How Audi bested Tesla

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Remember this name: the Audi R8 e-tron. It’s the first electric car to outdo Tesla’s Roadster and Model S with a 280-mile range (that beats Tesla’s Model S by 10 miles or 3.7 percent).

Let’s get this out of the way: the R8 won’t directly compete with Tesla’s cars. For one thing, it’ll likely cost more than twice as much as the Model S with some analysts expecting a $200,000 sticker price. Sales will also be via special-order fulfillment only. Still, the e-tron’s a warning shot that should have Tesla investors nervous. Audi’s serious about capturing electric-car market share. They’re even taking a page out of Tesla’s playbook by first launching a supercar (comparable to the Tesla Roadster), which will help them fine-tune their technology.

Powered by a 92kWh t-shaped lithium-ion battery pack, the Audi has a higher top speed than the Model S (155 mph versus 130, though both are electronically limited) and a much faster charge time. Audi also claims the e-tron can charge in “significantly less than two hours.” That’s phenomenal considering standard charge time for the Model S can take more than 9 hours with a 240-volt outlet (superchargers are, of course, faster).

The Model S may have a slight edge in acceleration, though we don’t have an exact comparison. Published numbers say the Audi can run from 0-62 mph in 3.9 seconds. The Model S can do 0-60 in 3.2-seconds.

The most exciting part of the announcement is this: Audi’s e-tron will be a “mobile high-tech laboratory” (source). The company’s using the supercar as a test bed to push the envelope. They’ll take what they learn to develop and launch a fleet of sedans and other Tesla competitors.

Interestingly, Tesla and Audi have similar market caps. Tesla’s worth $24.38 billion vs. Audi’s $29.58 billion. The difference is the fact that Audi’s actually profitable. The German automaker’s trading at a P/E ratio of 7.12 while Tesla’s burning through as much as $300 million per quarter.

This is just the beginning of a global war. Electric car technology will change everything about transportation and that means we’re going to see a whole lot of other competitors come to market. In many ways, it reminds me of the tech bubble in the 2000s. There’s just so much potential in the space that investors can’t help but get excited. Just remember that the sexiest companies don’t prevail. The company’s that do are the companies that know how to execute and make money. Audi’s already proven it can do both.

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