In what can only be described as another shot across the bow of American electric car startup Tesla Motors, German luxury vehicle maker Audi announced it will begin making electric car batteries. The company has partnered with LG Chem and Samsung SDI to develop batteries for its electric powered SUV vehicles, which will see it in direct competition with Tesla’s Model X SUV.
LG Chem and Samsung SDI, both South Korean companies, will provide the cell modules capable of giving the electrically powered SUV a range of greater than 310 miles per charge on the European testing cycle (a United States EPA rating would likely be about 240 miles). This compares well against other electric vehicles currently on the market. The Tesla Model P85D, for example, can cover just about 250 miles on a single charge. Less expensive cars barely cover about 93 miles per charge.
The two automotive battery cell suppliers were chosen due to their experience in the field. LG Chem was one of the pioneers in the growing industry of creating and manufacturing lithium-ion cells for plug-in vehicles. It has emerged as a top tier automotive battery cell supplier, and in 2009, won the competition to provide battery cells for the first Chevrolet Volt. Its current client list includes Renault, Daimler, General Motors, Audi, Ford, Smart, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Volvo and more. LG Chem’s success is built upon its expertise in materials and chemicals science.
Samsung is newer to the game but produces electric cars for sale in South Korea built upon the Renault Fluence ZE technology. It has worked with BMW and Volkswagen.
An Audi management board member, Dr. Bernd Martens, expressed the company’s vision that the partnership with LG Chem and Samsung SDI will create electric vehicles with greater performance. “Together with our South Korean development partners, [Audi is] bringing production of the latest battery-cell technology to the EU and strengthening European industry with this key technology. This will allow [Audi] to supply a technological solution that makes electric cars even more attractive for [its] customers.”
Professor Ulrich Hackenberg, another member of Audi’s management board, stressed that the “green” vehicles will continue to retain a sporty design. “With [the] first battery-electric Audi-SUV, [Audi is] combining an emission-free drive system with driving pleasure. [Audi] will optimally integrate the innovative cell modules developed with LG Chem and Samsung SDI into [Audi’s] vehicle architecture, thus achieving an attractive overall package of sportiness and range.”
To date, neither of the partners has revealed the financial details surrounding the deal but it appears likely to result in a large factory capable of producing the batteries in enough volume to make financial success. Tesla has begun work on just such a factory in the Nevada desert, targeting both the automotive and energy sectors.