ELECTRIC VEHICLES

ON THE HORIZON

Audi grandsphere |

With the 2030 ban on sales of new internal combustion engines vehicles looming, it’s no surprise that there is a constant stream of battery-powered vehicles being teased by car manufacturers. John Challen and John Kendall look at some of the future EV fleet options.


Audi grandsphere

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Cupra Born

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Volkswagen ID. Life

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Audi grandsphere

One of the highlights of September’s new-look IAA Motor Show in Munich was the Audi grandsphere. At 5.35m-long, this concept will, according to Audi, offer travel that is comparable with a first class flight. With a new design and many luxury elements onboard, this A8-in-waiting offered a few clues as to what to expect from the Ingolstadt manufacturer over the coming years. However, the grandsphere is not expected to be seen in any kind of production form until 2024.

Highlights include Level 4 autonomous driving, a theoretical range of more than 460 miles and enough flexibility in the interior space to turn it into a ‘spacious sphere’. Powering the gransphere is Audi’s Premium Performance Electric (PPE), which was developed exclusively for forthcoming battery-powered electric drive systems. An essential component in this configuration is a battery module between the axles that stores 120kWh of energy. A longer wheelbase and larger wheelbase than any other product in the range allows this size of power pack to be stored – as the majority are – in the floor of the car.

Despite a number of new technologies, one that remains is Audi’s Quattro drive systems. The grand sphere features separate electric motors on the front and rear axles that use electronics to deliver all-wheel-drive capabilities. Power-wise, these motors offer a total output of 530kW (711hp) and 960Nm of torque.

Audi grandsphere

There’s also 800V technology onboard enabling rapid charging – up to 270kW in some stations – similar to that seen in the e-tron GT. Audi says it has tried to create a system that replicates the refuelling process of a petrol or diesel car. Therefore, a 10-minute charge will replenish the grandsphere with up to 300km (186 miles) of range and in 25 minutes the 120kWh battery can reach 80% charge (from 5%).

Cupra Born

The end of September signalled the start of production of the first 100% electric car from Cupra, the Born. It will be built in Germany, alongside EV stablemates such as the Volkswagen ID.3 and ID.4, as well as the Audi Q4 e-tron.

First announced in May 2021, the Born is now available to order, with deliveries expected early 2022. Customers have the choice of four different powertrains. Firstly, there’s a 148hp version, which has a 45kWh battery and a range of 211 miles. Then comes a 201hp model, with a 58kWh battery and a 260-mile range, alongside a 228hp car, which uses the same battery and has the same range as the 201hp version. Finally, there is the range-topping 228hp version which comes with a 77kWh battery (with ‘e-Boost’) and a 335-mile range. Fast charging is available with the 77kWh battery, which enables 62 miles of range to be added to the car in just seven minutes.

Performance-wise, the Born has a zero to 62 miles/h time of 6.6 seconds, when fitted with the 58kWh battery and up to 228hp of power. In comparison, the base model (148hp) takes 8.9 seconds to reach the same speed from a standstill.

Interior highlights include an augmented reality head-up display, a floating 12-inch infotainment touchscreen system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Cupra Born

Other features of note include voice assistant technology and a whole host of safety systems – including predictive cruise control and traffic sign recognition – and the Born will be the first Cupra model to be delivered to customers net CO2 neutral. This status has been achieved thanks to renewable resources being used in the supply chain, as well as the remaining emissions being offset by environmental and project investments.

Volkswagen ID. Life

Another concept car from Munich – only at the opposite end of the automotive spectrum – was the ID. Life. The latest in a long line of ID models, the Life is the company’s interpretation of a future compact crossover. As you might expect, there was a big emphasis on sustainability and how vehicles will operate in urban environments in the future.

Given that the car is part of Volkswagen’s plan to make sustainable motility available to more people, there are also details of the car tailored to the next generation of drivers. For example, there is the realisation that the younger generation will not use cars to just get from A to B, it will be more about the ‘experience’, according to Volkswagen. Therefore, there is an increased level of digital technology in the ID. Life cabin and more synchronisation with mobile devices. Music, films and games from mobile devices can be stored within the infotainment system and displayed on projection screens within the Life.

Cameras and video displays replace conventional mirrors inside and outside the car. Meanwhile, conventional driving functions are made via a touch panel on the hexagonal steering wheel.

Another eye-catching element of the forthcoming production version of the Life is the price tag: pitched around €20,000 (£16,878).

ID. Life represents a stripped-down Volkswagen model, with decorative elements and add-on parts dispensed with. Meanwhile, in a move that cuts weight and also adds to the driving experience, a bespoke and removable roof has been integrated, made of air chamber textile.

Understandably, Volkswagen’s MEB platform has been re-engineered for the ID. Life. It will be the first front-wheel-drive configuration using the layout, in a car with an output of 231hp. The ID. Life’s 57kWh battery can offer a maximum range of 249 miles on the WLTP cycle.

VANS >


Mercedes-Benz Citan

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Ford E-Transit

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Mercedes-Benz Citan

A new Citan will give Mercedes-Benz the opportunity to challenge the newer rivals in the sector such as the VW Caddy and the Stellantis triplets – Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo, particularly with electric variants due from Stellantis by the end of the year. We are still waiting for full UK model information, but we know that Citan will be available in two lengths and that there will be a crew van variant and a Tourer passenger model, with the standard-length models arriving first.

Electric variants will be powered by a 75kW (102hp) electric motor offering peak torque of 245Nm. The 44kWh lithium-ion battery will be fitted under the load floor and consist of eight modules. Both AC and DC rapid charging will be available. Mercedes-Benz suggests that the electric variant will have a range of around 177 miles on a fully charged battery. These will be complemented by both diesel and petrol models, although it is not clear which options will be offered here.

Mercedes-Benz Citan

The standard-length Citan will offer a load volume of 2.9m3 (VDA). Sliding side doors will be available on either side and rear access will be through unglazed asymmetric doors, or an optional tailgate. The rear doors will open to 90° or 180° and glazing could be an option. Mercedes-Benz quotes a payload range of between 318kg and 782kg. Roof bars will be available and the Citan will offer a towing capacity of up to 1,500kg.

A series of option packs aimed at specific customers could be available here, as well as safety and assistance systems such as rear parking sensors and camera. Other features could include maintenance management to detect when maintenance is needed, combined with automatic service bookings. App-based remote systems might include remote door locking and unlocking, allowing the vehicle to be locked or unlocked via the app from anywhere. It could also be possible to track the vehicle’s location remotely too. Remote software updates could also be available for the navigation and other systems.

Ford E-Transit

Ford’s dominance of the UK LCV market and the heavy van sector in particular – where the Transit outsells rivals by a considerable margin – ensures that when Ford launches a new product it gets noticed and also stimulates demand in the relevant sector more broadly. So, if Ford launches an electric Transit, it will probably become the benchmark product and also stimulate interest in other electric vans in that sector of the market.

The E-Transit is scheduled to make an appearance in spring 2022 and Ford, no doubt anticipating other electric rivals scheduled to appear first, released quite a bit of information over a year before the due date.

We know that it is designed to offer a range (WLTP) of up to 217 miles (350km). E-Transit will be fitted with the FordPass Connect modem as standard, which the brand says will help customers to easily find and pay for charging while on the move and will provide over-the-air updates for satellite navigation and other features. It is also expected to open up a range of dedicated EV services through the Ford Telematics fleet solution.

Ford will offer 25 body configurations, including van bodies of different sizes, double-cab in van and chassis-cab, offering gross weights of 3,500kg, 3,900kg and 4,250kg. Vans will offer a maximum payload of 1,616kg with 1,967kg for the chassis-cab. All models will be rear wheel-drive.

Cupra Born

The battery pack will be mounted under the floor to keep the load area clear. Charging options will include AC charging for the home and workplace as well as DC fast charging. The on-board 11.3kW charger will permit a full recharge in up to 8.2 hours. Using up to 115kW with a high-power DC fast-charger will enable the battery to be topped from 15% to 80% in around 34 minutes.

Ford’s calculations suggest that E-Transit would offer 40% lower operating costs over a typical three-year cycle compared with internal combustion engine-powered models. Customers will be able to take advantage of a one-year, unlimited mileage service offering, in addition to the eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty package which covers the battery and high-voltage electrical components.

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