Intoducing the e-tron
Audi unveiled an uncompromising, purist, compact sports car with all-electric drive at the first major auto show of 2010. The Detroit showcar Audi e-tron is the name of this compact two-seater sportscar; just a few months after the debut of the Audi e-tron at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, this is now the second electric concept vehicle from the brand with the four rings.
Performance and driving precision
Coupled with the Detroit showcar Audi e-tron’s low gross weight of around only 1,350kg, high-torque power units driving the rear wheels guarantee commensurate road performance. Two electric motors with a combined output of 204PS and 2,650 Nm (1954.54 lb-ft) accelerate the coupe with ASF-design aluminium body from 0 to 62mph in just 5.9 seconds.
The Detroit showcar Audi e-tron is able to distribute its electric motors’ high torque between the wheels entirely as required. Its “torque vectoring” is the key to a thrilling level of active precision and excellent traction. Thanks also to its low weight, short wheelbase and perfect weight distribution for dynamic handling, the Detroit showcar Audi e-tron has all the drivability of a go-kart – agile, good on bends and neutral right up to its, very high, handling limit. The drive system’s power is transferred to the road by the rear wheels, reflecting the Audi e-tron’s weight distribution of 40:60.
Lithium-ion batteries, located for an optimal centre of gravity behind the passenger compartment and ahead of the rear axle, make an effective energy content of 45 kilowatt-hours available. This makes an operating range of up to 155 miles realistically possible.
The battery is charged not only when the car is stationary, but also when it is in motion. The keyword here is recuperation. This form of energy recovery and recharging of the battery is already available on many Audi production models. During braking, the alternator converts the kinetic energy into electrical energy, which it then feeds into the on-board electrical system.
The energy storage unit is charged with household current (230 volts, 16 amperes) via a cable and a plug. The socket is behind a cover at the back of the car. The charging time when the battery is empty is around 11 hours, but heavy current (400 volts, 32 amperes) cuts this to around just two hours.
The ASF Body
Systematic lightweight construction is an even more important prerequisite for efficiency and range with electric vehicles than for conventionally powered cars. Lightweight construction is moreover the key to thrilling handling characteristics. Audi developers focused on a core competence of the company when creating the Detroit showcar Audi e-tron: The body structure is based on Audi Space Frame technology (ASF), with a hybrid design approach adopted. All add-on parts – doors, lids, sidewalls and roof – are made of a fiber-reinforced plastic.
The combination of aluminium and carbon fibre-reinforced composite material guarantees supreme rigidity coupled with low weight. Audi will soon use this technology in a similar form for future production vehicles. Despite the complex drive system layout with two electric motors and a high-capacity battery system, the total weight of the Audi e-tron showcar on display in Detroit is only around 1,350 kilograms.
Interior and operating concept
Visual and functional references to the new drive concept characterise the purist interior design. The slim dash has a curve that extends laterally into the door panels. With no need to allow for a transmission tunnel, the designers took advantage of the opportunity to create a particularly slim and lightweight centre tunnel and convex, arching centre console. The flush gear selector, with which the driver chooses between the modes forward, reverse and neutral, emerges from the tunnel when the vehicle is started.
The Detroit showcar Audi e-tron’s cockpit, which represents a further development in an electric vehicle, is also oriented toward the driver – a further characteristic Audi trait. Instead of the classic instrument cluster, the concept car is the first Audi to be equipped with a large built-in central display with integrated MMI functions. It is flanked by two round dials.