considered a vital step in the long-term strategy of the company as it will “provide a blueprint for a fast and agile development process at the [Volkswagen] Group.” As Audi CEO Markus Duesmann explained, “With 75 planned electric models by 2029, the current electric initiative at the Volkswagen Group naturally ties up all our capacities. The obvious question was how we could implement additional high-tech benchmarks without jeopardizing the manageability of existing projects, and at the same time utilize new opportunities in the markets.”
Alongside Audi’s announcement, Renault is also looking into new EV projects. According to reports, the French Automaker is considering transforming the iconic Alpine brand into an all-electric car manufacturer. Alpine has been part of the Renault family since the 70s and its production ceased in 1995 before being relaunched in 2017 with the new A110.
But there have been questions about Alpine’s long-term future, as several key members of the A110 development team left and there is uncertainty about the future of the Dieppe plant. As part of a major £1.7 billion cost-cutting drive by the Renault Group, it is staging an “open reflection” on the future of the Dieppe facility once production of the A110 ends. As part of the major restructure, Renault Group will focus on the development of electric cars and one idea that is being strongly considered is to turn Alpine into an electric-only performance halo brand.
Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said, “[it is] quite obvious that we cannot continue as we are doing today” with the Dieppe factory. He added: “This plant does not manufacture enough vehicles for us to discuss its future serenely. We will look to continue to add value to the Dieppe plant.”
As well as its limited volume, Alpine’s Dieppe plant currently cannot support the production of electric cars, so switching Alpine to a purely EV brand would mean either moving the production to another Renault plant or a major rebuild of the factory.