After the E-tron concept and the E-tron Detroit Show car, Audi has brought us the e-tron technology platform based on the R8 from the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. This has turned out to be more than just a publicity stunt or science experiment. Audi is serious about bringing this car to market and has taken the time to develop a completely new ideology behind this electric R8 and the normal gasoline version.
Having the exterior design of the car already completed and in supercar form it was an easier job for the Audi engineers to develop an electric version than if they would have had to start from scratch. The mid-engine design of the R8 provides the perfect location to store heavy batteries without distorting the weight balance that Audi wanted to achieve. In essence, this electric version should be able to compete on the same levels as its V8 and V10 brothers, but will it be as exhilarating?
That all depends on what the driver sees as excitement – The V10 version will provide an unbridled amount of power and harmonious soundtrack to go along with it, but the electric version will incorporate some of the most innovative technology available today. Being able to reach high top speeds in the least amount of time is the most important thing that a sports car can deliver, if it can do it by using batteries than we don’t really see a problem. If Audi can truly create an exciting Quattro experience with its new E-Tron R8 than they will have accomplished something truly special in this emerging market.
UPDATE 06/29/2012: Even though the Audi R8 e-tron hasn’t officially been launched yet, it is already a world record breaker. With a lap time of 8:09.099 minutes, the R8 e-tron has just become the fastest production vehicle with an electric drive system around the Nurburgring. The car was driven to success by racing driver Markus Winkelhock.
"The R8 e-tron has given a magnificent demonstration of its potential on the toughest race track in the world," said Michael Dick, Audi AG Board Member for Technical Development. Dick, who completed a fast lap himself in the R8 e-tron, added: "The record-setting drive confirmed that we are on the right track. To us, electric mobility has never been about sacrifice, but rather is about emotion, sportiness and driving pleasure."
UPDATE 08/07/2012: It’s been a little over a month since the Audi R8 e-Tron lapped the Nurburgring in record time (see previous update), but Audi has just released the video of the epic achievement. Check out Markus Winkelhock and the Audi R8 e-Tron as the record is created by clicking on the image above.
Hit the jump for more details on the Audi R8 E-Tron.
The idea behind the E-Tron R8 was not to change the look and feel of the vehicle, but how it performed. That being said, Audi has done very little in the way of exterior or interior changes to the car except for the wild paint job shown on the car at Le Mans. All of the right supercar parts are still apparent and it looks like the E-Tron means business on the track. Out front the large grill and air intakes on the front bumper will still help to cool the brakes. Signature Audi LED daytime-running lights flow beautifully around the teardrop headlights. This form of lighting has made its way from humble beginnings into nearly every manufacturers tool bag, but Audi still does it best. As your eyes move towards the rear of the car it is hard to miss the large air intakes behind the doors that were mainly for cooling a very hot engine. The engine is missing, but the batteries produce plenty of heat on their own. Nothing in the rear has really changed except for the delete on the exhaust exits.
The R8 E-tron is powered by four motors – two on the front and two in the rear axles that each connect to their respective wheel by the use of a small shaft. By using the four motor setup this R8 delivers 313 hp and 4,500 Nm (3,319 lb-ft) of torque. It is capable of accelerating from 0 to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds. The true four-wheel drive system allows the Audi to become a full fledged Quattro car. The system is capable of delivering balanced power to the front and rear wheels, but prefers to give 70% to the rear and 30% to the front wheels when conditions are right. By having four completely separate motors the onboard computer is also able to make the smallest adjustments to power outputs so that understeer and oversteer can be corrected.
Even though the batteries weigh 1,212.54 lbs, this new Audi is able to come up with a final curb weight of 3,527.40 lb. This is thanks in large part to the aluminum body and Audi space frame technology. The special package of the Audi E-Tron technology platform provides a 42:58 weight distribution between the front and rear axles and therefore ensures perfect balance and driving dynamics. There is a triangular double wishbone suspension positioned in the front while the back gets a trapezoidal-link rear suspension. This is balanced on 19" wheels.
The power for the electric motors will be supplied by liquid-cooled, lithium ion batteries which can be powered by your household current of 230 volts/16 amperes. Charging time is about 6-8 hours when the battery has been completely depleted and goes down to about 2.5 hours when high voltage is used. These charged up motors offer an autonomy of 155 miles. During braking the car is able to convert the energy provided into a useful source for the electronic systems helping to extend the range.
Pricing and Availability
Audi has announced the R8 E-Tron will be brought to the United States market in 2013 and should be releasing more details and pricing in the coming months.
Several manufacturers have been toying around with the notion of a high-end sports car powered solely by electric batteries, but few have made a commitment to act. Audi will most likely introduce the first mainstream product in this category with the likes of Mercedes in its rearview mirror. The Mercedes E-cell SLS is as far along in the development stage as Audi, but Mercedes is reluctant to make the car available to the consumer. On the smaller end of the spectrum Fisker and Tesla have been developing this technology for years and are finally getting production models on the road. The larger Fisker Karma which will be introduced this year is poised to take over the luxury electric car segment, but will not invade the Audi E-Tron market too much.
High Performance Maintained
Short Charge Time
Weight could be an issue
Still want a V10