C.In no way tied to the 1980s science fiction feature film about a computer programmer stuck in a video game, Audi’s e-tron brand has evolved from a seemingly bizarre concept to a badge that you can put on your driveway .
And as the German automaker is increasing its focus on developing vehicles with alternative energy, you can assume that the e-tron name will be found even more in the four-ring portfolio.
But what exactly does the badge mean?
Simply put, e-tron is applied to anything that has an electrified powertrain, including hybrid and all-electric, but what is less straightforward is the development of the nameplate and its use since it was first created 10 years ago.
When it appeared in 2009, the e-tron was first used as an independent model name for the Frankfurt concept car. The very first e-tron offered a glimpse into an Audi future in which electrification was not a sensible zero-emission people mover, but an uncompromising sports car.
The similarity of the e-tron with the petrol-powered super sports car R8 was also a prophetic reference to a version of the company halo that was later to be offered as a fully electric variant. The first e-tron was followed in January 2010 in Detroit by a second with the same name and later that year an e-tron Spyder that used a diesel-electric hybrid drive.
However, the name changed from a model to a variant when the company unveiled the hatchback concepts A1 e-tron and A3 e-tron.
But it was not until 2013 when Audi unveiled the production version of the A3 e-tron, when the badge moved from the exhibition area to the production line. The first production model used the relatively conventional gasoline engine of the A3 in conjunction with an electric motor and plug-in charging for a hybrid that could be used as a purely electric vehicle for short trips.
The same principle has now been applied to the company’s large SUV for a version of the Q7 that drives 56 km in all-electric mode or consumes just 1.7 liters of diesel per 100 km in hybrid mode. Like the now discontinued A3, e-tron is still the variant name of the Q7 version.
But it was time for the brand to take its foray into all-electric passenger models, which was announced by the Frankfurt SUV concept EV called e-tron quattro, which was launched in 2015 and became the series e-tron earlier this year.
The name e-tron closes again and is used as a model name, which raises the question of how the car manufacturer will bring more electric vehicles and their nomenclature onto the market.
As for the future? Just this week, Audi launched an electric version of the Q2 with a stretched wheelbase for the Chinese market, and an electrified Q8 is about to be confirmed, all of which will widen the e-tron halo.
A look into the future and the RSQ e-tron concept (a virtual evolution of the great PB 18 concept) brings the brand back to a hypersport concept, a decade after the first R8 doppelganger started the movement in Frankfurt .
Audi’s e-tron strategy might not have been so prominent in its new car landscape had it not been for the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal of 2015. Following the internal combustion engine controversy, the company drew resources from a number of development projects to drive the development of zero-emission initiatives.
Today, the e-tron brand is not just a model or variant name, but also represents Audi’s electrification movement as a more holistic umbrella, similar to the Audi Sport branding that encompasses all high-performance models.
As a marketing tool, it goes head to head with arch-rival BMW, which has the corresponding i-branch of electric vehicles and hybrids, while Mercedes has weighed in with its EQ line of electrified vehicles.
In order to set the up-and-coming e-tron vehicles apart from the more traditional offerings in its ranks, Audi has given its vehicles a number of styling signatures, be it fantastic concepts or the latest production models.
The lack of tailpipes is an indication that you are behind an electrified Audi, and the classic grille is always filled with a different, lower drag grille to improve range. Cool LED lighting inside and out has also become a trademark of the e-tron bloodline.
Futuristic vehicles that glide almost silently through the area in an eerie LED light? Hmm, maybe Audi’s e-tron empire has a lot more in common with Tron.