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Race-car engineer Alexander Hitzinger is working on a 2024 electric SUV for Audi, Bentley, and Porsche under a program called Project Artemis.

Dec 4, 2020

  • Former Porsche race car engineer who worked more recently with the Apple self-driving group, is heading up the VW Group’s Project Artemis.
  • Alexander Hitzinger and Project Artemis are tasked with taking on Tesla.
  • The group will reportedly build an electric SUV from the ground up that is set to be produced in 2024.

Alexander Hitzinger helped develop the hybrid Porsche 919 race car that dominated Le Mans in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and then headed to Apple to help it work on its self-driving-car ambitions. Back with the VW Group, he and the Project Artemis team are going to build a new electric vehicle, and Reuters reports that the team’s goal is to take on Tesla.

The premium vehicle Hitzinger and the team are working on is set to go into production in 2024 and will take the form of Audi, Bentley, and Porsche EVs based on the group’s PPE (Premium Platform Electric) underpinnings.

Audi, which is tasked with leading research and development, including the PPE EV platform and autonomous-driving technology, will also take the lead in this effort. Those are areas where Tesla leads because of its practice of working in-house. Tesla has a history of developing and fine-tuning its own components from the software that runs the vehicles to the motors and battery pack. This control has allowed it to continue to push its range beyond EV offerings from traditional automakers. It seems that Hitzinger wants to do the same thing at Volkswagen. “At Porsche, I always thought of a vehicle as a comprehensive system. This is a very important point. It is what Tesla does well,” Hitzinger told Reuters.

The Project Artemis name came up in an earlier report by German publication Handelsblatt, which said the high-end electric vehicle Audi and the VW Group is working on is code-named Landjet. It’s unknown if this truly is the internal name of the upcoming vehicle. Besides, it’s very unlikely that the automaker would comment on the report at this early stage.

Of course, it’s not just electrification that sets Tesla apart. Its Autopilot system is an integral part of the vehicles—not to mention a source of additional income, with Tesla owners paying upward of $10,000 for the yet-to-be-released Full Self-Driving feature that CEO Elon Musk says will bring actual autonomous driving to Tesla’s vehicles. That system would also power a fleet of robo taxis that Tesla is expected to put on the roads once it perfects the autonomous-driving setup.

Back in January, Hitzinger announced that VW Autonomy would show off autonomous buses at the World Cup in 2022 as part of a pilot program. It is also aiming for 2025 to have a Level 4 autonomous system (a vehicle with controls for drivers, but able to drive itself in most situations without the need for a human to pay attention or take over). This would be used first for robotaxis and cargo delivery, then likely in the I.D. Buzz Microbus due to its size.

Volkswagen may be investing heavily in electrification with its MEB and PPE platforms, but an EV that also drives itself and is highly efficient thanks to Hitzinger’s experience would help VW take on Tesla not just in this one vehicle but in technology generally.

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