Audi's new electric car to rival Tesla Model X

Auto manufacturers are expanding the range of electric vehicles available to consumers.

Audi this week said its e-Tron Quattro concept car, an all-electric drive sport SUV, will debut at the 2015 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, which opens next month.

The car, which is expected to have a full-charge range of more than 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, goes into production in 2018.

The e-Tron Quattro, which uses battery cells from LG Chem and Samsung SDI, has a driving range that rivals electric cars made by Tesla Motors (TSLA). General Motors (GM) also has an electric car, the Chevy Bolt, which has a 200-mile range.

Tesla's Model X SUV is expected to begin shipment in a few weeks. The vehicle reportedly has 20,000 pre-orders from people who paid $5,000 to reserve one. The Model X was originally supposed to ship in 2012, but faced lengthy delays.

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A sketch of the e-Tron Quattro concept car, an electric SUV Audi is debuting at next month's Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany.
Audi

Gaining higher driving ranges on a charge is critical to make all-electric vehicles practical for regular consumer use. A once-a-week charge and 300-mile range would translate into 15,600 miles a year. At 24,000 miles a year, the 300-mile range means having to charge the car every four to five days.

Audi is using three electric motors -- one on the front axle and two on the rear -- to power the car. The vehicle uses moveable aerodynamic elements and a closed underbody to improve airflow and reduce drag, which helps extend the range.

The generally short range of electric vehicles has limited consumer acceptance and adoption. Drivers worry they could find themselves stuck someplace without a way to charge their vehicles. Sales success will ultimately depend on the availability of charging stations, which provide a similar infrastructure function that fueling stations offer drivers of gasoline or diesel vehicles.

According to analyst firm IHS Automotive, the global electric vehicle charger market will grow rapidly, from 1 million in 2014 to more than 12.7 million in 2020. Even with longer driving ranges, chargers are necessary for long-term electric car success, according to IHS.

Although charging units can now be found in some parking lots, most will reside at people's homes. The cost of adding a charging station can run from $395, for an AC-powered domestic model, to $35,000 for a DC-powered station used for "en route" charging. The latter price doesn't include installation, which can run $10,000, depending on location and accessibility.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.