Audi announces e-tron SUV, its first production ready fully-electric vehicle

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After being teased since 2016, Audi finally revealed its new and completely electric SUV, the e-tron, in San Francisco yesterday.

The automaker says numbers for the United States market are pending, but anecdotal data, acquired from a handful of U.S. road trips in a prototype e-tron, produced ranges as high roughly 270 miles on a full charge, according to Audi president, Scott Keogh. The high-end electric SUV wave - which includes the Jaguar I-Pace going on sale this fall, as well as the coming Mercedes-Benz EQC and BMW iX3 SUVs - will challenge Tesla's lead in luxury electric vehicles.

All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself. Intel drone-powered light shows, designed for entertainment, painted the sky with the e-tron logo above the bay as an extension of the unveiling and demonstration of Audi innovation. It gives the vehicle a range that is suitable for driving long distances.

As with all electric vehicles, the battery charge is partially assisted by regenerative braking. Audi also showed off its virtual side mirrors - a feature that isn't allowed on US models, only its European cars.

In a first-of-its-kind partnership, Amazon has signed on with Audi and will offer e-tron buyers home charging systems.

The Audi e-tron is a five-seater measuring just slightly smaller than the Tesla Model X. And it will feature conventional doors, rather than the "falcon wing" doors the Tesla uses. A HoloLens exhibit let you "see" the vehicle charging and regenerating energy from braking, and a sample fast charging station from Electrify America glowed green.

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Inside the e-tron's cabin, two centrally mounted control touch screens - one 10.1 inches and the other 8.6 inches - are used for the infotainment system and cabin controls, while the instrument cluster features a version of Audi's adaptable screen display, allowing a more integrated map with Google Earth images.

Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Audi also said owners will receive 1,000 kwh of charging at Electrify America sites over four years of ownership to further sweeten the deal.

The electric SUV is powered by two powerful electric motors that are locally CO2-neutral and virtually silent.

The E-Tron looks, quite clearly, like an Audi SUV.

The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the auto within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.

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