The Audi (OTCPK:AUDVF) e-tron is now arriving in the US. It is the result of more than four years of intense development under one of the most expensive projects in the company's history. The Audi e-tron quattro will be the second BEV to challenge Tesla (TSLA) in the luxury space, following the Jaguar (TTM) I-PACE that launched last October. While e-tron brings the luxurious features that Audi owners would expect such as massage seats, when it comes to the drivetrain and battery, the results disappoint.
Despite years of development, decades of automotive technological leadership, and access to virtually unlimited resources, e-tron's 204 miles of range pales in comparison to even the oldest Model S from 2012, which gets 208 from a much lower capacity battery. In terms of range per kWh available, the seven-year-old 2012 Tesla Model S is 61% better than today's 2019 Audi e-tron. That would be like Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) releasing a new phone today that's slower than the iPhone 5. Despite a $75,000 starting price, e-tron has less range than the Chevrolet (GM) Bolt, Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) LEAF Plus, Jaguar I-PACE, and every Tesla for sale today.
Bad for the environment?
Last month, Seeking Alpha contributor John Peterson wrote that the Long Range Model 3 has a heavier CO2 Footprint than a Toyota (NYSE:TM) Camry Hybrid. I can't imagine that e-tron does very well in his book due to its inferior efficiency and large battery pack. If only the federal electric vehicle tax credit took this into account.
In Audi's defense, only 88% of the battery pack's capacity is usable, meaning that the potential range of e-tron could be 231 miles. Still, even with those figures, the 75kWh Standard Range Model X still gets 8% more range with a battery that has 21% less capacity. This is despite its larger size (wider, longer, and taller) that likely creates greater overall drag, which may be partially offset by a superior drag coefficient. Nonetheless, Tesla's least efficient electric vehicle, the Model X, is 37% more efficient than e-tron even when taking into account the restricted, unusable portion of Audi's battery capacity.
Tesla's drivetrain and battery efficiency is several years ahead
When it comes to gasoline-powered vehicles, efficiency takes a back seat in the face of performance. Surprisingly, the same seems to be happening for every electric vehicle besides Tesla. The Porsche Taycan, Mercedes EQC, Jaguar I-PACE, Audi e-tron, and many other luxury EVs have a need to deliver the high performance vehicles that their customers expect. Despite being significantly slower than Tesla, they still deliver good performance figures. However, to meet these performance figures, something seems to go wrong with efficiency. All of these luxury EVs must utilize 90-95kWh high-capacity battery packs to achieve 200-250 miles of range. As mentioned above, the very large Model X gets 250 miles from a 75kWh battery; the Model 3 Standard Range Plus gets 240 miles with a 55kWh battery.
When it comes to low performance EVs like the Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Kona EV, or Nissan LEAF, the manufacturers seem to have no problem achieving good efficiency ratings. These vehicles have greater range than e-tron despite using battery packs with at least 30% less capacity.
Electric motors have existed for more than 100 years, but not until recently has there been a need to combine high performance and high efficiency into a compact package. Having started with the high-performance Tesla Roadster after the company was founded in 2003, Tesla has had a more than 10-year head start. With its experience, it's learned how to create an EV that's more efficient than even the low performance competitors, while having the performance of a supercar. Even with virtually every company in the auto industry dipping their toes in Tesla's territory, it appears that Tesla is still many years ahead.
Tesla can make 1.73 Model 3 SR+ for every e-tron Audi Can Build
Tesla has already proven that mass production is not easy. I believe that any automaker that produces ten times the volume of Tesla (there are many) has a much more efficient manufacturing process. From my understanding, if Honda (HMC) can profitably produce an Accord with a $22,500 dealer invoice, then there is a clear advantage. However, even if you know how to make the car, if you don't have the supplies, you can't succeed.
Audi, which promised to build 55,000 e-trons, has already scaled back production by 10,000 units due to battery supply constraints from LG Chem. Unlike Tesla, Audi could not offer any lower capacity packs, or the range would dip below 200 miles, which would be unacceptable for a $75,000 car. While I don't think that Audi is concerned with costs, the limited supply of batteries remains an issue for it, and even Tesla.
Due to an efficient design, Tesla's Model 3 Standard Range Plus with a 55kWh pack gets 240 miles of range. Provided the same capacity as the Audi e-tron, Tesla could build 1.73 Model 3 SR+ vehicles. That's 19 Model 3s for every 11 e-trons, which is helpful in a world with limited batteries. If e-tron were as efficient as the Model X Long Range with 100kWh pack, it would be able to build 44% more e-trons, which would more than offset the 10,000 that it is unable to build due to supply constraints.
While Audi is blaming LG Chem for the production issues, the real production problem comes from Audi.
Jaguar I-PACE shows that its biggest competition isn't Tesla, but itself
The Jaguar I-PACE went on sale in the US last October, but sales have been far from splendid. In its most recent global monthly sales from March, Jaguar sold just 2,000 units globally. By volume, it made up less than 8% of the company's total volume sales despite being just one of seven models in the more favorable crossover SUV segment.
For April, InsideEVs reports that Jaguar sold just 212 I-PACE vehicles in the US. What's most shocking about that number is that in Newport Beach California, there are more than 200 I-PACE vehicles currently in inventory. The I-PACE, despite accounting for 8% of Jaguar's overall sales accounts for 45% of the total inventory in Newport Beach Jaguar, which I believe is shared with Jaguar in Beverly Hills. This is obviously an extreme case, and other Jaguar stores have different exposure to the I-PACE. However, in California, it seems quite normal to find Jaguar dealerships with high levels of I-PACE inventory, relative to other models.
AutoTrader is showing more than 1,100 new I-PACE vehicles available in the US. With the exception of Tesla, when a manufacturer sells a vehicle, it is marked sold when it lands on the dealer's lot rather than when a customer actually purchases one. So, with more than 4,000 reported quarter-to-date sales and more than 1,100 vehicles in inventory across the country, is Jaguar I-PACE going through a sales disaster? After all, 1,100 units at an MSRP of $70,000 comes to roughly $77 million in inventory. These better sell soon, because, assuming that the inventory is all being financed, that's over $6,300 in daily interest collectively incurred.
When investing in Tesla, it's easy to get caught up with the short-term deadlines that the CEO and company continuously fail to meet. It is indeed a disappointment. However, if you zoom out and look at what's happened in just five years, the results are impressive. In 2014, Tesla had just one vehicle for sale, and the Model X, 3, and Y were nothing but a concept or rumor. Today, on the automotive side, there's the S, 3, X, Y, Semi, Roadster, and Full Self Driving software in the works. With the auto industry aggressively entering Tesla's space, one by one, they are proving that their EV technology is inferior to even Tesla's oldest Model S.
Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAF) just started accepting reservations for its mass-market ID, which will be priced between $33,000 and $45,000 with a range of 200-340 miles. VW is claiming that the 77kWh variant will get 340 miles of range, but the information in this article shows that they have no such proven technology. That level of efficiency would match the Long Range Model 3, which gets 325 miles from a 75kWh battery.
Let's not forget that when Audi told us about e-tron, they touted more than 300 miles of range, which is 50% more than the actual results. I suspect that the VW ID will offer a similar disappointment and will continue to prove that Tesla is indeed years ahead of the competition. At least, the strong electric push might help them avoid those hefty European fines, though.
Be sure to check out my video below. It's a 3-minute video responds to short sellers such as Mark Spiegel and critics such as Bob Lutz who say Tesla "has no advantages whatsoever".
Disclosure: I am/we are long TSLA. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.