AUDI E-TRON SIZZLES AT FRANKFURT New concept boasts of four motors,high efficiency LED technology that recognizes weather conditions & intelligent touch controls. Rechargeable R8 boasts 4500Nm of torque and charges from 0-100km/h in less than five seconds.
The Audi R8-based e-Tron, as the all-electric concept car unveiled at Frankfurt motor show today is known, also provides a stunning glimpse at Audi's future car-making direction, relying on purely electric drivetrains and lightweight construction.
The low, super-light e-tron features electric motors at all four wheels, delivering only 230kW of power but a jaw-dropping 4500Nm of torque. It's able to push the e-tron from 0-100km/h in an impressive 4.8 seconds.
Sitting on 19-inch alloys and featuring a more muscular, aggressive look than the hi-po sports car on which it is based, the e-tron can recharge from a domestic power point in about eight hours, giving it a range of about 250km.
Audi says it is also developing other recharging options for the car, including a rapid charging station that can fill the batteries to capacity in about 2.5 hours.
More importantly, it is working on a home-based wireless charging system. The system is similar to those used for electric toothbrushes in that it doesn't require the car to plug into a socket, allowing the e-tron to automatically start its recharging process as soon as it noses into the garage.
Designing the car around an all-electric drive system has allowed Audi's engineers to rethink much of the electric R8's structure.
The e-Tron's bank of batteries, and the electronic brains that control the four electric motors, are housed behind the driver in the place where the R8's conventional engines would sit.
Air still needs to flow into the battery bay to cool the heat generated by the 42.5kWh system, but clever vents are able to control the amount of air flowing in to both improve aerodynamics and keep the battery bank at its optimal operating temperature.
Audi's engineers are also able to plumb the heat generated by the car's electrical system, using a heat exchanger to extract hot air from the battery bay and feed it into the cabin to warm it up.
The car's top speed is electronically limited to 200km/h, while regenerative braking will feed power back into the system, again in the interests of preserving range.
Other energy-saving measures include using LED lighting technology for everything, including the headlights. Audi says the e-tron's headlights will be able to adapt to any driving situation, even recognising rain or fog and adjusting the headlights' intensity to suit.
Inside, the R8 shares more in common with a touch-screen mobile phone than a car. Audi has integrated touch sensors to eliminate almost all the switches that dominate the cabin of conventional cars.
The concept car hints that Audi will keep its user-friendly interface that allows the driver to control most of the car's systems from the steering wheel. However, instead of a toggle wheel, one spoke of the steering wheel will feature a touch-sensitive scroll pad.
The central multimedia screen also draws inspiration from mobile technology, featuring a fold-out display rather than the traditional Audi fixed screen.
Audi says the e-tron will also be in touch with its environment, using a wireless communication system to help its driver negotiate the city.
The "car-to-X" system, as Audi calls it, will feed traffic flow information as well as information from traffic light systems to provide the driver with an optimal driving method.
It will also be able to interact with car parks, telling the driver if a space is available and reserving it for the car even before the e-tron noses into the driveway.
The interior is a big diversion from the conventional R8, featuring a simple, sweeping dashboard with the cockpit skewed towards the driver's seat, and a much smaller transmission tunnel.
Interestingly, the concept still uses an analog speedometer, although surrounded by digital read-outs that display information from other important car systems.
Audi says the lack of a conventional transmission meant it could greatly reduce the size of the tunnel, and rethink how it interacted with the driver.
Therefore, similar to the gear selector that features in Jaguar's futuristic-looking XF four-door sedan, a small dial rises from the transmission tunnel as the r-tron switches on, allowing the driver to select drive, neutral or reverse.
Braking is completely redesigned, too. The e-tron uses ceramic brakes to provide its stopping power, but in an unusual configuration. A single hydraulic fixed-caliper brake is connected to the front axle giving the driver traditional brake feel through the pedal, while the rear wheels are individually braked using a brake-by-wire floating calipers.
Audi says the rear-brake set-up allows the electric motors to recover maximum energy through regenerative braking, with the disk brakes only ever being used in extreme situations.
Audi claims the mid-battery layout delivers similar driving dynamics to a conventional mid-engined sports car.
The e-tron has a similar weight distribution to the R8 on which it is based, with weight split 42:58 front to rear.
By default, 70 per cent of the e-tron's drive goes to the rear wheels, while 30 per cent is applied to the rear wheels. In true Quattro spirit, the car's electronics is able to shunt drive to the wheels with the most grip as it is needed. Using a combination of microsecond-long bursts of power to individual wheels, as well as individual brakes, Audi says the e-tron can eliminate understeer, where the car's nose pushes wide, and oversteer, where too much steering is applied.
Audi says the mid-mounted battery pack and its control systems alone weigh a hefty 470kg. Part of the design team's focus, then, has been on weight reduction.
The e-tron, then, uses copious amounts of carbon-fibre reinforced plastics and aluminium throughout its design.
There's one telling comment from Audi that shows the e-tron is not really just another concept car designed to draw attention to the brand.
The car maker says it will soon use similar technology in its production cars, showing the e-tron is not a fly-by-night fancy.
Audi has even announced that it will set up an engineering division, sponsored in part by the German government, to help it design and develop dedicated electric vehicles that will one day ply the roads of the future.