PPE will underpin A4s, Q7s and everything electric in between.
Audi previewed the next phase of its EV lineup today at Auto Shanghai 2021 with the A6 e-tron Concept. The sleek luxury-class sportback rides on the company's new Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture, which will roll out in earnest in 2022. This will be a big deal going forward as the versatile new base can ride under anything electric, from A4- to A8-sized with a low floor, and Q6- to Q7-sized with a high floor.
"This is a ruggedly overbuilt platform," an Audi spokesperson told us, "which we built using what we learned from the also-overbuilt J1 platform." That older base holds up the amazingly quick Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT.
Those two won't join the PPE party as the platforms are just a little too different to merge, Porsche told us.
What a traditional automaker like Audi wants to do, is put its EV buyers at ease. This stuff can't just be for early adopters anymore. Audi doesn't want an EV to be your next-next car, it wants it to be your next car.
"Legacy automakers like us need to prove that our 100 years of engineering can be counted on," Audi told us. "EVs can't just be for early adopters. Of course, gas cars won't phase out overnight."
The flexibility and scalability are what's important here. With PPE on the A6 e-tron, a flat 100-kWh battery sits between the axles, which means it can be used for both sedans and SUVs of varying sizes and heights without major changes to the basic architecture. You can bet the Q6 e-tron will use it, as well us the upcoming Porsche Macan and probably the next Panamera.
That scalability also makes sense when you're building different cars for different markets. Here in the US, where bigger crossovers and SUVs reign, it can be used. It can also be used in markets where they need small A4-sized electrics and where electric infrastructure is better. "The flexibility to scale to what customers need and want," Audi said.
US markets will "benefit from the long wheelbase, which translates into a longer interior and more legroom in both rows of seats - a key benefit across all segments. In addition, electric vehicles are also generally more spacious thanks to the absence of a transmission tunnel, which is simply not needed due to the technology."
Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system will remain in the new platform, through the use of an electric motor on each axle, which will offer even greater flexibility in torque vectoring. In the A6 e-tron they make a combined 469 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. Features like air suspension and all-wheel steering will continue on PPE.
PPE-based vehicles will be manufactured both in Europe and in China, the company's largest single market. A new facility is being built in Changchun for that specific purpose. Audi and Porsche plan to sell 7 million EVs using the PPE platfrom by 2030.
We expect a ton of platform sharing like this going forward. BMW recently said all of its architectures will be replaced with the New Class platform. That base was built to underpin EVs, but it will work with gas and diesel engines too, as well as hybrids.
The overarching reason here is that less platforms means less money spent on development and engineering. That way makers like Audi and BMW can spend more time outfitting their respective vehicles with features, and spend more time on design. If the new A6 e-tron's gorgeous sheetmetal is any indication of what's coming, we're okay with that.