How BMW, Porsche and Audi plan to take on Tesla

BMW i, Interesting | December 8th, 2015 by 20
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It’s no secret that Tesla is considered the gold-standard in the world of electric vehicles by many. It’s the EV darling at the moment, providing a …

It’s no secret that Tesla is considered the gold-standard in the world of electric vehicles by many. It’s the EV darling at the moment, providing a green hope in a bleak world of smog and internal combustion. However, some of the German auto manufacturers tend to feel otherwise. BMW, Porsche and Audi all have their own interesting innovations for the future of the automobile and it might be worth a listen to what they have to say.

We all know of BMW’s expertise in the field of electric vehicle. BMW’s i division is one of the biggest innovators in that field and has proven its worth with the wonderful i3 and fascinating i8.

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BMW is also doing some excellent work in hybridizing some of its standard cars, such as the BMW X5 xDrive40e and the upcoming BMW 330e. There will also be a hybrid variant of the brand-new BMW 7 Series and there’s word of an upcoming BMW i5. So BMW is very much in the EV race.

Audi is in the race as well, with its upcoming e-tron Quattro Concept that debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. The e-tron Quattro should be debuting sometime in 2018 and is said to be a fully electric coupe-like SUV with the same powertrain from the Audi R8 e-tron. This means 0-60 mph in around 4.3 seconds and Audi claims a range of up to 300 miles. If Audi can deliver on those claims, it would have a car that is far superior to the Tesla Model S.

Porsche is even getting into the mix, with its Mission E. Also having debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Mission E is a 600 hp fully electric super sedan capable of 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds with an estimated range of 500 kilometers (310 miles). But that’s not all. Porsche being Porsche is pushing the envelope even further and is claiming the Mission E to acceptable to 800-volt charging, meaning on special 800-volt chargers it can recharge its battery 80 percent in just 15 minutes. That gives the Mission E a range that beats the Tesla Model S and a charged time that crushes it.

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Porsche Mission E Concept

But it isn’t just the electric vehicles themselves that gives Tesla and its owner, Elon Musk, messiah level status among fans. Tesla’s software and over-the-air updates for its cars also earn the Silicon Valley-based company incredible amounts of praise. Deservedly so, as it is quite fascinating how a Model S can be radically changed overnight while it sits in its owners driveway. Tesla is also making big waves with its new Autopilot system. What is essentially an automous driving function that allows drivers to completely resign control over to the car, Autopilot is generating an incredible amount of buzz, both good and bad.

The Autopilot system, technologically, is incredibly impressive. It’s capable of driving, entirely on its own, through city centers, suburban neighborhoods and even heavily trafficked, high-speed motorways. And 90 percent of the time, it works without issue. However, 10 percent of the time, it has some serious miscues that have almost injured, and even almost killed, some drivers. This is because the Autopilot system is still in beta form, which is garnering quite a bit of controversy. The fact that it’s still in beta isn’t what’s causing a stir, but the fact that Tesla’s owners are live Guinea Pigs for the beta testing is.

Tesla's Autopilot system

Tesla’s Autopilot system

BMW CEO, Harald Krueger recently, and quite openly, criticized Elon Musk and Tesla’s decision to perform an open beta with actual customers on public roads. Krueger deemed it dangerous and claimed that, while BMW does have quite a lot of autonomous technology, he would not release anything to the public until it was “100 percent reliable”. Many have knocked Krueger for this, claiming that there’s no way of insuring the technology’s reliability until it hits the road. However, many have also backed Krueger and found his hesitance refreshing. BMW is looking to insure that its systems are safe for public use so as to not injure drivers, instead of showboating and putting the software out too early. It’s a rare display of patience in a business world dominated by companies trying to one-up each other at every opportunity.

Krueger’s patience could make Musk’s cavalier mentality seem reckless and maybe even a bit desperate. Aside from Autopilot, Tesla hasn’t done much to move the ball forward, aside from add more power to its vehicles. Sure, the Model X has been made, but that’s basically just a jacked up Model S with silly doors. So pushing an autonomous driving function onto the public before it’s fully finished could seem as if Musk is trying to rush things.

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Admittedly, Tesla is working on its massive Gigafactory, which should increase productivity, in both manufacturing and research and development, dramatically. However, Porsche has fired back with a new factory of its own. Porsche called its new Factory 4.0, a 700 million Euro investment to produce electric vehicles, the “dawn of a new age”. The engineers at Porsche are sometimes more “mad scientist” than they are actually engineers, so it should be interesting to see what they do inside of Factory 4.0.

Tesla also has another trick of up its sleeve, though — the Supercharger network. Tesla’s Superchargers are scattered throughout the US and Europe and provide Tesla owners a fast and easy way to charge their vehicles. It’s one of the bigger selling points to the Tesla brand. However, BMW has launched an initiative of its own to create a stable and efficient charging network for owners of all electric vehicles. Instead of certain customers having memberships to specific charging networks, BMW and other automakers, are looking to create one network of charging stations throughout the world for EV customers to be able to use. So BMW answers right back at Tesla’s Superchargers.

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None of this is to say that what Tesla is doing is inferior to what BMW, Porsche and Audi are doing. But with almost a century of experience, car companies like BMW and Porsche have the collective know-how to get things done the right way in the automotive field. Tesla may be doing some fine work, but the Germans might be doing the right work.

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