Audi Taps Ken Block to Aid With EV Development

Audi Taps Ken Block

It’s not clear exactly what the partnership between Ken Block and Audi means just yet. Except videos. Lots of cool videos.

Unless you’re a smart device — think light bulb or refrigerator — and you’ve been on the internet at all in the last decade, Ken Block needs no introduction. After all, this is the man who turned  precision-grade hooning into global stardom. And now, he’ll be working with Audi on the development of electric vehicles. According to a statement from Block, the partnership will “develop innovative projects and push the boundaries of electric mobility.” So yup, not a lot of detail there just yet.

But you don’t need a crystal ball to predict that Block will be put to work on the motorsport side, to exploit the expertise he gained during his tenures in Global RallyCross, Rally America, and the World Rally Championship. So bet that he’s already talking with Audi’s Dakar team on the RS Q E-Tron racer, the electric beast that hopes to conquer the world’s hardest rally event. Since Block has already podiumed on the Dakar Rally — in an EV, no less — his input will likely prove invaluable.

One thing we can be certain of? There will be videos. Lots of ridiculously entertaining videos showcasing the cool new electric tech Audi is working on. So even if you’re not a fan of electric cars or rally machines, there will certainly be something about this partnership that floats your boat. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing Block do some proper work behind the wheel of the new e-tron GT. Though I do have to wonder if the complicated electric drive system will allow for the car control magnificence we’ve come to expect from the Gymkhana legend.

In talking about what drew him to partner will Audi, Block said classic Audi rally videos were what drew him to motorsport to begin with. But since he’s partnered with Subaru for his petrol-powered racing efforts, don’t expect any videos of him ripping around in a classic quattro S1. That said, we’re sure to hear — and see — more about this exciting partnership soon, so stay tuned. Because whatever’s next here? It’s certain to be epic as all hell. For now, watch the teaser below.

Photos: YouTube

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Official: New Audis to be All-Electric Starting in 2026

Audi e-tron Line

Audi’s Vorsprung 2030 strategy puts a firm date on the company’s exit from internal combustion.

We knew this was coming. Audi officially ceased internal combustion development in March, and back in June, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported  Ingolstadt would stop introducing new gas and diesel cars in 2026. At the time, I wondered how just much wiggle room the company had left itself between ending development of ICE vehicles and the end of their production. And as it turns out? There’s quite a lot of daylight between those two goalposts.

According to Audi’s just-released Vorsprung 2030 strategy, the last internal combustion-powered machines will roll off the assembly lines in 2033, which is still more than a decade away. Now, it’s important to remember that in the automotive world, that’s an eternity. Ten years ago, the Hellcat was still a twinkle in the eyes of the mad scientists at Ma Mopar, and the horsepower wars which have so shaped our recent history were still shaping up. Performance-wise, it was a different world.

So from where I’m sitting, 2033 seems like an awfully long time, and I have to wonder exactly which Audi models will be the last to feature conventional powertrains. The R8, and its glorious 562-horsepower V10 is slated to bow in 2023, and I can’t imagine the twin-turbo RS 6 Avant will remain as compelling — at least performance-wise — for another 12 years. Perhaps we’ll see an even more ferocious e-tron wagon? Because that’s progress I could get seriously get behind. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the market pushes Audi to kill internal combustion sooner. Because if buyers start gravitating toward green machines in a big way, it might not make sense to continue with the older tech.

Aside from the 2026 and 2033 dates, Audi’s Vorsprung 2030 document is a pretty standard corporate communication. That means it’s essentially melatonin in text form, and packed to the gills with ten-dollar marketing speak — “holistic mobility solutions,”  “cloud connectivity,” “autonomous driving” — and assertions about profitability. So yup, it’s dull enough that reading it aloud could be an effective tool for disciplining children. It’ll likely be more illuminating a decade from now. But until then, enjoy the sound of the R8 wailing on the dyno.

Photos: YouTube

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Audi skysphere Concept Set for Reveal August 10th

Audi Sky Sphere Concept

Car design is entering exciting new territory — and Audi’s skysphere concept is a glimpse of what to expect.

Last month, we wrote about the hat trick of wild concept cars Audi is set to release over the next year. And now, we know the wraps will come off the first design exercise on August 10th. Dubbed the skysphere, the darkened profile in the teaser shows a long hood, space for two, an open top, and some gloriously pointy hindquarters. Given that this is a concept car, and not destined for production, pesky little things like pedestrian safety regulations aren’t really a concern.

In the video below, Audi senior vice president Henrik Wenders and design chief Marc Lichte share that the inspiration for the futuristic ride came from the gorgeous Horch 853A. If you’re looking to create a GT masterpiece? That’s hardly a bad place to start, but in keeping with Audi’s pivot toward electric vehicles, all the concepts will be pure electric. So the long hood is a bit of puzzler. My guess is that the car rides on a skateboard-style chassis with motors at each corner, which would leave the space free for passenger luggage.

That’s presuming it’ll be able to move under its own power, of course, which many concepts don’t. What will presumably function are the trick banks of lights in the front fascial and rear section. Upon the reveal, I’ll expect to see some shock and awe from these set ups, as lighting is one of the next frontiers in automotive design. But what I’m really stoked to check out is the cabin, which will have the capability to transform from a cockpit to a lounge, where drivers can either control the machine or let the autopilot take over.

At this point, the skysphere concept is still largely a mystery. But it will certainly speak to the challenges and opportunities facing the folks who’ll design the next generation of personal transport. Because in the next few decades, the rulebook that’s defined car design is going to be thrown out the window, and we’re all going to get a chance to see what engineers and artisans can do with a truly clean sheet design.

Check out the video to for more about the philosophy behind this concept — and stay tuned for the reveal next month!

Photos: Audi

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Exciting Experiment: The Audi RS Q e-tron is Heading to Dakar

Audi RS Q e-tron

This January, the Audi RS Q e-tron prototype will enter the legendarily brutal Dakar Rally.

Back in April, we posted about how Audi was set to enter the grueling Dakar rally with an electric vehicle prototype. At the time, the only image available was a render of it under some silk. But now, Ingolstadt has ripped the cover off — and does this baby ever look like a beast. So meet the Audi RS Q e-tron, the next generation of extreme rally machines. If any green machine is going to bend the desert to its will, you can bet that this Four Ring ripper will be the one to do it.

Now, you might be wondering exactly how the Audi Sport team was planning to charge the batteries during an event which will take the drivers through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth. Because that’s obviously the $10,000 question, and one that the engineers solved by equipping the RS Q e-tron with a TFSI engine that will serve as an onboard generator, so the 50 kW battery pack gets a constant stream of juice. While that might technically make this desert sled a hybrid, it’s safe to say that if it was operating in, say, the greater Los Angeles area, it could lose the internal combustion component all together.

Each wheel is powered by an individual motor, and when it’s completely uncorked, the RS Q e-tron is capable of a whopping 670 horsepower. In the press literature, there’s no mention of a torque figure, and at this time, it’s unclear whether the rally’s governing body will allow the rig to run at full power. Given all the rules and regulations which characterize racing at any level, it’s entirely possible that it’ll have to be governed, so the playing field can remain as even as possible.

Obviously, this is a massive undertaking, and just finishing the race would be a huge achievement. After all, lots of competitors running tried and true kit wind up stranded during Dakar, as there’s just no telling what can happen once the rally is underway. But Andreas Roos, who’s running the ambitious campaign, is clearly already proud:

Less than twelve months have passed since the project officially started. We had to begin the development while the regulations for alternatively-powered vehicles had not even been finalized yet. And all of the development took place during the Corona pandemic. You mustn’t underestimate that either. What the team has achieved so far is unique. The roll-out was a very special moment for everyone.

The 2022 Dakar Rally is set to kick off in January, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the race to see just how well Audi’s historic entry fares against both the competition and the cruel desert sand. So stay tuned!

Photos: Audi

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Could Audi be Done With Internal Combustion in 2026?

Audi A6 e-tron concept

A new report says 2026 could mean the end of internal combustion vehicles for Audi.

Five years. When you’re a child, or a teenager, it’s an eternity. But when it comes to vehicle development? It’s the blink of an eye — which is why a new report from Reuters is so shocking. Late last week, it cited German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and reported that 2026 could spell the end of new internal combustion Audi vehicles. Since it’s very brief, here’s the entire statement:

Volkswagen’s Audi unit will stop introducing cars based on petrol and diesel engines from 2026, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Thursday, citing comments made by Audi CEO Markus Duesmann to labour representatives and top managers. The report said there would also no longer be any hybrid models from that date onwards. Spokespeople for Audi were not immediately available for comment.

Now, I’m ready to acknowledge that in court, the way this information came to light would constitute hearsay. But I also know that Reuters isn’t exactly In Touch Weekly, and doesn’t generally trade on wild rumors or speculation. So if this statement, brief as it might be, got past their editors, it’s because they believe it’s the truth —or as close to the truth as they can currently get. That said, there’s a lot to unpack here. So let’s start with the word “introduce.”

Taken alone, that could simply mean Audi will continue to produce internal combustion vehicles past 2026, but won’t update anything. So in effect, there won’t be new models introduced. That still leaves plenty of wiggle room to continue cranking out models like the RS 6 Avant, so the uber-wagen can pay for its tooling before its put out to pasture. But given the company has already announced that it has stopped internal combustion development, what are the chances Ingolstadt will want to release cars based on technology that’s already half a decade old? That feel like a stretch.

Also, the fact that there won’t be any more hybrid models after 2026 seems to indicate gas and diesel mills will be gone for good. Given Audi’s place in the Volkswagen Group, it would make sense to let Porsche keep cranking out gas-powered 911s until they’re banned, and position the Four Rings as a green, mean, Tesla competitor. Because as of right now, it sure seems like where the company’s gun sights are trained. We’ll have to wait and see what Audi says about this report, but right now, it’s clearer than ever before that our electric future is coming — and fast. Do you think 2026 will spell the end of internal combustion Audis? Let me know!

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