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Can Audi and Porsche compete with Tesla?

Audi and Porsche revealed all-electric concept cars at the Frankfurt Auto Show Monday. How do the two luxury brands compare with Tesla? 

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    New Audi E-Tron Quattro is presented at the Frankfurt Auto Show (IAA) September 15, 2015. Large automakers are entering the electric car market, in an attempt to compete with Tesla.
    Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
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Since going public in 2010, Tesla has been a regular in the media spotlight, with the company’s sleek auto design and self-made CEO keeping both car junkies and celebrity followers interested. But on the business front, stiff competition rolled up to the Frankfurt Auto Show (IAA) Monday, sporting Audi and Porsche logos.  

The electric car market has proven hard to crack, particularly as “high price tags and limited driving range, as well as the scarcity of charging stations” has deterred consumers from racing to dealerships, or Tesla for that matter. But "many analysts predict sales will rise sharply by the end of the decade,” says the Irish Examiner.

Deliveries for Tesla’s Model X SUV are set to begin Sept. 29, with estimated delivery for new reservations in early 2016. The Model X, powered by two independent electric motors, features falcon wing rear doors, combining the “space and functionality of a seven seat sport utility vehicle with the uncompromised performance of a Tesla," Tesla boasts.

This high standard of quality and design is one that car companies haven’t yet been able to surpass, argues Telsa CEO Elon Musk. “The large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all,” wrote Mr. Musk in a press release.

And there are those who agree with his assessment.

"The fascination with Tesla is not that they were the first to introduce an all-electric vehicle, it stems more from the first electric vehicle without compromise to styling, performance metrics and range," says Ivan Drury, senior manager at the US automotive website Edmunds.com. (The first all-electric vehicles were actually developed in the mid-19th century, before being eclipsed by petroleum-powered cars.)

But Porsche and Audi are hoping to shake things up. Though Tesla remains, for now, the spotlight hogger, the entrance of established luxury brands might have a large impact on the automaker.

“As two of the world’s most sought-after auto brands, they represent heavyweight competition for the attention of wealthy, environmentally conscious buyers,” reported the Irish Examiner. “But they also boost the credibility and cachet of the all-electric market, which could benefit Tesla.”

So what are Porsche and Audi, which are owned by Volkswagen, proposing?

Porsche unveiled its first all-electric concept sports car, Mission E, one that the South African news outlet Times Live says is “unlike Elon Musk's brainchild.” The car delivers a 310-mile driving range and a 3.5-second-to-60-mph sprint. However, “the Mission E might not top the Tesla in driving distance after all,” wrote the Auto Blog. “The Porsche's nearly 311-mile range is on the European testing cycle…according to Tesla, a Model S 85D is rated at the equivalent of 328 miles in Europe.”

With a predicted market launch of 2018, the car sports an entirely new drive system “yet it is typical Porsche, i.e. proven in motor racing,” said Porsche in a press release. To add to the effect, Porsche reports that in just 15 minutes, the battery can be charged to 80 percent.

Audi, on the other hand, revealed the E-Tron Quattro, a tri-motor electric SUV. With a range pegged at more than 310 miles, Audi is on par with Porsche, expecting a dealership launch by 2018.

However, not everyone is convinced the German brands have enough to compete with Tesla. “That range is almost certainly on the highly optimistic European testing cycle. In U.S. EPA testing, the range will probably be closer to 240 miles,” says Green Car Reports. It’s “a long way off from the Tesla Model X” despite it being “much better than other petrol-powered SUVs,” reports Car Buzz.

Automakers are undoubtedly seeing growth opportunities for the electric car market in the coming years. Though Tesla appears to have a bit of a head start, renowned brands are not intimidated by the Musk startup. Build the “best electric car in the world. Do that, and people will buy it,” Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche’s R&D boss, told Top Gear.

Tesla claims it's not just building an excellent electric car, it's also intent on accelerating sustainable transportation, evidenced by their move last year to make all of their patents available to the public

“It’s great to see automakers invest in building compelling electric vehicles,” a spokesperson from Tesla told the Monitor.

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