Despite their investments in electric vehicles, Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche have yet to release much cutting-edge EV technology of the type we’ve seen from Lucid, Tesla, and others.
The Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture, which will power the 2024 Audi Q6 E-Tron and the Porsche Macan EV, begins to change that with notable motor, battery, and charging advances. The remainder of the platform and design are very appealing.
What Exactly Is The Q6 E-Tron?
We’ve referred to it as the Porsche Macan EV’s classier relative, implying a more comfortable, less athletic take on a mid-market small luxury electric SUV. It’s the size of today’s Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan, but it’s constructed on brand-new dedicated all-electric vehicle architecture.
It’s positioned between the Q4 E-Tron and the midsize Q8 E-Tron vehicles. (In Audi’s new naming scheme, odd-number designations denote vehicles with a combustion engine, while the next higher even number denotes an all-electric alternative of comparable size/prestige.)
The Q6 portfolio will most likely feature basic square-back SUV and coupe-like Sportback body designs and SQ6 and RS Q6 models that will partially overlap or bridge the performance gap with the Macan.
Audi Q6 E-Tron Concept
This new dedicated electric platform has a long wheelbase, broad track, and short overhangs, but Audi Design leader Marc Lichte isn’t giving up any of the desirable dash-to-axle proportioning for more passenger room.
While not totally un-camouflaged, these SQ6 prototypes reveal body contouring that slightly recalls the Ur Quattro’s fender bulges, a black roof that’s visibly expanded by the spoiler, and supported (like so many others) by a body-color “shark fin” D-pillar.
The matrix daytime-running lights are visible in front, and the high- and low-beam illumination comes from the black sockets beneath them.
There is cross-car OLED lighting at the back, and in markets with functional governments that understand the benefits of advanced lighting technology, the DRLs and rear matrix lighting can convey messages and perform other cool things.
Audi Q6 E-Tron Torque And Power
Audi has yet to announce figures, but it’s difficult to assume that options won’t include the powertrain found in the A6 E-Tron (470 hp/590 lb-ft) and the Macan’s top offering (603 hp and 738 lb-ft).
These cars will be equipped with e-Quattro all-wheel drive. Audi’s tuning of the e-Quattro system significantly favors the rear axle until the fronts are needed in slippery circumstances or to firmly pull the car out of a corner; however, the torque split is infinitely changeable.
We’ll have to wait and see if this is done electronically, with a more powerful rear motor, with different final drive ratios front and rear, or some mix of the three.
Steel or air suspension will be available, with adaptive damping as an option. Although active anti-roll bars will not be available, we’re informed the suspension tuning tightens up the necessary corners to promote flat cornering.
A five-link front suspension introduces improved kinematics and stiffness, which, along with a steering rack that is now rigidly linked to the front cross member, helps eliminate some of the time delays between steering input and chassis response.
This, together with the quick-ratio variable-rate steering, is intended to improve nimbleness and reduce the feeling that you’re toting around a massive battery. Finally, we’ve been informed that a new integrated brake system would improve the handoff between regenerative and friction braking.
Shift paddles allow you to choose between three degrees of regeneration while coasting, and a “B” mode allows for one-pedal driving to a complete stop.
Hairpins For The Win in EV Technology
After reporting on Lucid’s woven stator windings and ZF’s braided windings, we were astonished to see individual copper hairpins, each with two free ends that must be laser fused.
Both reduce manufacturing costs and improve reliability, but the Porsche/Audi development team believes its copper bar-stock hairpin layout positions more copper closer to the rotor than the other designs. (This concept first arose a few years ago as a significant advance over the continuous round-section wire windings that previously powered most Teslas.)
And, hey, the initial P in this platform’s name implies there’s money for some laser welding; now, let’s hope those welds last.
Rare Earth Is Reduced Through Rotor Cooling
Audi follows in the footsteps of Lucid by using oil cooling of the electric motors, with passageways carved into the metal plates that stack up to form the stator (albeit the PPE passages are positioned around the stator’s outer border, whereas Lucid’s are down in between the windings).
Oil leaves via holes pointed at the ends of the copper wiring, like in the Lucid motors, to further cool them. PPE outperforms Lucid in implementing a comparable cooling approach on the rotor, which uses oil fed from within the rotor shaft.
When a permanent-magnet motor produces a lot of power, it generates heat in the magnets. The heaviest, rarest, and most expensive rare-earth elements are most adapted to withstanding severe heat.
Cooling the magnets enables PPE to maintain high power using more common magnets. Of course, Lucid incorporates the reduction drive and differential into the rotor rather than using oil cooling, whereas PPE uses an external helical gear, single-speed reduction drive, and differential gearing.
There will be no limited-slip feature at launch, although brake-based torque vectoring will be used.
800V Dual-400V Battery Pack
“What’s the big deal?” you ask, remembering that GM Ultium and other packs already do this. The Ultium principle is reversed in this PPE battery architecture design.
The battery and system are operating at 800 volts in this case; however, to optimize certain lower-speed battery charging processes, the pack can be isolated, divided in half, and linked in parallel to work as two 400-volt packs.
This enables the platform to gain the full benefits of 800-volt design, namely reducing the current required to transmit a given quantity of power and, as a result, halving the size, cost, and weight of the orange cables that connect to the motors. Silicon-carbide power inverters improve efficiency and, as a result, range.
100 KWh (Gross) 370+ Mile Range (WLTP)
PPE will be expandable for wheelbase, track, ground clearance, and battery size, but this initial application includes 180 prismatic cells grouped in 12 modules of 15 cells each.
Total capacity is 100 kWh, with perhaps 95 kWh or so usable, and we’d estimate an EPA range of 330-350 miles. The exact chemical (NMC or LFP?) and supplier have yet to be published.
We know it will charge from 10% to 80% in 30 minutes, with 186 miles gained in the first 10 minutes. The highest charging rate is 270 kW, which is 80 kW less than the max 350 kW rate that today’s finest chargers can deliver to automobiles with an 800-volt system.
Audi discovers that their battery pack warms up faster at 350 kW than at 270 kW, allowing it to sustain the peak charging rate for longer at 270 kW than it could (and some competitors do) at 350 kW. For those with a 50-amp circuit, the onboard charger can handle 11 kW of Level 2 charging.
The convenience Of Two Charging Ports
No, you can’t charge quicker by plugging into both sides, but PPE will have a charge connector on both rear quarter panels as a convenience that may simplify parking at home or business Level 2 chargers (albeit only the left side accepts the complete CCS port for DC fast charging).
This feature is already available on several other Audi E-Tron vehicles.
Audi Q6 E-Tron Price And Release Date
The Q6 will be available in Europe this fall, with North American sales beginning in early 2024. The Q6 is expected to start around $65,000, with the top-tier RS Q6 Sportback starting at $85,000 and the SQ6 falling somewhere in the middle.
Could this highly advanced PPE architecture, in either Audi or Porsche livery, ultimately put the Tesla Model Y to shame?
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